By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
Distributors and installers of solar energy products are making brisk businesses due to the high demand for solar generators and solar-powered gadgets, occasioned by the triple effects of fuel scarcity, poor power supply and hot weather condition across the country, Business Hallmark can reveal.
BH reports that the rise in temperature to around 36 to 41 degree Celsius in the last few days in some southern and northern cities, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, Kano, Maiduguri, Katsina, Dutse, Kaduna, Lagos, Onitsha, Asaba, Owerri and other Nigerian cities, had exposed the residents to severe heat.
The prevailing hot weather condition, coupled with the lingering fuel crisis and epileptic power supply, all combined to create a high demand for alternative power source by Nigerians.
Some Nigerians who spoke with our correspondent on the issue said they had been managing until the twin challenges of fuel scarcity worsened the situation.
Investigations revealed that the fuel crisis which surfaced in the FCT, Abuja and some northern states around November last year soon spread to the southern part of the country after a consignment of bad fuel imported by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and some of its suppliers were withdrawn from the market.
The withdrawal upset the supply chain, causing a debilitating fuel crisis that lasted for several weeks. While fuel supply has normalised in Lagos and some states, many states, particularly in the North and South East are still grappling with fuel shortage and its negative consequences.
While the nation was still grappling with the challenge of fuel scarcity, supply of electricity across the country has been erratic due to incessant collapse of the nation’s fragile power grid. For some weeks now, many homes and offices across the country have been without electricity.
The problem is worsened by the spike in the prices of diesel to around N700 with many businesses unable to afford it. The situation, sources in the power industry informed our correspondent, is forcing more people to embrace the solar option.
Further checks revealed that apart from businesses that are switching to solar energy, some other patrons included individuals who need solar equipment to keep their electrical devices powered.
A one-week survey conducted in Lagos, Kano, the FCT and Onitsha in Anambra State, showed that prices of solar gadgets, panels and equipments had gone up by between 35 percent and100 percent.
According to the survey, 3 out of 10 respondents disclosed that they had switched over to one form of solar system or another in the last three months. For instance, 33 of the 100 respondents in Lagos said they no longer rely on the national grid for electricity.
“Though, it costs me around N1.2million to install solar grid in my house, I think I am today better off.
“Before now, I used to buy a litre of diesel for around N430 and use about 50litres a day. If you multiply N400 by 50 a day, that will give you about N20,000.
“N20,000 a day times 30 will give you N600,000 monthly. That is what I used to spend every month to power my house. The only saving grace is that the house also serves as an office.
“And since January 2021 that I switched over to solar power, I no longer pay the outrageous amount I used to pay for diesel. Am talking of diesel alone as I did’nt include the cost of servicing and maintaining the two generators.
“I have also decided to permanently switch off from the national grid by not recharging my prepaid metre and depending solely on solar.
“I can easily switch over by buying energy and change over anytime the need arises. I am delighted I took this decision as I would have been on the road to Chapter 7 by now”, declared Engineer Sola Fiwajoye, a civil engineer based in Ogba, Lagos.
BH decided to check the prices of solar equipment in some markets in Lagos and came up with this findings.
At the popular solar equipment market inside the Arena Shopping Complex in Bolade, Oshodi, a unit of 56-inches Qasa DC Solar Ceiling Fan which sold for N26,500 in December 2021, now sells for N38, 500.
Despite the sharp price increment, a buyer must be prepared to also buy a 40W solar panel, one 5A 18V AC-DC Converter, battery and wires needed for the installation as these materials are not included in the package.
Similarly, a QASA 18 inches AC/DC standing fan, plus remote that comes with a solar panel now goes for N45,000 instead of the N31, 000 price it was sold last December.
However, our correspondent observed that, for a customer to get a solar system that will be able to power basic household equipment like a TV set, laptop, small fridge/freezer, a sound system, charging points for phones, 5 electric bulbs, as well as standing/ceiling fans, must be ready to cough out considerably more money.
For instance, a 500watts Solar Generator which comes with a solar panel and controller goes for between N110,000 and N130,000, depending on the brand.
The package, however, comes with an handicap. Since it didn’t come with inverters and batteries, it is susceptible to bad and poor weather, especially in the night when the sun sets in.
However, the 500 watts solar generator which is good for both homes and offices and is accompanied by a solar panel, an inbuilt inverter and UPS and Lithium Battery – Pure Sine goes for between N250,000 and N320,000 only.
Our reporter who is interested in purchasing a solar system that could power basic appliances in a 3-bedroom apartment like a TV set, fans, laptops and charging points for phones was advised to buy a 30wats solar generator.
The package comes with a 1230Watts battery, DC 5V output, 15W solar panel, a pack of 6 bulbs and plugs that can power the bulbs, a DC 12V output socket for charging of phones, cameras and laptops. The package goes for between N78,000 and N85,000, depending on the brand.
Meanwhile, more affluent Nigerians who go for solar generators of between 10kva and 60kva that could power their homes and offices normally cough out between N2.5 million and N15 million.
Uche Agu, who owns a shop in the complex, said that patronage had been very high since the hot season began late last year and that sales had doubled with the outbreak of fuel scarcity and power crisis.
“Business had never been this brisk. I now make returns from daily sales of about N450,000,” Agu said.
Another solar equipment merchant in the market, Yomi Johnson, said he was overwhelmed by the rush for solar equipment, especially solar powered gadgets like fans, lights and charging sockets since the fuel crisis started last month.
Johnson who disclosed that the business was seasonal, said the twin challenges of fuel scarcity and poor power had further helped to drive the market.
Another dealer who did not want his identity disclosed expressed joy over the appreciable patronage, saying he had sold over 1,000 units of solar powered ceiling and standing fans in March alone.