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Nigeria’s Pathways to Sustainable Energy

On Sunday, February 4 2024, Nigeria witnessed its first national grid collapse in 2024. The situation led to the shutdown of all 20 power plants, except Ibom Power with 31 megawatts. That collapse makes it more than 200 grid collapses in the past 12 years for Africa’s most populous nation, and energy experts have attributed the incessant grid collapse to technical issues and poor management.

However, amidst these challenges lies a vast potential for renewable energy. With abundant sunlight, wind resources, and hydroelectric potential, Nigeria can harness renewable energy to meet its growing energy needs sustainably. Today, I will attempt to discuss the current renewable energy landscape in Nigeria, existing initiatives, and the potential for future growth.

Nigeria’s energy sector is predominantly reliant on fossil fuels, particularly oil and gas. However, this reliance has proven to be unsustainable due to fluctuating global prices, supply disruptions, and environmental concerns.

As a result, there has been a growing recognition of the need to diversify the country’s energy mix and integrate renewable energy sources. Before we think about diversification, we must first examine the current renewable energy landscape in Nigeria. The four I will discuss in subsequent paragraphs are solar energy, wind energy, hydro power and biomass energy.

Considering solar energy, Nigeria boasts abundant solar resources, with an average of 6 to 7 hours of sunshine per day in most parts of the country. Solar energy holds immense potential for decentralized electricity generation, especially in rural and off-grid areas where access to the national grid is limited.

The Nigerian government, in collaboration with international partners, has initiated several solar projects aimed at increasing access to clean energy. For instance, the Solar Power Naija initiative aims to install solar home systems in 5 million households across the country by 2023.

Wind energy – Nigeria’s wind resources are not as extensive as its solar potential, but there are still viable opportunities for wind energy development, particularly in the northern regions of the country. The Nigerian government has identified wind power as a key component of its renewable energy strategy and has initiated wind farm projects in states like Katsina and Sokoto. These projects aim to harness wind energy for electricity generation and contribute to the diversification of the country’s energy mix.

Nigeria is endowed with significant hydropower potential, particularly along the Niger and Benue rivers. The country’s largest hydropower plant, the Kainji Dam, has an estimated capacity of 760 MW, while the Jebba Dam adds another 578 MW to the grid. Despite these existing facilities, there is still untapped hydropower potential that could be harnessed to increase electricity generation and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report of 2023, Nigeria has a hydro potential of around 24 GW and a small hydro potential of about 3.5 GW. That’s not all. The transforming energy scenario (TES) sees hydropower reaching 13 GW in 2030 and 15.5 GW in 2050, compared with the planned energy scenario of 5.9 GW in 2030 and 13 GW in 2050. So, Hydropower will be key in balancing the centralized power system by offering flexibility to mitigate solar power variability, the report said.

Biomass energy – Biomass, including agricultural residues, wood, and organic waste, represents another renewable energy source with untapped potential in Nigeria. Biomass energy can be utilized for cooking, heating, and electricity generation, particularly in rural areas where biomass resources are abundant. However, there is a need for sustainable biomass management practices to ensure that its utilization does not contribute to deforestation or environmental degradation.

Despite the immense potential for renewable energy in Nigeria, several challenges hinder its widespread adoption and implementation. The first and most important is funding. Limited access to financing remains a significant barrier to renewable energy projects in Nigeria. The high upfront costs associated with renewable energy infrastructure often deter private investors, leading to a reliance on government funding and international aid.

Also, inconsistent policies and regulatory frameworks create uncertainty for renewable energy investors and developers. There is a need for clear and supportive policies that promote renewable energy deployment, including feed-in tariffs, tax incentives, and streamlined permitting processes.

In addition, integrating renewable energy into the national grid presents technical challenges, particularly in a system designed primarily for centralized fossil fuel-based power generation. Improving grid infrastructure and implementing smart grid technologies are essential to accommodate variable renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

Another critical challenge is the shortage of skilled professionals in the renewable energy sector, including engineers, technicians, and project managers. Investing in education and training programs is crucial to build the necessary human capital for the development and operation of renewable energy projects.

Despite these challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of renewable energy in Nigeria. The global shift towards renewable energy and the increasing emphasis on climate change mitigation present opportunities for Nigeria to position itself as a leader in sustainable energy development.

There are also huge economic benefits in renewable energy such as investing in renewable energy which can stimulate economic growth, create job opportunities, and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, ultimately contributing to Nigeria’s long-term energy security and economic prosperity.

Finally, rapid advancements in renewable energy technologies, such as solar photovoltaics, battery storage, and grid integration solutions, are making renewable energy more accessible, affordable, and reliable than ever before. For instance, Shell Nigeria Plc has recently announced plans to explore off-grid solar solutions as part of its strategy to help tackle the chronic power problems we face.

Leveraging existing international support should be a part of our outlook too. Nigeria has received support from international organizations and development partners, including the World Bank, African Development Bank, and United Nations, to strengthen its renewable energy sector through funding, technical assistance, and capacity building. These opportunities must be deployed effectively to put us at a better place in the future.

In conclusion, Nigeria stands at a pivotal moment in its energy transition journey, with renewable energy poised to play a significant role in shaping the country’s future energy landscape.

By overcoming existing challenges and leveraging its abundant renewable energy resources, Nigeria can unlock sustainable economic growth, improve energy access, and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. With the right policies, investments, and partnerships, Nigeria has the potential to become a renewable energy powerhouse in Africa and lead the way towards a cleaner, more resilient energy future.

Olamide is a communications professional currently based in London, United Kingdom. He can be reached across social media platforms @olamidefrancis and via


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