Image credit: Sosai | DGGF

Nigeria, as recently as the year 2017, was  ranked by the Spectator Index as the second worst Country in electric power supply, competing with war torn Yemen, which emerged in the first place. The ranking at the time was hinged on the nation’s (Nigeria) calculated power supply of 3851 MWh (up to January 2018). 3851 MWh, represents the total daily average power sent out by Electricity Generating Companies (GENCOs) to consumers. The 2018 Vanguard Nigeria report based on information acquired from the Office of Nigeria’s Vice President, indicated that up until May 26th, 2018, unavailability of gas remained a dominant constraint, limiting a total of 2,232.4 MW from being available on the grid. According to the same Vanguard report, an estimated one hundred and eighty seven billion, one hundred and ninety seven million naira (N187,197,000,000 i.e. $519,428,937.92), was lost to insufficient gas supply, distribution, transmission & water reserves between December 2017 to May 2018. 

This power supply rate, by both international and local standards, was dismal considering the country’s increasing energy dependent population, and its prospective economic growth which is largely hinged on its industrial and infrastructural development potential. In the decrepit state of the national grid, power generation infrastructure, and transmission lines, lies the crux of the problem. It is therefore expected that addressing this challenge head on will require a total overhaul of the grid, its faulty distribution and transmission lines and other related power infrastructures. The cost, along with the technical, logistical and time implications are enormous, requiring immense political will, coupled with meticulous management of financial and technical resources. The lack of this has meant that billions invested in correcting this problem over the last decade has yielded very little results. 

The current electric power supply deficit and its effect on consumers across the country, can be addressed and mitigated respectively, by fully diversifying into renewable energy. It is clearly seen in the Spectator Index release, that countries that were highly ranked had massive investments in diverse renewable energy sources which had grown progressively to complement their other sources of energy. The aggressive diversification by these countries into renewable energy, also has a strategic objective in cutting down carbon emissions, the climate change effect and other environmental hazards and pollution. Despite the prevalence of grid power facilities, it can be argued with sufficient justification, that Nigeria would have recorded progressively above 3851MW, if diverse renewable energy sources were harnessed both as a stand-alone (Offgrid) and complementary (Hybrid) source of power.

Strive Masiyiwa and Richard Branson, in their 2017 paper, titled, ‘The Power of Mini Grids’, submitted that two thirds of the African continent including Nigeria, lacked access to electricity. They acknowledged that further power disruptions, time and monetary costs will accompany the restoration, modernization and extension of the National Grid, hence, they proffered an alternative: a short, medium and long term investment in sustainable energy powered Mini Grids. In this, they saw a viable and less costly alternative in sustainable Mini Grids, especially in reaching out and covering large swathes of rural areas which have a significantly large population but with no access to grid electricity. 

Nigeria is geographically located on a high radiation belt. With an average solar irradiation of 2011kWh/m2, Nigeria is abundant in solar resources. Experts conservatively estimate that were Solar PV panels to be placed strategically on just 1% of the large expanse of empty land area that make up most of Northern Nigeria, 207,000 GWh of electric power could be harnessed, produced and distributed per year. Again, conservatively put, 207,000 GWh of electric power is equivalent to 4.6 million barrels of oil per day, (Coker, 2017). In their paper, ‘Energy Crisis in Nigeria: Need for Renewable Energy Mix’,  Olaoye et al (2016) submitted that with an average abundant daily sunshine of 5.535KWh/m2 across the nation, 6000 Megawatts can be generated from Solar PV Panels placed on a 3000 km radius of empty sun scorched land.

With this natural advantage, Nigeria is in a position of strength when compared to countries located in temperate regions that have already diversified into and thriving on Solar Power generation. Nigeria can no longer justify its inability to seek green energy sources as an alternative in augmenting its power generation.

The Nigerian Government through the concerned Energy departments and agencies, should formulate policies that sensitise, encourage and empower public and private sector investment into Off grid Solar Power Systems. This will guarantee consistent and predictable power supply.

Bangladesh, with a population of 163 million, is comparable to Nigeria in the sense that its energy demand and consumption rate is high just like in Nigeria. In response to high energy demand, the Bangladeshi government adopted the use of solar powered Off grid systems to address deficits in its power supply. The Bangladeshi government saw its location on a high solar radiation belt as an advantage to exploit hence, it initiated the Solar Home Systems (SHSs) as a national electrification strategy. Today, Bangladesh has over 4 million Solar Home Systems across the country installed with independent solar power systems that are reliable, and effectively complement what is supplied from the nation’s grid, (Kumar et al, 2019: 171). Buoyed by the relative success and reach of the programme so far, the Bangladeshi Government plans to implement what they call Universal Electricity Access, with which they project to cover over 6 million households by 2021 with an estimated generation capacity of 220MW, (Kumar et al, 2019: 169)

In recommending an immediate but interim solution that can be implemented by the Nigerian Government to mitigate or alleviate the power deficit challenge and its effects on the nation, five steps are critical :

  1. The government must communicate its policy on Solar PV and its benefits to the people in the form of awareness campaigns. Countries like Germany, United States and the United Kingdom have made great progress in their respective renewable energy journeys, and industry experts attribute these successes to communication and the creation of awareness in their respective countries. This has compelled citizens and other stakeholders to buy into and support the initiative through their patronage.  A sizeable percentage of Nigerians are still unaware of what renewable energy is, how it works and how it stands to benefit them in a way that is consistent, complementary, clean and less harmful to the environment. Actively involving stakeholders like youths, environmental activists, civil societies, media, trade unions, academia, rural communities, not for profits and potential investors in these sensitisations, will make for an easier public-private sector participatory roll out. Emphasis is to be placed on capacity building for government officials who will play active roles in policy formulation, design and implementation. 
  2. Solar PV technology is relatively new to the Nigeria market. Installation, operation and maintenance of these facilities cannot be successfully carried out on the medium to long term with a shortage of technically skilled and competent personnel situated locally. China’s success in Solar PV is mainly driven by its highly skilled solar work force, putting China at the forefront of Solar PV panels manufacturing, custom fabrication, installation, engineering and export. To achieve this, China had to design a technical-education curriculum by which a new generation of workforce were trained and equipped to lead the world in this regard. This is a recommended path for Nigeria.
  3. Government should take advantage of declining global Solar PV costs, by investing in large scale material/component purchase, installation, and distribution.
  4. Subsidized purchase and distribution of Solar PV systems to consumers at affordable rates, or through monthly, quarterly or yearly purchase pay plans backed by the Government.
  5. Government could follow the Bangladeshi example by targeting mass Solar PV rooftop installations. Olaoye et al (2016) proposed an off grid option where one million homes in Nigeria are equipped with a 1000W solar power systems on their rooftops. This option seems viable and means a total power production output of 7000MW on just this initiative alone. This is close to the current Government’s Vision 30:30:30 projection in which it fixed a 9000MW renewable energy target. This is also a good leapfrogging option considering the poor state of the country’s grid network and transmission line. The nation will not have to wait for the complete restoration of the grid and network lines before having access to electricity. The government should also focus efforts on building and locating Mini Grids in remote rural areas with little or no connection to the national grid. This will not only ensure electricity availability to these communities but will empower them economically.

In conclusion, Solar PV requires comparatively less technological input, financial resources, and manpower when compared to Wind, Biomass, Hydropower and Geothermal sources of renewable energy. This is a boost and favors Nigeria as a developing economy with rudimentary infrastructural technology and complex  processes for equipment procurement, fabrication, installation, use and maintenance. Solar PV if keyed into as outlined above, could help to mitigate to a large extent, the electric power deficit challenge facing Nigerian and make for more reliable, consistent and independent power generation and supply.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Future Africa Forum.