Clean, modern and affordable energy is vital for social and economic development in Africa. Recent statistics published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs shows that Africa has an urban growth of 43%, indicating that a majority of Africans still live in rural areas. According to World Economic Forum, as of mid-2017, 62.5% of sub-Saharan Africa cannot access electricity.
To provide the rural areas with electricity, African countries have to invest in modern energy.
Moreover, the poor populations of the region live in dispersed settlements. Since conventional grid electrification is too costly for the rural population, there is need to create a market to decentralize energy technologies.
There has been a considerable progress between 2000 and 2016. The number of people without access to electricity dropped from 1.6 billion to 1.1 billion. However, the household electrification rate in sub-Saharan Africa stands lowest in the world at about 42% in 2016.
Many Nigerians cannot access electricity
The lack of access to reliable energy affects other sectors such as health, nutrition, food security, education, security, business competitiveness and employment. For example, inadequate access to electricity is a pressing issue in Nigeria where about 120 million people live without access to reliable and affordable energy.
A 2014 journal on Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews states that Nigeria has abundant energy resources, both conventional and renewable. These resources can potentially provide the country with enough capacity to meet the demands of both urban and rural Nigerians.
Oil is the most used fuel source to generate electricity in Nigeria. However, the country has other resources that can supply electrification to her entire population. There are over 40 billion metric tons of coal and ignite, 187 trillion of gas and 36 billion barrels of oil in Nigeria.
In 2005, oil contributed 57% to the energy mix of Nigeria, followed by 36% of natural gas and 7% hydroelectricity. Despite such richness, a great number of the Nigerian population does not still have access to electricity.
Nigeria’s electricity capacity is presently at 7000MW. This is dramatically small for a country that hosts 195,850,146 inhabitants and also the biggest economy in Africa. To satisfy the ambitions of both urban and rural Nigerians, the government needs to exploit the renewable energies that Nigeria possesses.
Renewable energy resources
To grant every Nigerian access to electricity, the government should exploit the renewable energy resources.
There is a lot of power in the sun that every living thing depends on. One of the characteristics of solar energy is that it is renewable. The African continent is characterised by its hot climatic condition. Though not very comfortable, it is favourable for countries like Nigeria.
Solar energy can be very useful to communities that cannot connect to the national grid due to their remote location from the nearest grid connection point. Solar energy as an alternative source of electricity in Nigeria helps for rapid growth for small-scale industries.
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using wind turbines to make electricity, windmills for mechanical power, wind pumps for water pumping or drainage, or sails to propel ships.
Eighty-two countries use wind to generate energy and 49 countries have increased their installed capacity since 2009. Wind speed in Nigeria ranges from 4.0 to 5.12 m/s in the extreme northern part of the country and 1.4 to 3.0 m/s in southern Nigeria. Wind power is less costly.
Biomass is a fuel developed from organic materials. It is also a renewable and sustainable source of energy used to create electricity or other forms of power. Nigeria is rich in biomass resources such as wood, forage grasses and shrubs, wastes from forestry, agricultural and industrial activities.
Biogas refers to a mixture of different gases produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. It is practically suitable for a variety of applications in the agriculture, household, and industrial sectors.
Energy in Nigeria: 2015 statistics and prospects
According to Nigeria Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy (NREEEP), electricity access rate in Nigeria in 2015 was 40%, 72% in urban areas and 28% in rural areas, while one-quarter of the population could access non-solid fuel.
Also, in 2015, governments worldwide agreed on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to close the energy gap by 2030. Goal number 7 was to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to all.
The ECOWAS member state with the rest of the region adopted an approach to implement the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) Country Action, with the development of the Action Agenda. This will go alongside the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Action Plans and their formal adoption.
In order to increase electricity access, the country has set the following targets: increase electricity access to 75% by 2020 and to 90% by 2030.
The installed electricity generation capacity is expected to increase to 115,000 MW by 2030 and energy efficiency will increase by at least 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2030.
If these targets are achieved, Nigeria will match up with the May 2018 Sustainable Energy for All forum; “Leaving no one behind”. Only then will Nigeria’s rural populations be able to have access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.
What if the Nigerian Government turn decisions taken on papers into reality?