Energy is one of the most fundamental issues for sustainable development. The importance of energy availability in the economic growth, social and political development of every nation cannot be overemphasized. Affordable and reliable energy availability is the precondition for sustainable development.
Sustainable development calls for an efficient, reliable and decentralized energy economy, based on local and clean energy sources, in which the price paid by the consumer will reflect the real cost of energy products to the economy.
There is clear evidence that Nigeria is blessed with abundant resources of fossil fuels as well as renewable energy resources. The major challenge is inefficient utilization of energy in the country. There is no doubt that the present power crisis afflicting Nigeria will persist unless the government diversifies its energy sources and adopt new available technologies to reduce energy wastage and save cost.
Nigeria is facing significant challenges in reforming and providing the required impetus for development of its power sector. The country’s Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) has been plagued by a variety of legacy, structural and institutional challenges which have resulted in overall decline in service levels across generation, transmission and distribution segments of the industry.
These privatization programmes have presented a myriad of policy and regulatory challenges and have placed additional burden on policy makers and industry regulators as they try to contend with the dynamic phase that the ESI is undergoing at the moment. Huge sums of capital have been invested by the government in their attempt to find lasting solution to the industry’s sub-optimal performance.
However, the growing deficit in terms of power generation and power demand when considering our economic growth trajectory of around 6% per annum remains formidable.
The electricity supply industry is fraught with multifaceted challenges such as non-availability of gas, operation and maintenance difficulties, defective delivery/dispatch and planning systems as well as under-funding. One believes that it is time for our energy policy makers to change their frame of reference and accept that other energy sources can play a significant role in addressing our energy deficit debacle.
The focus should be on developing credible policies aimed at encouraging investments in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
Despite the glaring economic constraints of solar power generation, its limited competitiveness, a low capacity factor, in addition to high cost of PV cells, renewable power sources mainly solar power development can support peak time energy consumption and can add considerable capacity directly to the grid or embedded network of distribution enclaves.
However, for this to happen, the industry need a clear signal from the government through policy and fiscal inducement aimed at addressing the economic and technical disadvantage of solar power production. These could include measures such as a guaranteed feed-in-tariff, fiscal adjustments to favour industry participants, tax credits, capital subsidies and grants and numerous other financial incentives that can be leveraged upon to support growth of the industry.
It is also important to note that of these countries especially those in Europe do not have the same level of solar radiation as we have in Nigeria. The solar radiation in some of these countries can be considered sub-optimal, yet with carefully thought out policy support from their governments, large scale solar installations have become economically and financially viable, thus leading to significant investments in both residential and commercial segments of the industry and helping in solving acute energy security problems.
The Nigerian government through a similar policy position must encourage the deployment of Solar Home & Commercial Systems (SHCS). I would consider this a key demand side intervention mechanism as this will rebalance the demand side pressure on the national grid emanating from various residential and commercial power consumers.
The financial services industry must also play its role through provision of credit facilities to individuals and businesses enabling them to deploy SHCS. This has been a very successful model in Bangladesh and India where (in India) it is estimated that around 5 million residential solar systems will be sold between 2014 and 2018.
Finally, one can unequivocally make the assertion that renewable energy sources, in particular, solar power development can play a truly significant role in addressing the current power crisis in Nigeria. Solar projects are easily scalable with the possibility of deploying thousands of units within a short period.
With appropriate policy direction and necessary incentives, the sector will witness remarkable growth in the coming decades with backward linkage opportunities in manufacturing and job creation.