Why the Waste and Darkness: Green Energy Option By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni
Over the years, Nigeria has always been obsolete in terms of technological advancement and innovations, everything integral to human progression often come to us late. We are at present struggling with effective functionality of our Automated Teller Machine developed way back in the late 1950’s. The much taunted achievement of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Global System for Mobile(GSM) telephony, remains a hard nut to crack with connectivity shrouded in tug of wars. With the rate of drop calls, one would think each dial is meant to connect those in Mars! Though it would be myopic to compare the rate at which Nigeria match up in technological maneuvering with other developed countries, considering our checkered history of doomsday leadership, we can’t afford to be complacent with technology and scientific innovation and have our eyes placed on tall dreams like MDGs, Vision 2020 or Transformation Agenda( whatever that means). Dreams don’t just happen, they are made to happen!
The above repertoire on technology was for the simple reason that this piece dwells on how we are again lacking behind on using renewable energy to drive sustenance in the energy sector. The energy generated from the before now waste-able gifts of nature is considered infinite, free, renewable, eco-friendly and above all self sustaining. All over the world, there are structured re-awakening towards this energy generation with negligible negative impact.
In the United States of America, statistics shows that energy generated from wind and solar in the last 3years has doubled from around 5.5% to over 11.1%. The construction of new wind power generating capacity alone in the fourth quarter of 2012 totalled 8,380 megawatts (MW) bringing the cumulative installed capacity to 60,007 MW. This capacity is exceeded only by China. For the 12 months until May 2013, the electricity produced from wind power in the United States amounted to 153.6 terawatt/hours, or 3.78% of all generated electrical energy.
Another country that is seizing on the moment of renewable energy is Germany. The Germans intends to have about 35 per cent of its energy sourced from renewables by 2020, 50 per cent by 2030, 65 per cent by 2040; and 80 per cent by 2050. It is not a wild dream because the amount of energy sourced from renewables, including wind rose from 20 to 25 per cent in the first half of 2012. And there are plans to match actions with words, not just baggage of rhetoric. They aren’t just dreaming, they are working it to reality.
The Act on Granting Priority to Renewable Energy Sources has been passed since Feb. 25, 2000 by the lower house of the German Parliament (Bundestag). This act regulates the purchasing and compensation of energy which has been produced exclusively from renewable sources and it is controlled via power companies which operate grids for general electricity usage in the country. Does that sound strange to our parliament?
Even Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich Gulf Kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, aims to meet one-third of its energy demands by using renewable energy by 2032, setting aside an incredible budget of $109 billion for achieving the goal. Saudi Arabia is looking at using nuclear energy, geothermal energy and wind power to fulfill its ambitious target of producing 54 GW of energy through renewable resources in the next two decades.
While Saudi Arabia is planning ways ahead, we are sitting on the spoils of our crude oil boom, forgetting crude is actually exhaustible. In a piece written by Japhet Omojuwa for the Africaliberty.org(online), “Green Deal Nigeria: Making growth matter”, he made allusion to the fact that,”We must be thinking beyond spending $13bn on fuelling household generators in 2011 alone… There are certainly better and far cheaper ways to generate energy”. May I add that indeed there are alternative ways to generate cheaper energy. And that our inability to invest in them would be tantamount sitting on a gun powder that would burst soon enough if care is not taken.
In any developing nation, the availability of power determines industrial pace, and where power is epileptic and its generation shrouded in controversies, the state of outcome can best be imagined. Nigeria’s first contact with electricity production was in 1896(Lagos), barely 15 year it became a commercial necessity in England. As at 1999, only 19 out of the available 79 generating units/plants were functioning. During the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, $8.5 billion was expended repairing and building the comatose energy sector, but very little success came out of that effort for known obvious reasons – corruption.
According to the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, “Nigeria needs 200,000MW of electricity to attain the status of a country with robust sufficiency in energy availability”, that is improving electricity generation by 10,000MW every year for the next 20years in an unbroken chain! Statistics from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria(PHCN) showed that the last time the country generated 4,500MW of electricity was on December 23, 2012. This means that all the power generation plants in the country have not generated up to 4,000MW since January 2013 due to consistent system collapse. The World Bank in 2012, estimated that the country is losing about $600 million a year because of inadequate supply of electricity.
With the stagnancy in our power generating capacity, attaining sufficiency might be a tall dream, but we have an untapped alternative with renewable energy. Unfortunately enough, while the world is actively awake, Nigeria is still at documentation. The Minister of Power, said the government is still “trying to build a policy on renewable energy and energy conservation”. Federal government intend making it ” a very robust document”. I pray the final document does not end-up with books gathering dusts in government archives.
In 2010 renewable energy accounted for 16.7% of total world energy consumption. Researches are in top gear to bring renewable energy to fulfilling basic human needs of transport, food and water by private individuals. The Solar Challenge Nigeria(SCN) group is one of such entities working at the grass root with a cross country solar powered vehicle, to be built by tertiary institutions in the country. The competition is aimed at awaking indigenous scientific research into how to tap effectively into the solar energy abundantly available. This initiative not only demand acknowledgement but support from government and its agencies.
By investing in renewable energy research, particularly solar energy, it would drive the achievement of Millennium Development Goal One of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger through solar powered boreholes, irrigation channels, food processors, power light farm implements thus heralding the much talked agricultural revolution. Renewable energy is synonymous to MDG Goal Seven; ensuring environmental sustainability, which would further improve global partnership for development(Goal Eight). Renewable energy can take away the darkness, improve infrastructure, enhance educational research and reduce reliance on the national grid which would metamorphosis into industrial revolution when industry don’t share electricity with household consumers, a veritable bypass for small and medium scale enterprises to grow.
On Sunday, July 21st, 2013, the US President, Barrack Obama while on tour of three African nations, pledged $7bn to help combat frequent power blackouts in sub-Saharan Africa. But we need look beyond the pledge and look at the utilization of the pledge for it’s aimed objective. The Energy Commission of Nigeria ably led by Professor (Engr.) Eli Jidere Bala, remains the major patroniser of Solar powered street lights in the country and it is so shoddily done that one questions the viability of solar energy. ECN as a regulatory body needs to set standards, conscientize the citizens about renewables, intensify campaign for LED bulbs and advice government new power generating techniques against what is presently obtainable. The proposal for renewable energy at this period of our national life is critical because of it abundance and eco-friendliness. Renewable energy is that that can be generated from resources which are continually replenished such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, animal wastes, plants and geothermal heat. From all indications, Nigeria is one of the very few nation blessed with all the above sources year round, though, we barely use it. So why the waste and darkness?
Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni, is a Volunteer with the Solar Challenge Nigeria and writes from firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter handle: @sanity0407
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