…Eyes power generation from small rivers, solar cells from sand
By Michael Eboh
The Energy Commission of Nigeria, ECN, Tuesday, disclosed that the Federal Government has adopted strategies aimed at making investments in the renewable energy sector, especially for electricity generation, attractive and profitable for investors and the private sector.
This was even as the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, disclosed that the government was planning to generate electricity from smaller rivers across the country, and also produce solar cells from sand available in large quantity across the country.
Speaking in Abuja, at a ‘National Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on Scaling up Inter-Connected Mini-Grids Development in Nigeria: Current Status, Challenges and Prospects,’ Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of the ECN, Professor Eli Bala, said the strategy the Federal Government has adopted was the de-risking of the electricity industry.
He noted that the Federal Government had realized the fact that the country needs constant power supply to drive economic growth and development, especially as power from the electricity grid was inadequate.
Bala stated that the government was concerned with-de-risking the power sector, so as make electricity affordable, encourage consumers to pay for consumption, boost the cashflow profile of the industry and attract banks to mobilise the much-needed funding required to grow the sector.
He said: “Electricity supply is a business and it is a product that needed to be sold. If there is profitability, banks would certainly come in. This is why the whole idea around de-risking it, so that it becomes affordable, ensuring that consumers would easily pay for it. Once the cash flow is seen by the banks, they can easily mobilise funding for the private sector to participate.
“The only sustainable way to grow the economy, especially the power sector, is through private sector participation. In Nigeria, we have seen that government cannot effectively manage businesses. The private sector has the diligence and the expertise. The idea is to de-risk, ensuring that the cost per kilowatt hour is reduced and that revenue comes in; this would make the banks to finance it.
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He bemoaned the fact that none of the private investors, mainly for solar photovoltaic Independent Power Projects, IPP, registered under the five-year Global Environment facility, GEF-supported project, tagged ‘de-risking renewable energy for Nigerian power sector, had been able to reach financial close.
According to him, it was against this background and the fact that some level of development of isolated mini-grids and inter-connected 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.
“So far, about 15 per cent of the total grid-connected electric power generation capacity of about 13 gigawatts in the country is from renewable, 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,” he added.
On his part, Minister of Science and Technology, Ogonnaya Onu, disclosed that there was no way the country would develop at the rate it wants without adequate power supply.
He disclosed that apart from rivers Niger and Benue, the Federal Government was conducting series of research that would ensure that the country produce power from other smaller rivers across the country, to be used by schools, industries and farms among others.
He added that the country was also interested in producing solar cells from sand, stating that: “Sand is found everywhere in Nigeria, especially at river banks; and it is what is used to produce solar cells, and it comprises 60 per cent of solar PVs. There are so many things that can be done. Once we have the resources, we have the capacity and the capability to do all these; and we are also determined.”