Viewpoint

February 7, 2024

The imperatives of solar renewable energy for Nigeria

The imperatives of solar renewable energy for Nigeria

By CHARLES EKEH

WITH the alarming rate of environmental degradation in the present century, caused, in large part, by the ubiquitous use of fossil fuels, an eco-friendly alternative for energy production becomes an unimpeachable necessity. One such pragmatic solution is the deployment of solar renewable energy. Imo State, a verdant region located in the Southern part of Nigeria, harbours the potential to harness this power effectively, thereby fostering significant environmental, economic and societal benefits (Getfit Solar, 2016).

The energy shortfalls that relentlessly plague Nigeria are of common knowledge. The persistent under-utilisation of renewable energy resources, particularly solar power, in Nigeria is a stark irony given the enviable and abundant sunlight the country receives (affording over 5 kWh/m2 of solar radiation daily), especially in regions like Imo State (Nigerian Renewable Energy Master Plan, 2005).

Undeniably, the advent of renewable energy has sparked an unprecedented shift in how the human populace utilises resources for energy needs. This consensus provides an analytical examination of a potential roadmap towards industrialisation within Imo State, Nigeria, leveraging solar renewable energy.

Imo State is richly endowed with abundant sunlight, presenting an opportunity to tap into one of the cleanest forms of energy – Solar Energy (Masters, 2012). Despite being in the tropics, which gifts it roughly six to seven hours of intense sunlight per day (International Energy Agency, 2020), Imo State is yet to fully harness this bountiful ‘Solar Goldmine’ for its industrialisation.

Renewable energy, particularly solar, holds the potential to support the growth and development of industries in Imo State. By generating electricity that adequately powers industries, renewable energy could facilitate the industrialisation process by cutting costs, creating jobs, increasing productivity, and promoting sustainable development. Stringent measures towards this would transcend it from an economy highly reliant on agriculture and trade into an industrialised powerhouse.

The introduction of solar energy projects within Imo State should consider key factors such as installation and maintenance cost, the cultural and economic impact, and the implementation logistics, to ensure successful integration and application. These would not only solve the frequent electrical failures modifying the state’s industrial progression but also instigate a paradigm shift of energy demands with prime consideration of healthy environment preservation.

Solar energy is a feasible solution for the current predicament Imo State faces. Transitioning to solar power from the overdependence on oil can help combat the increasing concerns of climate change perpetuated by the proliferation of greenhouse gases, GHGs. According to the EIA (2017), solar energy technologies produce virtually no GHG emissions during energy production, making them a cleaner source for generating electricity. In a country like Nigeria, where the vast majority of electricity generation is from thermal sources, switching to solar energy could help significantly reduced associated emissions.

There is also a compelling economic argument for the implementation of solar energy systems in Imo State. The current reliance on diesel generators, apart from their significant environmental implications, is a major cost-driver for many businesses and households. Solar power offers a more cost-effective alternative for electricity generation in the long run. The price of solar panels has decreased significantly in recent years, making it an increasingly affordable solution. With adequate investment and government support, solar energy systems can be implemented successfully and sustainably in Imo State, leading to significant cost savings on energy bills for businesses and households alike.

Additionally, harnessing solar energy in Imo State could drive significant job creation, not only in the energy sector but also in related industries. Research shows that renewable energy sectors generate more jobs per unit of electricity generated than fossil fuel-based generation does. The industries that could be developed around the manufacture and installation of solar panels hold significant promise for job creation in the state.

While it is undeniable that initially, the cost of setting up solar infrastructure might appear substantial, with the right policies in place, government and private sector investment can reduce not just the financial risk but also achieve economies of scale that will make solar power cheaper and more viable in the long run.

To sociologically reckon, deploying solar renewable energy in Imo State could significantly reduce the current geographical disparity in access to electricity, which has hindered economic growth and development in several rural areas (National Population Commission, 2012).

The state ought to create a 30-year state improvement plan around renewable energy concepts and projects. It is not highfaluting to ask the government to build a special renewable energy institute in the state. This institute would be an incubation hub in positioning and transforming the state to blaze the trail in the renewable energy sector.

Beyond establishing the institute, solar panels and ancillaries production factory should be set up in the state. The former chairman of NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi, is from Imo State, and certainly such a person knows and understands rural electrification and how to deal with the hiccups and teething problems thereof.

However, challenges such as high installation costs, lack of technical know-how, and weak funding still impede the implementation of renewable energy projects in Imo State. It is, therefore, indispensable for strategic plans to facilitate an enabling environment that promotes investment in solar energy.

Despite the evidenced benefits, transitioning to a solar-based energy system is not without its challenges. Policy, regulatory, environmental and infrastructural constraints need to be navigated assiduously. Government should take the lead in promoting avenues for investment in solar power, underpinning infrastructural development, providing incentives for solar businesses, and creating a favourable regulatory environment.

One approach to overcoming these challenges is through Public-Private Partnerships, PPPs. They can facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technological skills required for the successful integration and maintenance of solar energy systems. PPPs also present a strategic tool for mobilising the necessary investment needed for solar energy projects.

I strongly recommend that the state initiate its own internal agency for rural electrification and task the agency to harness the abundant sunlight prevalent in the region to provide electricity for local industries.

There are sons and daughters in the diaspora that are autochthonous in Imo State, who would be willing to give back to the society in the spirit of ‘aku ruo ulo’.

In essence, solar renewable energy presents a holistic solution capable of confronting climatic, economic and societal challenges that currently plague Imo State, Nigeria. Curating an environment favouring the application of this.

Leveraging on solar energy for industrialisation in Imo State holds untapped potential that could revolutionise the state’s economic canvas. Local authorities should prioritise exploring this potential, for it offers a sustainable solution for the industrialisation of Imo State, a process that would be marked by job creation, economic growth, and environmental sustainability.

*Dr. Ekeh wrote from London via: [email protected]