The Federal Government’s plan to harness coal to boost the Nigerian electricity supply, yesterday, generated negative reactions, as stakeholders, at the sixth Renewable Energy Conference, titled, “Renewable Energy Policy for Nigeria,” which was organized by the Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN in Abuja, concluded that it was an effort in aberration.
While urging the Federal Government to “leave the coal in the hole,” they pointed out that coal and other dirty energy posed the most threat to climate change, as they contributed about 35 per cent to the greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
The Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, who called on the Federal Government to cue into the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) by developing plans, pointed out that the programmes would improve universal clean energy access and reach the prescribed new and additional renewable energy generation capacity and targets of at least 300 gigawatts in Africa by 2030.
Ojo, who disclosed that about 1.6 billion global population lacked access to electricity while 1.2 billion depend on biomass fuel such as wood, charcoal, animal dung and crop residue, stated that lack of access to adequate energy supply had affected about 90 per cent of the population in many developing countries.
He regretted the Nigerian scenario, where fuel-wood commercialisation and dependence was 53 per cent in urban areas and about 90 per cent in rural areas, stating that the call for utilization of coal and other dirty energy was an unfortunate venture.
Ojo said: “Clearly, there are no indicators on ground to give hope or show that these benchmarks will be realized in Nigeria sooner than later. Hence Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) will need to build their capacities and be involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the AREI process that will promote carbon emission reduction and grant grid and non-grid energy access to people especially those in remote areas.
“We enjoin everyone to join the Energy Revolution. We want people power and the time for it is now. Therefore, leave the oil in the soil, coal in the hole, and tar sands in the sand,” he stated.
Director, Environmental Sciences and Technology, Federal Ministry of Sciences and Technology, Mr. Peter Ekweozoh, who admitted, in his presentation, that energy was a critical factor for economic growth and sustainable development, noted that the nation’s energy sector was still largely dependent on fossil fuels, which is a major contributor to global emissions.
He said there was an urgent need to adapt and effectively use clean energy technologies for carbon emission reduction and attain sustainable development, saying that one of the strategies to achieve this feat was to encourage and explore renewable energy sources within the framework of conducive policy, legal and regulatory environment.
Ekweozoh said: National Renewable Energy Policy will provide sustainable platform for green growth and green jobs leading to significant reduction in youth restiveness; power sustainability, reliability and stability; and lowers production cost and makes Nigeria’s manufacturing sector more competitive internationally.
“It will bring rapid growth in power while at the same time significant reduction in FGN’s expenditure; empowering other economic and social service activities such as tele-centres, healthcare delivery systems, educational institutions; empowering Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) like the welders, hair-dressers/barbers, printing presses, tailors, small-scale food processors and others.”
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, while on a conference in United States of America, recently, accused the western nation of hampering Nigeria’s effective power supply prospects, as they were against the country’s use of coal to generate electricity.
Adeosun said: “We want to build a coal power plant because we are a country blessed with coal, yet we have power problem. So it does not take a genius to work out what will make sense to build a coal power plant. However, we are being blocked from doing so, because it is not green. This is not fair because they have an entire western industrialisation that was built on coal-fired energy.”
Some energy experts, who reacted to Minister of Finance’s statement of accusing the West of being the barrier to Nigeria’s power development, said that it showed a sense of irresponsibility by the Nigerian Government.
While admitting that an estimated 41 percent of global electricity was currently fuelled by coal-fired plants, which still accounted for about two-thirds of China’s energy provision, they disclosed that in 2014, 29 per cent of United Kingdom’s electricity was produced by coal-fired power stations and the United State of America’s coal-generated electricity accounted for only 39 percent.
Even though the Federal Government had argued that these countries were still benefitting from coal and that it would be unfair to not allow Nigeria to make use of coal for production, energy expperts pointed out that climate change had been the focus of the global community for a while now.
One of these industry experts with Ventures Africa said: “Anyone who has been in Nigeria lately would have noticed the change in the weather. Nigeria has been experiencing excessive heat, increased rainfalls, and the sea level is rising.
“The increase in rainfall has led to more flooding than usual. In Kogi alone, 30 people have died as a result of flooding in 2016. These changes in weather have led to an increase in global warming and climate change. Coal is responsible for 43 percent of greenhouse emissions globally which is the main cause of climate changes.
“The resolve to tackle climate change and global warming by countries making investments towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future was what led to the Paris Climate agreement in 2015. The agreement as of Wednesday has 73 countries and the European Union who have committed to fulfilling the agreement. Nigeria joined this agreement in September during the United Nations General Assembly,”” he stressed.
The United Kingdom, it was gathered, had committed itself to phasing out coal by 2025. Coal production in the United States had fallen to the lowest level in three decades. The country reduced their electricity generation from coal from 39 per cent in 2014 to 33 percent in 2015.
A source disclosed that Vietnam, in January, made a decision to shelve 70 coal power plants. World’s largest private sector coal miner, Peabody Energy, filed for bankruptcy in April this year. Peabody’s bankruptcy filing comes after four other large coal companies had filed for bankruptcy.
President Barak Obama, in his Paris COP 21 speech, said, “I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”
“We’ve said no to infrastructure that would pull high-carbon fossil fuels from the ground, and we’ve said yes to the first-ever set of national standards limiting the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can release into the sky,” he added.
The expert from Ventures Africa asked: “If the United States and the other Western countries can take up the challenge of creating new ways to generate energy, then it’s possible for Nigeria. Nigeria generally is known as an adopter of innovations rather than known as an innovator and this can be a way to change that perception.
“Nigeria should focus on creating technology that improves coal-burning efficiency. This could also be useful for retrofitting older power plants and cut down their emissions. This solution should rather even be a short term goal; the long-term goal should be how we can make renewable energy sources cheaper and affordable, rather than condemning the idea.
“If the West were able to create innovative ways of utilizing coal-fired energy to power industrialization in the eighteenth century, why can’t Nigeria create her own source of power? The times call for ingenuity by Nigeria rather than shifting blame to other countries for being responsible for their downfall. Nigeria put on your thinking cap and get to work,” he stressed.