As part of efforts to address Nigeria’s long running electricity problem, experts have called for increased investment in renewable energy sub sector, pointing out that there are a lot of potential in the sector, which the government can tap into with a view to boosting the economy.
Speaking at a recent breakfast meeting with journalists, the Sales Director at Eaton, Africa Region, Malvin Naicker, said there is need for Nigeria to focus on the key basics in the power sector, stressing that the concern should not be on attracting investors and making big plans to build new power stations, when the conduits to the end users are not fixed.
He also stated that if the country does not fix the transmission lines, reticulation and the substations, all of the mechanisms to get power to the consumer and the generating capacity would amount to nothing.
The Eaton boss declared that when the right things are done, the sector becomes more viable and attractive to investors.
Naicker explained that the company is focusing on renewable and solar energy. He stated that coupled with the energy storage solutions, Eaton is able to offer solar as a third or fourth option, He explained: “In many instances, you have your grid and diesel generation, then you can put solar as your third option, when you can store it, that becomes your fourth option for power.
“As a company, that is where we realised that we can add value, even though we don’t do power generation. So we will partner other suppliers for the solar panels because that has become a commodity. But the other downstream elements such as inverters, medium and low voltage switch gear; these areas that we are very strong and can add value to the consumer. The energy storage is a very scalable solution, so it is not only applicable to large businesses or conglomerates, it can really be used for a residential home application, so you can have solar panels, diesel generation and incoming utility, then using our storage as a backup.”
In his remarks, the Managing Director, Eaton, Africa Region, Seydou Kane, said the company is investing in Nigeria for the long term, stressing that Nigeria is a power house in terms of growth and economy in Africa and they are banking on such significant growth.
He explained that apart from investment, Eaton is bringing in products to Nigeria that have high value, fit for purpose and good for the industry, noting that storage is one issue his company has found applicable for the Nigerian market and they are eager to start promoting testing and piloting those solutions to go very fast.
“Timing is also a critical element in terms of making sure that you democratise opportunities for everybody to grow in the country. Our focus is more on the distribution side. We have products that are better tailored to delivering an efficient and sustainable distribution network. Nigeria generates 4 Gigawatts but we believe only 2 Gigawatts is distributed, but we are working on solutions with the Distribution Companies (DISCOS) to distribute more efficiently so that almost all of the four will come to use,” Kane noted.
Continuing, Kane explained that skills are absolutely critical and one of the models that worked internationally, which can be applied in Nigeria is Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).
He stressed the need to bring in new technologies and elements in the technology mix, develop the skill base so that they can groom Nigerians to take over from expatriates and experts from outside who start the projects.
He said: “We must make sure that there is collaboration and plan. We have models that have been applied internationally that we would be able to replicate successfully in Nigeria. There is a significant pool of skills that we just need to tap into and improve with technical programs and university courses. We definitely want to look at those and make sure we move along with the country to ensure those skills are present in the workforce.
“I think from an investor’s standpoint, the number one factor that an investor would look at is the framework, is there an enabling environment for investment to be made in the country and what are the guarantees, how can the potential of the country be harnessed? Those are the elements I would look at.
“The second element is making sure that the government establishes mechanisms to optimise, focus on an area, for example transmission, if it is not liberalised distribution then the country can generate as much as they like, it would not reach the end user and it is basically air; maybe a focus on those specific areas to make transmission better.
“The skillset in Nigeria has been improving very steadily, so we are very encouraged by the opportunity to do so. In the very near future, if we have this opportunity and our business picks up the way we are seeing it, we definitely believe that assets in this country are important and should not be discarded at all.”