Nigeria on the Path Toward Sustainable Energy

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Energy plays one of the most vital roles in economic growth and development, and electricity is the modern economy’s cornerstone (IEA, 2016). Nigeria is the fastest growing economy in Africa, laden with electrification and clean energy perspective but energy-rich in fuel resources. Ending Energy Poverty has been a major priority of the country, which can be addressed by leapfrogging Energy Access.

Nigeria’s electricity access rate was nearly 55% in 2019 (according to the World Bank, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Database Report), with 55% of urban areas and 41% of the rural regions with access. Nigeria has vast natural renewable energy sources that could be pivotal and essential to driving sustainable development, which has been underexploited. Nigeria ranked the largest economy in Africa, with a population of over 200 million. Over the years, electricity access has been an impeded challenge to the nation. 85% of the Nigerian population is off-grid, which could be over 100 million.

The power deficit has been a long-lingering problem that has affected businesses and the country’s socio-economic development. However, this has contributed to Nigeria’s huge market that cut-across rural, peri-urban, and urban areas. According to Nigeria’s Renewable Energy Roadmap by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in collaboration with the Energy Commission of Nigeria, addressing the electricity challenges highlighted that Nigeria is the highest fuel-generator importer in Africa.

Using fuel generators as alternatives to energy sources poses a threat to health, the environment, and the climate due to the carbon emissions generated by the systems. Acquiring and maintaining generators are very costly, especially since many rural dwellers and marginalized communities earning below minimum wage find it not affordable. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigerians pay an average of 800 nairas per litre for diesel and 250 nairasper litre for petrol for generators.

On power sector reform, the Senate on 20th July 2022 passed the Electricity Bill, 2022, which seeks to repeal the Electricity and Power Sector Reform Act, 2005, and enact the Electricity Act. It consolidates all legislations dealing with the electricity supply industry to provide an omnibus and ideal Institutional framework to guide the post-privatization phase of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) and encourage private sector investments in the sector. Under the bill, states could also issue licenses to private investors who can operate mini-grids and power plants within the State.

Nigeria has a large percentage of renewable energy compared to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country can harness its renewable energy resources from its high hydro, solar, biomass, and wind energy rate. Nigeria has a unique opportunity to develop a sustainable energy system based on renewable energy that can support socio-economic growth and development while addressing climate change mitigation and accomplishing energy access goals. 

For sustainable energy, accelerating electricity capacity, primarily distributed solar photovoltaic, in the power sector will be vital to unlocking Nigeria’s renewable energy resources than the regular outages in the national grid powered by natural gas and water shortages for generators. Improving the adoption of clean cooking and promoting access to modern forms of energy will contribute to the traditional bioenergy used mainly in Nigeria.

Based on findings on Nigeria’s Renewable Energy Roadmap, Nigeria can meet its energy consumption needs through renewable energy with a share of 52% by 2030 and 59% by 2050. With modern technologies, mini-grids, and premium grid programs, Nigeria has been given a high advantage through energy generation and distribution to provide energy access to disconnected rural communities.

So far, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has launched several programs and partnerships to address the energy challenges through clean energy. In 2020, FGN, under the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), launched Solar Power Naija, designed through Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to power five million households through an N140 billion financing programme that will support private developers. Recently, in August 2022, the Federal Government of Nigeria launched the Nigeria Energy Transition Plan to achieve access to universal energy by 2030 and net zero by 2060.

Private sector players have and need more collaboration with the government to ensure the acceleration of renewable energy in bridging the energy gap. Through its members made up of developers and professionals, stakeholders like the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) are making significant efforts in deploying min-grids, solar home systems, and other renewable solutions across the country. However, barriers such as access to finance, import regulations, and technology limitation hinder the developers.

Accelerating energy access and transitioning to sustainable energy will require prudent choices, determination, investments, and local and international corporations. Nigeria’s fast-growing population is estimated to double to over 400 million by 2050. The need to trend on the path of sustainable energy to ensure access to energy for all will contribute to ending poverty and spurring the country’s socio-economic growth. Therefore, renewable energy must become the backbone of Nigeria’s electricity system. Its affordability and reliability will help generate electricity and decarbonize to save the climate.

– Godwin Adinoyi Jimoh writes from Abuja.

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