Experts Opt for Renewable Energy to Bridge Power Supply Gap

Solar-panel

From government calculations, the nation’s power generation was expected to rise from about 4,000 megawatts; mw to 6,000mw at the end of 2015. The target was not met because of many challenges, including low gas supply to thermal power plants, pipeline vandalism and low investment in the sector among others. Since then, the situation has moved from bad to worst. For instance, last weekend, power generation and supply that had hovered in excess of 4,000mw dropped to 3,601.78mw and 3,531.88mw respectively. Expectedly, the Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs embarked on massive load shedding to consumers nationwide. This sad reality has impacted negatively on many consumers, including individuals, households, banks and manufacturers who need adequate electricity for various applications.

These and other classes of consumers have embarked on independent power generation at higher costs. Many experts have also started to think about alternative energy resources. One of them is the President of Alternative Energy Network for Social Development, Engr. Mike Udayaeze who believed that the country’s energy solution could be found through alternative energy resources. Udayaeze indicated that Nigeria has the potential to exploit its abundant solar, considering its geographic location. He maintained that renewable energy is energy sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat can be used to replace conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, motor fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services. Udayaeze observed that renewable energy is one of the means of tackling the global challenges of climate change. He indicated that it is now being seen as a cost-effective development solution for developed countries and a developing country such as Nigeria.

“The country receives abundant sunshine all year round ranging from 6.70kwh/m2/day in Borno State to roughly 4.06kwh/m2/d to 5.86kwh/ m2/d in locations such as Calabar in Cross Rivers State. The Federal Capital Territory has a daily horizontal solar radiation ranging from a high of 6.07/ kwh/m2/d to a low of 4.42/kwh/m2/d during the month of August. This level of solar radiation across the country can support huge deployment of solar power infrastructure designed to primarily feed in to the regional power distribution entities.”

“The size of the area currently being disturbed by the insurgents in Borno State can supply sufficient power required by the entire country if well harnessed. Despite the glaring economic constraints of solar power generation, its limited competitiveness, a low capacity factor, in addition to high cost of PV cells, renewable power sources mainly solar power development can support peak time energy consumption and can add considerable capacity directly to the national grid or embedded network of distribution enclaves,” he added. The Executive Secretary of the Renewable Energy Network, Christine Lins, disclosed that “If you look back 10 years ago, Renewable energies were providing 3 per cent of global energy, and now, they provide something close to 22 per cent, so that has really skyrocketed” noted Christine.

This is being led most obviously by countries like Uruguay, which aims to generate 90% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, and Costa Rica, which maintained 100% renewable energy generation for the first 100 days of this year. These countries are not alone and are fast becoming the normal rather than the ‘alternative’. Even small developing countries such as Burundi, Jordan and Kenya are leading the world in investments in renewable energies as a percentage of GDP. Worldwide investments in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$214 billion in 2013, with countries like China and the United States heavily investing in wind, hydro, solar and biofuels.” “Between 2012 and 2014, the grid connected utility segment quadrupled its cumulative size, growing from 1,784 megawatts in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 megawatts today. In Nigeria there is need for the Federal government to look at existing policies on renewable energy and take full advantage of it to boost her power generating capacity,” she added.

Investigations showed that the development of alternative energy sources is relatively young in the Nigeria. In fact, a regulation to stimulate investments in 2,000mw of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020 was approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC in 2015. The law, Feed-in Tariff Regulations for Renewable Energy Sourced Electricity in Nigeria was approved at the last regulatory meeting of the Commission. It envisaged that the country would generate at least 1,000megawatts from renewable energy sources by 2018. Renewable sources are electricity generated from biomass, small hydro, wind and solar energy sources. The former Chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi had said, with the regulation, the nation has been able to unlock further investment potentials in the power sector.

He had disclosed that its major objective is to diversify the nation’s sources of electricity and take advantage of existing options. He had noted that the regulation expects electricity distribution companies to procure 50 per cent of the projected renewable sourced electricity, while the Nigerian Bulk electricity Trading Company, NBET is expected to procure the balance of 50 per cent. Specifically, the regulation specifies capacity for renewable plant between 1mw and 30mw. Plant above this threshold will require additional conditions other than those already specified in the regulation. “The provisions of these regulations shall apply to all qualifying renewable energy sourced electricity of capacity above 1megawatts and smaller than 30mw at a site that is connected to the transmission grid or the distribution networks.

“For large renewable (30mw above) integrated resource planning will be carried out before the NERC will initiate a competitive bid process.” The buyer will after this solicit bids and purchase at the most cost effective based on the optimal technology available at the location. The law allots maximum amount of renewable sourced electricity an electricity distribution can have on its network based optimal potential available in their franchised areas. This provision of the law is to achieve right mix of energy for the DISCO as well as protect electricity consumers from spike in tariff. For instance, the regulation allots higher volume of biomass 26mw; 22mw and 19mw to Ikeja and Ibadan Electricity and Eko electricity distribution companies respectively; whereas Abuja DISCO has highest of wind sourced electricity at 14.4mw, while Port Harcourt has 11.4 mw of biomass and 6.5mw of wind sourced electricity. However, Kaduna and Kano Discos have highest allotments of solar sourced electricity than other discos at 12mw; with small hydro at 10mw and biomass at 6mw apiece.

The regulation specifies that provisions of Distribution Code will apply to embedded generation while Grid Code will apply to those that will use the transmission network to transport their electricity. Embedded generation is a power plant whose electricity is used within the distribution network where it is generated without using the transmission network. Useful life of every renewable power plant is fixed at 20 years by the law which expects recovery of investment to last the life span of the plant and that generators have obligations to ensure that there source of energy is credible. From all indications, the future may not be bleak as the examples of some initiatives, including the Lagos State Government partnership with the UK Department for International Development to light-up 172 Public Schools and 11 Flagship Public HealthCare Centers showed that, despite problems, alternative energy sources could be harnessed to generate commercial electricity in the nation.

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