This sturbborn darkness!

PHOTO: www.iroy

In an article posted by the Economist in March 3rd, 2017 titled, “When the wind blows”, it was analysed that fossil fuel will not go anywhere soon enough! This apparently indicates that oil producing countries will still have some if not much money to make in the oil business for some time to come. It equally implies that fossil fuel will continue to augment the world’s energy demands for some time to come. It’s in view of this that DrillBytes dedicates this week’s edition to fossil fuel with a view to making a case for its exploration and exploitation while it is still useful to mankind particularly for mono-dependent economies like Nigeria that is in the process of diversifying.

Worldwide electricity generation in 2015 was just over 24,000 terawatt-hours. Only a small portion of that total comes from wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and waste but it is growing fast. Renewable energy excluding hydro accounted for 6.7% of the global total in 2015 and increased by 213 terawatt-hours. This rise was roughly equivalent to the total increase in global power generated, reflecting efforts both to promote clean power sources and to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Europe accounts for two-fifths of global renewable-energy generation and it is wind turbines that dominate the European scenery. Exposure to prevailing weather from the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean determines which countries have giant propeller turbines as their main source of renewable energy. Germany is leading the way, with an increase of power generated from wind turbines of 53.4% in the past year. Half of Germany’s renewable energy now comes from wind.

Unfortunately, because the wind often does not blow and occasionally blows too hard, these turbines are not very efficient. The department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in Britain calculates that wind turbines on land run at only 27.3% of their potential capacity, with turbines situated offshore returning a better 36.9%.Because the supply of wind power is so variable, electricity grids still need a back-up supply of coal, oil or gas to soak up any shortfall until there is more storage. Fossil-fuel-powered steam turbines still only run around 45% efficiency but they can be fired up to meet demand. Despite fast growth in renewable energy, it will be a long time before fossil fuels are consigned to history.

Nigeria is blessed with the abundance of fossil fuel, solar, gas, ocean, rivers and coal and yet reeling under the yoke of well structured darkness because the wind is not blowing! Ethiopia in Africa is about launching its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project which is due to be delivered by end of June 2017. The project is located approximately 500Km north west of the capital, Addis-Ababa, in the region of Benishangul-Gumaz along the Blue Nile. Project duration is 78 months or six and a half years from year 2010 at a cost of about $5B. It is expected to generate the single highest hydro-electric power in Africa at 6,000 MW with an estimated production of 15,000 GW per year.

To think this is only from the Nile River makes nonsense of the excuses bandied around over the years for Nigeria’s inability to generate more than 4,000 MW of electricity while the transmission systems cannot take more than 7,500MW of electricity. Nigeria has three Hydro-thermal dams all of which are generating less than 1,000MW of electricity. What is so difficult in upgrading these dams to generate much more in the medium term with ambitious ones programmed for the long term? If the government cannot manage the dams to a point of efficiency and effectiveness, isn’t it more logical to privatize them and get good returns on investment? The gas powered lines have been vandalized almost to a point of irrelevance and the coal fired plants have been abandoned for a very long time.

Yet, oil exploration and exploitation has been slowed down for reasons of cash call payments, unattractive return on investment and debilitating debt burden on the neck of some marginal field operators. The sector is gradually dying not necessarily for the crash in oil price but the crash in the will to reinvigorate it. The federal government is owing the international oil companies, IOC’s, the Federal government is owing electricity distribution companies, DISCOs, the DISCOs are themselves owing the banks and third party contractors.

In the middle of all of this, the atilogwu dance steps of the Nigerian Naira is unattractive to investors slowing down foreign direct investment. The cumulative effect being near total darkness! Nigeria with a population of about 170 million people is much bigger than Ethiopia and its population of 99.4 million (2016). Therefore, if Ethiopia will start generating 6,000MW of electricity by the middle of this year, that should be enough wake up call to Nigeria to double up on its electricity inadequacies.

Nigeria and its people are losing so much money, productive time and decent livelihood to this avoidable conundrum!
It is about time Nigeria takes advantage of these sources of energy; Fossil fuel, Hydrothermal, Solar etc and develop it to the extent where it can generate, transmit and distribute no less than 20,000MW of electricity, a feat that can be attained, sustained and regained on the economy of the country. Where the country cannot do it alone, level playing field can be created for local and foreign investors and/or a private public partnership. The benefits accruable therefrom are so obvious they cannot be overemphasized! Only then, can we defeat this stubborn darkness.

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