Chineme Okafor writes on the increasing acceptance of solar photovoltaic as a dependable electricity source in Nigeria
Solar power may become the most preferred alternative electricity source to Nigerians, judging by recent developments. Despite the economic barriers to its growth, Nigeria’s solar power market has moved with great impression on electricity consumers who are fast embracing it to overcome the poor supply from the national electricity grid.
Nigeria, with a population of about 180 million people, has been unable to provide power to more than 80 million of its people. Even those connected to the national grid are mostly undersupplied, necessitating their recourse to alternative means, which include expensive fossil fuel generating sets.
Manufacturers in the country said in February that their peak electricity demand had gone up to 14,882 megawatts (MW). But the national grid is only able to generate and supply about 4500MW at the most. Even at that, the manufacturers do not get a good amount the meagre 4500MW from the grid, so they rely on self-generated electricity to power their operations.
Beyond the manufacturers, power from the grid is also never enough to satisfy the demands of domestic electricity consumers. Electricity consumers now have a choice of pivoting to solar power, which is sourced from the sun and converted directly through photovoltaic (PV) or indirectly using concentrated solar power, or even a combination of both.
To underscore Nigeria’s losses to the abysmal power supply, a 2017 study on the nexus between energy access and poverty alleviation, done by Patrick Osakwe of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), stated that Nigeria’s desire for industrialisation depended heavily on the extent its government could effectively deal with the energy challenge.
Osakwe had stated, “There are at least three principal channels through which the poor access, unstable supply, and the high cost of electricity in Nigeria has had a deleterious impact on industrialisation. This includes: low manufacturing capacity utilisation rates, low competitiveness of manufacturing firms, and lack of firm growth, particularly for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“One of the main effects of lack of access to stable and affordable power supply in Nigeria is its impact on the ability for firms to operate at full capacity. It also results in underinvestment in the sector, thereby, limiting the ability of domestic firms to expand capacity when need arises in the future. Low rate of capacity utilisation has been a major feature of manufacturing in Nigeria despite the high demand for manufactured goods in the country.”
He noted that a World Bank survey in 2016 indicated that 71 per cent of Nigerian firms used generators, and that generator fuel alone accounted for about 23 per cent of the total costs of intermediate inputs used in manufacturing between 2010 and 2012.
Solar to the Rescue
Driven by basic economic assumptions that increased demand would always be a coefficient in increased supply of goods and services, business people and operators in solar power technology have taken advantage of Nigeria’s low access to power to step up their commitments to solar energy. THISDAY observed that Nigeria’s solar power market had within the last two years gained significant traction. It is a burgeoning market that could electrify millions of homes in the country.
At the moment, the financial value of the country’s off-grid power market, which is driven by solar, is about $9.2 billion, according to the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). Operators and investors are beginning to change the initial negative stories associated with solar power in Nigeria with sagacious investments and reliable projects.