By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja
The need to exploit Nigeria’s huge renewable energy resources as an instrument for diversification of the energy supply mix and enhancement of energy security as well as environmental benefits cannot be overemphasized.
Renewable energy resources of the sun, wind, hydropower and bioenergy have been identified as having the greatest potential for electric power generation in the country.
Experts in the sector have stated that, so far, about 15 per cent of the total grid-connected electric power generation capacity of about 13GW in the country is from renewables, largely from hydropower. However, environmental benefits, particularly mitigation of global warming, is largely derivable from the use of variable renewable energy sources of solar, wind and small hydropower as well as biomass that is carbon-neutral.
Reports have indicated that across the nation, electricity has remained about 60 per cent with hours of availability though progressively increasing but still within unacceptable limits, for over a decade now due to inadequate transmission and distribution network arising from inadequate investments.
This was the crux of a two-day stakeholders’ consultative forum on ‘Scaling-up interconnected mini-grids development in Nigeria: Current status, challenges and prospects’, organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP-GEF) and the Energy Commission of Nigeria, in Abuja.
Declaring the workshop open, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu restated the Federal Government’s commitment to diversify Nigeria’s energy supply needs to include renewable energy so as to accelerate socio-economic development of the country, saying renewable energy would help the nation meet up its electricity needs in a functional and sustainable manner, adding it would also improve the quality of life in the country.
He noted that Nigeria’s desire to industrialise cannot be realised without adequate power supply, adding his ministry in collaboration with relevant agencies of government as well as the private sector was working round the clock to ensure homes, offices, factories, schools, hospitals and laboratories have adequate reliable and affordable electricity supply.
In his welcome address, the director-general of ECN, Prof. Eli Bala said the need to exploit the nation’s huge energy resources to diversify the energy supply mix was first expressed in the National Energy Policy (NEP) of 2003, adding the Electricity Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act of 2005 further deregulated, liberalized and privatized the electric power sector with the hope that electricity supply would be better scaled up.
According to him, since the 2003 NEP, the promotion of renewable energy-based electricity was further boosted with the production of the UNDP supported Renewable Energy Masterplan in 2005, followed by GIZ-supported National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy (NREEEP) in 2015; the 2015 Feed-in-Tarrif established by Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the 2015 Paris Climate Protocol and the consequent Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); the 2016 NERC Regulation for mini-grid and the Vision 30-30-30 of the ERGP in 2017.
“The Feed-in-Tariff established in 2015 was generous and indeed attracted significant number of private sector participants to acquire licences from NERC and commenced negotiation for PPAs with NBET. T was based on these initial commitments and enthusiasms of both government and the private sector that a five-year Global Efficiency Facility (GEF) – supported project titled ‘De-risking Renewable Energy for Nigeria Power Sector’ was developed by the UNDP and approved for implementation as from 2017.
“The original vision of the project was to catalyse private sector investments in grid-connected renewable energy (solar PV) in Nigeria. Unfortunately, due to challenges, none of the prospective private investors, mainly for Solar PV IPPs, registered have been able to reach financial close,” he added.
According to Bala,it is against the background and also the fact that some level of development in isolated mini-grids and interconnected mini-grids were taking place, that the project was re-designed to focus on the development of interconnected mini-grids, which seem to face lesser challenges.
In his remarks, the UNDP representative, Mr Muyiwa Odele, pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic offered several lessons valuable to the UNDP-GEF de-risking project.
“Firstly, that renewable energy solutions provide clean, reliable, easy to mobilize and cost-effective energy for essential services, including healthcare, water and food supply. This makes them crucial in the immediate response to COVID-19. We must therefore prioritize renewable energy in any stimulus measures and commit to phasing out support for fossil fuels.
“Secondly, that the green economic recovery agenda cannot succeed without the full engagement of the private sector – the private sector needs to be fully engaged. Business has a critical role to play as a source of finance, a driver of innovation, and an engine of economic growth and employment,” he added.
He urged participants to share experiences and challenges of interconnected renewable energy-based mini-grid development in Nigeria, and critical support required for the successful implementation of the project, even as he tasked them to maintain momentum to see the project through to the conclusion.
Highlighting objectives of the meeting earlier, the national project director of the UNDP-GEF De-risking Project, Engr. Okon Ekpenyong said they were to present to stakeholders, the revised projects implementation strategy focusing on developing interconnected mini-grids and to secure the buy-in of the public and private stakeholders as well as that of the development partners.
Others include to establish the current status and challenges of interconnected renewable energy-based mini-grid development in Nigeria; share experiences with lessons learned on the development of interconnected mini-grid in Nigeria; identify most needed support by the developers; get guidance on potential pre-urban areas where the revised UNDP-GEF project should focus its attention; and establish synergy among key players towards developing appropriate strategies for the construction and commissioning of interconnected mini-grids planned under the project.