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Stakeholders Move To Ensure Cleaner Operation In RE Sector

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… Push For Subsidies, Proper Regulation & Awareness on Dangers of ULABs

Stakeholders in Renewable Energy (RE), have moved to ensure cleaner operations in the sector in anticipation of federal government’s targeted 9000mw electricity production via renewables in ten years, which will see the importation of 12m lead batteries for the storage of renewable energy.

The move includes a 2.5 per cent tax fee on RE operators and installers, a push for proper regulation of Used Lead-Acid Batteries (ULABs) in the energy sector, subsidies funding from international agencies and awareness creation on the dangers of ULABs.

According to the stakeholders, the Alliance for Responsible Battery Recycling (ARBR), NESREA, Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN), wastes management and renewables operators who held discuss on the platform of Clean Technology Hub – an energy innovation and ideation center,  Nigeria imports 14 million automotive batteries, and 400,000 batteries for renewable energy annually, generating a total of 500,000 tons of lead batteries waste out of which only 24,000 tons are recycled.

Federal government in line with The Basel Convention which stipulates that countries without the capacity to recycle hazardous materials can seek assistance from those that can, gave permit to local organization to collect and export ULABs for recycling.

Unfortunately, the cost-intensive nature of ULAB recycling, Nigeria lacks the capacity to locally recycle the over 110,000 ULABs in the country.

With only three industrial ULABs recycling operators registered by NESREA, Ibeto and Fargo included, hundreds of backyard/non-standard ULABs operations exist whose poor and unregulated recycling methods are polluting the environment and damaging human health.

Executive Secretary of ARBR, Terseer Ugbor says Lagos, Ogun and other areas where ULABs are recycled are 60 times above the global lead pollution limits; while Research Associate of the Basel Convention Coordination Center for the African Region in UNIbadan, Dr. Gilbert Adie says the chronic health effects resulting from the inhalation of acid leaks from ULABs causes low IQ, damage to the body’s central nervous system leading to hormone and enzymes imbalance, and cancer.

Proper regulation and monitoring of lead batteries at the end-of-life is necessary to prevent higher environmental and human health emergencies.

“Lead can leak into surface waters, soils etc., which will subsequently leach into underground water. Directly or indirectly, these will come back to us, as it pollutes our food source – fishes and animals, everything in our environment. This is not a case of “out of sight, out of mind’. It is a case of what goes around comes around. All hands must be on deck to ensure we do things rights,” urges Adie.

He also tasked government to seriously attend to its regulation and enforcement roles. “Regulations are there, but who to monitor and enforce them is the challenge. Although, we have enforcement agencies as NESREA etc. They are usually underfunded and short-staffed which is a challenge. We need to create awareness of the dangers of ULAB to all Nigerians.”

Meantime, RE operators are groaning over the recommended 2.5 per cent tax levy by ARBR for the recycling of imported ULABs used in mini-off-grids and home system installations. The levy, RE operators complained comes on the heels of other duties they pay when they are yet to break-even.

Responding, Ugbor says the Alliance is willing to renegotiate the fee, noting however, that someone must pay for the secure processing and recycle of ULAB batteries.

In developed countries, manufactured products have environmental levy attached to the production cost, which its citizens indirectly pay for. However, these countries laws do not allow for the transfer of environmental fees to foreign jurisdictions.

“A country may create a law that if you produce batteries there, you add an environmental fee to ensure the batteries don’t pollute its environment. But does that law cover the environment of the country where that battery is going to? Does that law require the manufacturer in China to also pay something to Nigeria for sending batteries to Nigeria, for environmental fee? We cannot depend on the foreign laws to protect us (in Nigeria). We have to create our own laws to protect us here. That is why whatever needs to be done concerning policy implementation needs to be done, like encouraging some of these payments we talked about as environmental fees are being recommended through NESREA, not the Alliance,” stresses Ugbor.

He continues, “The funding that will be generated from the recycling fees will be used to increase capacity in the sector, across the entire value chain. The process of collection and storing of these batteries are supposed to be standardized in a way that every process along the chain doesn’t leak acid, or leak lead dust in our atmosphere and affect our children; and that in the transportation of these batteries – ensure that trucks that transport hazardous wastes as ULABs, do not transport consumer goods.”

Urging stakeholders to renegotiate the fee via the support of donor agencies to subsidize the recycling levy, Ugbor also called on international agencies as the EU, World Bank and others currently subsidizing Nigeria’s power growth in the RE sector to aid in the subsidization of ULABs.

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