• Identify renewable energy as the way forward

Various stakeholders in Nigeria’s power sector appraised the country’s persisting power challenge at the Nigeria NLG Limited and Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Interactive Session, noting that investment in renewal energy remained the most viable path to power sufficiency.

The Session was organized by the Power Sector Group of the LCCI, in collaboration with Nigeria LNG Limited in honour of Dr. Peter Ngene, an assistant professor in Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis group of the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science, Utrecht University in The Netherlands, who won the 2018 NLNG 2018 Nigeria Prize for Science.

In his remarks, former Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji regretted that Nigeria’s power sector has continued to remain in the doldrums, pointing out that unless solutions are found, the country cannot develop. Nnaji who was one of the stakeholders at the event said that while Nigeria at one point, aspired to equal Brazil’s power generation capacity due to similarity in population, the South American nation has since left the country behind.

“Talking about the Nigerian power sector, a lot has been said about what we don’t have and what we should have. The country I really like to use to compare is Brazil because of the comparable population,” Nnaji said.

“We aspired at one time to be like them. Today, they have more than 130,000MW installed capacity and we have 12,000MW. Of this, we have 7,000 available. We have transmission capacity of 5000, which means that no matter what, it is 5000MW that we can transmit. It’s a very big challenge.”

Nnaji, however, noted that solving the power sector problem is not rocket science and can be done if the will is there, even as he pointed out that renewable energy remained the future.

“It’s not rocket science. We can actually solve the problem. But we need to have the will; we need to have people who can think through the problem to begin to solve it.

“Statistics from LCCI is that, for some industries, nearly 40 percent of the cost of production is energy. And that’s because in Nigeria, we do self production of electricity. But if you are able to use industrial power it can go to less than a quarter of that. That’s where our products can begin to compete with the world. Our products really can’t compete in the world market unless we can produce electricity reliably, that’s an issue.”

He praised Dr. Ngene for his award winning work on “Nanostructured metal hydrides for the storage of electric power from renewable energy sources and for explosion prevention in high voltage power transformers” which was adjudged the best electric power solutions, pointing out that finding ways to store renewable energy could prove the game changer in the power sector.

“Our speaker today, Dr. Peter Ngene talked about the various uses of renewables. But it’s quite profound when you think about the fact that in the not distant future, a lot of countries would be riding in cars that is totally electricity driven.

“We can leapfrog. We don’t have to go through the problems that others have encountered. We can take the product as it is and go forward. But it requires that we agree that the will should be there. This also requires that there is the willingness to put the resources together.

“It is bad that universities are not supported in basic science. How much money do they put in the universities to support the kind of research that Dr. Ngene is talking about? Can you imagine that one university, the California Institute of Technology is the host of Jet Propulsion Laboratory that gets billions of dollars in research every year?” he asked.

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Dr. Ngene

“You talk about the fact that if you invest in science and technology, the amount of investment is how you measure the nation’s development. And the amount of energy the nation consumes is what you measure the GDP of the nation. Let me say that it is clear that there would be more need for energy, for electricity, it can only go up.

“So if we have the ability to make use of renewable energy, which is where the world is going, and be able to store renewable energy, then we will be in play because the fossil fuel driven energy is going to gradually fade. Natural gas energy will be here for a while, but the energy mix of Nigeria must come. And it will come if we have a better way to store it. That’s the challenge, that’s the profoundness of Dr. Ngene’s research, being able to store renewable energy because at night, solar will not be there. So, storage becomes so important.

“I would like to encourage us to think about the profoundness of this work and how to make use of it. This is where the appreciation of Lagos Chamber of Commerce comes in. The private sector being connected with what NLNG is doing is where we can get mileage. What the NLNG is doing is critical; unfortunately, they are the only ones doing it.”

Speaking, Babatunde Paul Ruwase, President, LCCI noted that harnessing the potential that exist in modern day science remained imperative for the country’s future. He lamented that failure to get power right was costing the country heavily, as it has resulted in GDP loss of $470 billion in 16 years.

“Harnessing the potential that exist in modern day science has become imperative for us as a nation. We have to be innovative in tackling many of the problems currently bedevilling the country,” he said.

“The major challenge being faced by the country, which has persisted for too long, is the provision of adequate and sustainable electricity for domestic consumption and for industries. Our epileptic power supply is a serious setback affecting the growth and development of the Nigerian economy. It is has been the major cause of many businesses and an impediment to industrialization.

“This lack of reliable power to meet the increasing requirements for a rapidly growing economy predicted to have resulted in the GDP loss of $470 billion, that is N71 trillion from 1999 to 2015 according to the World Bank. As of July 9, 2019, the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, stated that generation was 4804 megawatts, while maximum available capacity stood at 7652.6 megawatts for a population of 200 million people.

“When you compare with South Africa and Egypt with 51,309 and 42,000 megawatts electricity production for a population of 58 million and 100 million people respectively, it becomes obvious that power generation in Nigeria is in huge deficit.

“We have been having a lot of figures. At a time we were talking about 10,000 megawatts, but eventually we knew that the capacity was just a little below 8,000 and the distribution capacity is even lower, it’s about 50 percent of that figure, and we are 200 million. We are far behind our peers in Africa, and we have a lot to catch up.”

He emphasized that Nigeria cannot be competitive if the power problem remains even as he regretted that the rest of the continent is moving on. He identified the problem of power to include lack of cost effective tariff among others.

“The problem has led to industries in Nigeria resorting to self power generation options at enormous cost. Many businesses spend as much as 30 percent of their total operating cost on power.

“The fundamental issues in the electricity sector are inadequate generating capacity to meet demand; limited capacity of transmission to evacuate the generated power, resulting in huge loss down the line, dilapidated distribution system and its transformers; inefficiency in revenue collection due to poor metering; non cost reflective tariff and low investment across the system.

“All these are problems that are facing us, and they are dire. But it is pertinent to note that these challenges also present opportunities for innovations that can help Nigeria surmount the electricity problems.

“There is an urgent need to change the narrative and focus on innovative ideas that can enable practical solutions. Therefore this event provides a good platform for exchanging ideas on how to tackle the problem of power. Reforming the power sector in Nigeria must align with global energy direction of the increasing renewables in the energy link.”

In her own remarks, Mrs. Eyono Fatai-Williams, General Manager, External Relations, NLNG who represented the company’s MD, Mr. Tony Attah said NLNG was coming to help the country meet its energy needs.

“In our capacity as the foremost and biggest home grown company, and one of the world’s leading suppliers of liquefied natural gas, Nigeria LNG has a vision of being a global energy company and helping to build a better Nigeria,” she said.

“We have been driving that vision through numerous social investment initiatives across the country, especially in our host community in Bonny Island, where we provide over 95 percent stable electricity power supply. It would be a great thing if such achievement can be replicated across the country.

“And we believe that the country has the resources and the people, but needs the industrial will power by the private sector to make this happen. Even if it happens gradually, we will eventually get to the promised land. Very early in our operations in NLNG, we initiated well cut out intervention programmes that focus on actualising our aspirations of helping to build a better Nigeria and the Nigeria Prize for Science is one of those initiatives.”

The award winner, Dr. Ngene who made a detailed presentation on his research, said he was determined to use the knowledge he acquired to help Nigeria.

“For the past five years, I have been visiting Nigeria, I’m a visiting professor at the African University of Science and Technology in Abuja,” he said.

“It has always been my dream to be able to use knowledge I acquired overseas to help in the development of Nigeria and I’m proud to say some of my students are now doing their PhD. In fact, one has already graduated in Italy and works in a very good place.”

Dr. Ngene thanked the organisers of the award for the opportunity provided him to display his knowledge, noting that while he had won many awards, this was most valued coming from the country of his birth.

The event which held on Wednesday at the LCCI Commerce House, Victoria Island, Lagos, also hand in attendance Prof Alfred Susu, Dr. Mrs. Nike Akande, Muda Yusuf among others.

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