How Nigeria can become solar super power
With the right policies in place, Nigeria can easily become a world leader in solar energy and this can also address acute power shortages, and make a real difference in slowing the pace of climate change.
Since being elected in May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President , Prof. Yemi Osinbajo have outlined the government’s vision for increasing Nigeria’s renewable energy capacity, including a boost in solar power generation from virtually zero to 70 GW. The plan is to achieve these targets by 2020. But to do so, Nigeria needs a National Energy Policy, Regulatory Programmes and innovative financing mechanisms that encourage the development of distributed energy, particularly, applications that combine solar generation with energy storage.
Nigeria has already taken positive steps by announcing very aggressive goals to meet 40 per cent of its energy needs through renewables by 2020. I firmly believe that, with favourable policies and strategic economic investments, Nigeria could meet all of its energy needs through renewables by 2040.
Nigeria is endowed with abundant free solar energy. Using the country’s deserts and farm land and taking advantage of 320 to 350 sunny days a year, Nigeria could easily generate 5,000 trillion kWh of solar energy.
In other words, Nigeria could easily install around 1,000 GW of solar generation – equivalent to 40 times the current peak power demand (about 25 GW) – using just 0.5 per cent of its land. In addition, Nigeria can produce over 100 GW from wind power.
Nigeria is both densely populated and has high solar insolation, providing ideal conditions for the exponential growth of solar power as a future energy source. With GDP growing at about 7 per cent, solar PV is the only renewable energy resource that can bridge the ‘gap’ between supply and demand.
Solar energy can transform Nigeria and help bring about decentralised distribution of energy, thereby empowering people at the grassroots level and eliminating the need for costly expansion of transmission and distribution systems.
How Can Nigeria Achieve Its Economic, Environmental and Energy Goals?
Recent Solar Power projects agreement signed last month by VP Yemi Osibanjo with UK Government/DFID and French Solar Powerhouse, Vergnet points to the seriousness of engagement in Solar Electricity by the Current Administration.
In addition, micro-grids have the potential to change the way communities generate and use energy, can reduce costs, increase reliability and improve environmental performance. Micro-grids can be used to take substantial electrical load off the existing power grid and so reduce the need for building new or expanding existing transmission and distribution systems.
By implementing the following 10 strategies, Nigeria can begin to become a “Solar Super Power”:
Develop National Renewable Energy (RE) Policy – Enact and deploy a comprehensive new energy roadmap or innovative RE policies (e.g., PPAs, Net Metering, FIT, etc.) without delay. In addition, set National Renewable Energy Standards/Policy such as 20 per cent by 2020, 40 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040 – to create demand, new industries and innovation, and a new wave of green jobs.
Invite International Developers to meet the revised government targets of 70 GW of Solar and 75 MW of Wind by 2022 and beyond.
Electrifying Transportation – Expedite a move to electrify transportation by encouraging expanded use of Electric Vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrids, and deployment of solar-powered EV charging stations around the country. Develop and implement time-of-day pricing to encourage charging of vehicles at night and other times when peak demand is low. In addition, launch the public transportation system of the future with zero-emission battery-powered Electric Buses in all major cities to reduce air pollution and reverse climate change.
Energy Efficiency – Make Energy Efficiency a high priority by expediting the development and implementation of cost-effective energy efficiency standards. To reduce the long term demand for energy, engage states, industrial companies, utilities and other stakeholders to accelerate energy efficiency investments such as large scale nationwide use of LED lamps.
Utility-Scale Projects – Phase out conventional energy subsidies, and develop a long term plan to replace fossil and nuclear plants with utility-scale renewable generation.
Innovative Financing Solution – Provide innovative financing (including Tax-Free Solar Bonds or Green Infrastructure Bonds, accelerated depreciation mechanism, and access to credit at globally competitive rates, etc.) to instil more confidence from potential investors and decrease the cost of financing for renewable energy projects. Create and fund a national smart infrastructure bank for renewable energy.
However, for Nigeria to meet its future energy needs, it can no longer afford to delay deployment of solar energy.
• Owelle is the Managing Director, PSC Solar, United Kingdom