As at Monday, Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, was on the verge of a shutdown. The lingering fuel scarcity had managed to cripple almost all sectors of the economy. However, the heroics of Capital Oil boss, Ifeanyi Ubah, and the truce brokered between the oil marketers and the government by its Senate, ensured Nigeria remains open for business.
The fuel scarcity over the last few months has reopened the discussion on the merits and demerits of a complete removal of fuel subsidy. More Nigerians have come to agree that the way the country’s oil and gas sector is being run needs to change. One important thing would be to deregulate the downstream sector. This, though, isn’t sufficient. The country needs to be more committed to developing its renewable energy potentials, which apart from being a suitable alternative, furthers the country’s commitment to meeting climate change targets.
Nigeria has several alternatives to fossil fuel, given its rich endowment with natural resources. If effectively exploited, the country may be on a path to the energy sufficiency it urgently needs to ensure sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Nigeria is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding agreement under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 percent from the 1990 levels by 2008-2012. The deadline has been extended to 2020, with the target upped to 18 percent of carbon cuts. To achieve this, every country must blend a certain percentage of biofuels with gasoline to reduce carbon emission. Dr. Babatunde Obada, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Global Biofuels Limited, which is Nigeria’s first Biofuel Refinery, says Nigeria can achieve this. “…it is possible to make an E-5, E-10 or even E-20 blend without modifying any component of the cars presently plying our roads.
“An E-10 blend will remove approximately 900 metric tonnes of carbon from our environment. Again, E-10 blend translate to 10 percent less gasoline importation plus 10 percent less subsidy payment, all of which leaves more Naira in the purse of government,” he said in an interview earlier this month.
This can also foster economic growth. If Nigeria focuses on producing fuel ethanol, more refineries will need to be built, translating to more jobs and a more competitive market. The use of Ethanol fuel in the U.S. has increased dramatically to about 13.2 billion in 2013, from about 1.7 billion gallons in 2001. The country gets 354 gallons of ethanol per acre of corn, the crop it produces better than any other country. But Nigeria has more potentials. Apart from being a producer of corn, sorghum and wheat–also sources of ethanol–the country is the world’s largest producer of cassava. If it decides to fully exploit its fuel ethanol potentials, Nigeria can produce 410 gallons of the alcohol from an acre of cassava.
Biomass surpassed oil to become Sweden’s number one source for energy generation in 2009, accounting for 32 percent of total energy consumption. The total energy consumption from biomass grew to 115 TWh between 2000 and 2009, from 88 terrawatt hours (TWh). The usage of oil-based products declined to 112 TWh, from 142 TWh, during the same period. Sweden is now on its way to eradicating importation of fossil fuel for its transportation sector by 2030. Rather it will supplement the gap by generating energy from motley assortment of ingredients like stale bread, potato peels, used cooking oil, and cow intestines. It is already putting 99 percent of its waste to use, and imported 800,000 tons of waste in 2014.
Although Nigeria generates 3.2 million tonnes, only Lagos, its commercial hub has made good use of its waste. “We have succeeded in producing electricity from waste at the Ikosi Fruit Market. It is already generating electricity and we are going to scale that up in all markets in Lagos,” Ola Oresanya, Managing Director, Lagos Waste Management Authority said. The biomass potentials of Nigeria are undeniably huge. Lagos’ success on its small scale pilot is a sign more success can be achieved in the space.
Africa has the highest concentration of sunlight. The continent has the best potential for solar energy developments, according to the DLR, Germany’s national aeronautics and space research centre. The agency cites the continent’s DNI as proof of this in its report for SolarPaces 2009.
However, despite its solar energy potentials, 80 percent of Africa’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels. Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy has attracted several solar energy developers, including Gigawatt Global, which is building a 100MW PV station in the north. Motir Seaspire, a US investment consortium has also signed an MoU with the Nigerian government to deliver up to 1,200MW of solar-powered electricity in the country by 2017. With the terrestrial radiation on Nigeria’s land area 2.079 x 1015 kWh/year, solar energy can be the answer to Nigeria’s energy needs.
While other renewable energy sources like solar and biomass have been explored, Nigeria is yet to utilize the heat emitted from its earth.
The success of Kenya’s geothermal power generation shows what Nigeria can achieve if the country invests in digging geothermal wells. The East African nation boosted its power generation capacity by 17.5 percent after exploring geothermal resources.
Now that abundant sources of geothermal energy have been found along the Benue trough in Nasarawa, Benue, and Plateau States, as well as the Borno Basin, a successful pilot programme will encourage private investment and boost the country’s poor power generation capacity.