Opinion: Nigeria’s plan to convert to renewable energy for future sustainability
By Paul Olele
Eberechi, a small businesswoman based in Ajah, runs a supermarket, where people can get essential groceries. Eberechi will need to have constant power to keep all the essentials fresh for her customers. Due to the unreliability of power supply, Eberechi will have to get a generator to power up her store. This will cost her money and lead to more pollution in the air. Somewhere down the road, Jimoh burns the trimmed-out fabrics and foam from his furniture shop. The waste disposal contraption comes on sanitation days and have even become more epileptic. The main issue at hand is how Nigeria transitions away from Green House Gases to cleaner and renewable energy.
According to UN Nations Framework and other sources, the African continent accounts for about 10% of global greenhouse gases, yet the continent still faces a lot of disproportionate climate effects such as droughts and floods. In addition to this, countries like Nigeria are challenged with development imperative due to the constraint of public finances and its reliability to deliver better on-grid power services for people to run their businesses efficiently. Despite these drawbacks, Nigeria has set out a target reducing carbon emissions by 2030, but the main question to this problem is how this will be accomplished, especially when the country relies massively on crude oil production.
At the current stage, Nigeria is working to establish several solar power plants. An example of this was in 2019 when the Rural Electrification Agency completed the first 2.8 MW solar hybrid power plant at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (FUNAI) in Ebonyi state. In the same year of 2019, the Buhari administration had also commissioned the largest solar hybrid plant on the African continent at Bayero University in Kano State. This project helped to provide students with consistent electricity supply, which also included 11.41 kilometers of solar powered streetlights and also an outstanding renewable energy center in the community.
Nigeria has also worked with other countries to provide renewable solutions for energy. This was the case in 2018 when USAID worked with Power Africa to finalize a four-year renewable energy project in Nigeria, which helped to provide 261,938 Nigerian citizens with renewable energy through 16,600 connections in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions. The European Union also supported Nigeria in its quest to convert to renewable energy projects in the country. The goal for this investment was to cater to 90 million Nigerians and business owners, who lack access to renewable energy.
These are just many examples of how Nigeria is working to achieve its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 2030. The problem still lies with the fact that Nigeria is a major hub for crude oil exports. According to Guardian, the oil and gas sector as at 2021 accounted for about 10% of Nigeria’s GDP. In addition, the crude oil exports represented 86 percent of the total export earnings. Nigeria still also has the largest natural gas reserves of 206.53 trillion cubic feet. The Country and indeed other African Countries have seen gas as the lesser devil and seek out international funders to invest in this area.
Overall, there is still a strong reliance on crude oil in the subregion with half of the countries producing oil and gas, which could make the conversion process to renewable energy longer. There is no doubt that Nigeria has made several strides in this area and is on the right path to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060 by having at least a transition plan.
The journey through millions of hurdles, governance labyrinths, and rent-seeking detours must begin with a plan. The private sector and friends of Nigeria should roll up their sleeves for investments tied accountabilities as seen in South Africa. The US special envoy on climate change John Kerry has just visited Nigeria. Hopefully, discussions on investments in the transition plan implementation and partnerships with the US would have come up.
Overall, the process might not be a smooth journey due to the crude oil dependency to finance the economy.