Experts take renewable energy to front burner

The search for sustainable energy development took a centre stage at a workshop organised by Environmental right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in Benin, as industry experts canvassed for renewable sources of energy. CHARLES OKONJI, who was there, reports.

The need for renewable energy for the country is now being placed at the front burner, as experts, at the Community Energy Access Training Workshop, which was organised by Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), posited that there is no other better way to tackle Nigeria’s energy crisis.

This emerged as Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (NACC), which consisted of Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Health, Energy Commission of Nigeria, US Agency for International Development (USAID), GIZ of Germany, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Oando Plc, First City Monument Bank, Bank of Industry and ICEED, has also taken the initiative to distribute 10 million clean cookstoves between now and 2020

The nation’s electricity demand, one of the experts from International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED) revealed, at present stood at over 12,000 megawatts, but the current supply was just a little above 4,000 megawatts, while about 72 per cent of Nigerian households still had no access to modern cooking energy, as they relied on traditional biomass.

ICEED’s Project Officer on Renewable Energy, Mr. Okey Ugwu, disclosed that Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and electricity penetration in household cooking energy mix was less than two per cent, which, he said, was due to the fact that energy efficiency application in the use of firewood for cooking had gained much momentum.

Ugwu said: “About 60 million Nigerians provide their own power using diesel and petrol generating sets. It is estimated more than 20,000 of these generators come on at the same time each emitting harmful greenhouse gases (GHGs).

“In addition millions of traditional household and institutional cooking fires add to the build up of GHGs. Renewable energy especially Solar PV, clean cookstoves and small hydropower can bridge the gap between energy demand and supply in the country,” he added.

The Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, had noted that lack of access to electricity and clean cooking stoves to rural people had affected their living standard, demanding total shift from traditional methods of energy production and consumption, which had been less efficient, to cleaner and more efficient methods.

Ojo said: “There is the need to reduce carbon emissions and deforestation that is growing at an alarming rate of about 14 per cent in Nigeria that is also contributing to climate change. The cutting down of trees for cooking and building without replenishing them is undermining the earths resilience and carrying capacity that experts say are nearing tipping over point.

“Fuel wood and other traditional indoor cooking methods can lead to serious health hazards, illness and blindness due to the carbon they emit. There is therefore the need for the promotion of clean and renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal plants and small scale-hydro power stations.

“These energy models do not require energy monopoly companies to dominate the industry. Community energy model do not require gigantic infrastructures and complicated feeder stations. Local energy models should rely on local knowledge and skills in the production, supply, as well as maintenance, a process driven by the communities themselves,” he stressed.

Project Officer, Forest and Biodiversity of ERA/FoEN, Mrs. Rita Iyke Uwaka, while collaboration with her boss’ assertion, equally noted that that most reports, especially from various regions of the world including Nigeria, unfortunate though, indicated that forest resource was depleting at a very fast rate.

According to her, the implications of the loss of the forests were harmful and damaging, which could pose great challenges to the local economy and the global environment.

The Managing Director of Sosai Renewable Energies, Mrs. Habiba Ali, who expressed a strong conviction that Nigeria should harness its renewable sources of energy, stated that hundreds of millions in Africa relied on candlelight or kerosene lamps, but these lighting sources had been quite expensive, inefficient and degraded the environment

According to IEA, about 1.6 billion people worldwide lacked access to electricity and 589 million people live in non-electrified areas. By 2030, 1.3 billion people would lack access to electricity and 700 million people would live in non-electrified areas. These followed the trends in the Asian continent

Africans, Ali said, spent an estimated $10.5 billion on kerosene or other forms of fuel for lighting annually, which represented about 50 per cent of energy expenditure and 30 per cent of household income.

Nigeria, it was also gathered, had, overtime, produced a number of policy documents to promote renewable energy. Among the initiative was the amendment of the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) Act to include promotion and expansion of renewable and alternative energy sources.

The ECN, it was further revealed, had gone ahead to produce the National Energy Policy of 2003, Renewable Energy Master Plan of 2005 and National Energy Master Plan of 2006. The National Energy Policy laid out a roadmap for developing the nation’s energy sector including solar, small hydropower, biomass and other renewable energy sources.

The National Energy Master Plan had provided the framework for implementing the contents of the National Energy Policy. The Renewable Energy Master Plan, it was noted, had overriding objective of increasing the share of renewable in the nation’s overall energy supply mix. It stated that by 2025, renewables would contribute at least 10 per cent of the total energy consumed in the country

In 2001, government adopted the National Electric Power Policy, which, among others, sought to increase the share of renewables in the overall electricity supply mix. This led to the development and adoption of the Electric Power Sector Reforms Act of 2005. This Act established the Rural Electrification Agency and Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission. These two institutions were among others charged with developing the nation’s renewable electricity industry

In 2006, the Federal Ministry of Power produced the National Policy Guidelines on Renewable Electricity. This policy stipulated that the Federal Government would expand the market for renewable electricity to at least five per cent of total electricity generation and a minimum of 5TWh of electric power production by 2016.

The Renewable Electricity Action Programme was produced in the same year and sets out a roadmap for implementing this policy.

Ugwu, a renewable expert with ICEED, said that the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE), in 2004, proposed a National Oil and Gas Policy, which stated that the Federal Government should, among other things, invest in the use of non-fossil based energy sources such as solar, hydro and biomass including the requisite research and development to complement oil and gas.

In 2009, the Federal Government, he stated, adopted the Vision 2020, which sought, among others, to diversify the nation’s energy supply mix by introducing renewables in order to make the energy sector the major engine of the nation’s sustainable social, economic and industrial growth, delivering affordable and constant energy supply efficiently to other sectors of the economy by 2020.

According to him, the Federal Government in 2007 enacted the National Bio-fuels Policy, which was aimed at firmly establishing a thriving bio-fuel industry utilising agricultural products as a means of improving the quality of automotive fossil-based fuels in Nigeria. He added that the policy stipulated a blending of up to 10 per cent of fuel ethanol with gasoline to achieve a blend to be known as E-10, and 20 per cent of biodiesel with conventional diesel by 2020.

In 2010, the Federal Ministry of Environment, he also revealed, developed the National Policy and Guidelines on Renewable Energy, which also had an overriding objective of expanding the market for renewable energy to at least five per cent of total energy availability and utilisation by 2020.

Ugwu said: “Despite the lofty ideas of these policies, implementation has been a major problem. Some of these policies are decorating the shelves of government institutions. Today, there is no clear institutional champion for developing renewable energy in the country.

“The way forward is to appoint a clearly defined institutional champion for renewable energy. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bank of Industry (BoI) should set aside 10 per cent of the power and aviation intervention fund specifically for renewable electricity.

“The Federal Government should develop and launch a new national decentralised rural electrification strategy from renewable, establish a national clean cooking energy programme, use a proportion of the Ecological Fund to renewable energy projects, develop clear policy incentives to support private sector investment in renewable energy services and mobilize Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) to provide community-level renewable energy services.

“If the current trends continue, 189 million Nigerians will be dependent on traditional fuel wood use by 2030, about 170 million Nigerians will be off-grid by 2030 and about 28 million households will be without electricity,” he added.

Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (NACC) had identified serious problems with firewood, stating that about 95,300 died annually in Nigeria due to smoke from firewood, while Nigeria lost three per cent of its forest annually as a result of cutting of trees and the economic costs to the poor was estimated at about N100 daily.

To tackle these challenges, NACC said it would distribute 10 million clean cookstoves, which are fuel efficient wood, charcoal and LPG stoves, by 2020, noting that the drive was to support clean cookstoves market and quality certification to ensure high quality stoves in the Nigerian market.

Other NACC’s initiatives include innovative financing with investment finance, micro finance, carbon market and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) finance and public education to communicate the value of clean household energy.

The participants at the workshop, who came Okokhuo, Iguoriakhi, Makilolo, Aifesoba, Gele Gele, Ora, Inikorogha, Obozogbe, Ibada Elume, Iwhrekan, Ubeji, Amukpe communities in Edo, Delta and Ekiti states, admitted that the Federal Government had not much to address their energy need.

They therefore, called on the Federal Government put in place mechanisms to replace kerosene lamps and other inefficient energy sources used in households, asking that new oil should be left in the soil to put an end to oil-dependency and diversify the nation’s economy.

The participants, who said there was “need to make energy accessible to rural communities and the communities have a role to play by developing their mini energy plans,” said the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) should be mobilised to provide community level renewable energy services.

In the communiqué, which they issued at the end of the workshop, they advised the Federal Government to partner with communities to provide affordable, reliable and efficient renewable energy products.

According to them, the government should not neglect rural communities in their energy plans but to encourage them through interest free loans and grants to enable them develop their own energy action plan.

They said: “The government should develop and launch a new national program on renewable energy and promote non-grind energy production and distribution by the communities themselves. Use a portion of the nation’s ecological fund on renewable energy projects to address climate change and energy poverty.

“The government should make available social marketing scheme involving credits, grants and subsidies in our communities to provide affordable renewable energy products. The government should encourage investments in the area of clean stoves production in our communities.

“The government support and encourage financial institutions in the country to provide interest free loans for community investment on solar powered energy generators for household and small scale business. The government should emulate countries like Germany, which supports local household with financial assistance for engaging in the production of energy through renewable energy sources.

“The government should stop gas flaring which is an enormous waste of economic resources that could be harnessed for local use rather then to satisfy foreign markets.

The government should intensify efforts towards rural community electrification projects by linking communities to the national grid,” they stressed.

Source: Compass Newspaper