How Decentralised Renewable Energy Can Boost Nigeria’s Access To Power

Renewable-energy

With about 60 per cent of Nigerians said to have no access to grid electricity, a global campaign organisation, Power For All, which focuses on accelerating energy access and addressing energy poverty globally, has advised that Nigeria can quickly close its energy access deficit through decentralised renewables.

The organisation which recently launched in Nigeria, said it seeks to mobilise a coalition of private sector, and civil society stakeholders to work with government to promote decentralised off grid energy as the best solution for universal energy access by 2025.

Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, the organisations newly appointed campaign director for Nigeria, Ms. Ify Malo, explained that the campaign serves as a collective voice for businesses and civil society focused on off-grid solutions, including solar, mini-grid, micro-hydro, biomass and small-scale wind.

Distributed renewables, she said, are the fastest, most cost-effective path to modern energy services in emerging markets, a potent growth engine for economies and jobs and an impact multiplier that creates more resilient, self-sufficient and healthy communities.

Malo who has worked for many years in the energy and finance sector in Nigeria as well as the biotechnology, health and education sectors in the USA, noted that the decentralised renewable market is very much an emerging market in Nigeria which would give opportunities for more investors and entrepreneurs to play an active role in shaping the outcomes of the market.

According to Malo, the organisation seeks to achieve these goals through the facilitation of private sector collective voice and enhancing coordination and collaboration with stakeholder engagement strategies as well as raise awareness of the benefits of renewable off grid energy as the fastest, most cost effective and sustainable approach to universal energy access.

She said, “With over a quarter of the country still unconnected to the grid and un-electrified, and with the increasingly low reliability of the grid at the moment even for electrified grid consumers, the role of ‘Power for All’ in Nigeria is fundamental in ensuring the rapid deployment and acceleration of electricity across the country through decentralised off grid renewable energy.

“In Nigeria large swathes of the rural population remains un-electrified and even in urban areas, the continuous stress on an ageing transmission grid, coupled with the recent increase in gas pipeline vandalisation has led to even more frequent power outages. The ‘Power for All’ campaign makes the case that rapidly deploying decentralised renewables will act as a buffer to the weakened grid and accelerate energy access by enhancing more cost efficient and cleaner ways to generate energy,” she stated.

Despite Nigeria’s stated target of developing 13 gigawatts (GW) of off-grid solar power at the Conference of Parties on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP 21, in Paris, France in late 2015, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, while speaking recently at a meeting with solar power promoters in Nigeria to discuss their investment difficulties, said that government has very little financing to fund or incentivise the renewable energy sub-sector.

Fashola explained that any such subsidy for solar could cost as much as N3 billion monthly, adding that government is unable to bear such cost at this time. As an alternative, the minister urged the promoters to consider securing bulk electricity consumers whom they can sell their outputs to at prices that would guarantee them their bottom lines.

However, Malo, in addressing the issue of incentives and policies for the off grid sector, stated that while financial support by the government might be limited at this time, government must continue to create policies that will enable investors recoup their returns on investments and remove restrictions such as the 35 per cent import duties on batteries, including distilling between regular batteries and deep cycle batteries.

While lauding the recent feed-in tariffs (FIT) introduced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), aimed at accelerating investments in renewable energy, she called on the government to also consider tax waivers and incentives for renewable energy companies to enable them meet the unique challenges associated with the initial high capital expenditure for off-grid renewable energy technologies, particularly considering that the goal is to get more end users including amongst the rural poor, for whom affordability might be an issue.

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