Stakeholders in the renewable energy sector have raised the alarm that only about 13 per cent of the over 110,000 used lead-acid batteries (ULABs) that find their ways into Nigeria yearly are recycled.
Speaking at a workshop on how to properly manage ULABs which are used for energy storage in the country, some of these stakeholders argued that even when the batteries are recycled, they are mostly done at informal shelters located within residential areas across the country.
The stakeholders comprising the Clean Technology Hub, a pioneering hybrid hub for the research, development, demonstration and incubation of clean energy technologies in Africa; Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN); and the Heinrich Boell Foundation, attended the workshop organised in Abuja for renewable energy operators in Nigeria.
It was reportedly attended by renewable energy companies, recycling companies, sustainable development-focused non-governmental organizations and policymakers.
The paper equally gathered that it was aimed at addressing the growing issue of poor management of used lead-acid batteries which has harmful effects on the environment and public health.
“Approximately 110,000 tonnes of ULABs are generated in Nigeria annually from the automotive and renewable energy sectors with only 13 per cent of this amount recycled, mostly in informal shelters located in residential areas which leads to high cases of lead pollution,” said a communique from the workshop.
The communique quoted Ifeoma Malo, the Chief Executive Officer of Clean Technology Hub to have said that the imminent explosion of mini grid electricity systems in Nigeria could result to an increase in the use of ULABs, thus, the urgency for a campaign for proper management of them.
Malo said: “There is a mini-grid revolution about to take off in Nigeria, such as the World Bank and the Rural Electrification Agency $350m project as well as other investments into the sector. This means that there will be more batteries. As such, it is imperative for the sector to create a battery management framework that will feed into government policy on used battery disposal, create investment opportunities and tackle a growing problem before it gets severe.”
Also, Mr. Terseer Ugboh of the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of Nigeria (REDIN), which is a clean energy-focused NGO explained that the issue of ULAB management has been their focus for the past four years with several workshops and trainings on how to decide the best possible ways for its management in Nigeria.
Ugboh, stated that though the current focus was on secondary batteries which are rechargeable like lead-acid batteries, REDIN would want to to extend the focus to primary batteries such as alkaline batteries, mercury batteries and zinc-carbon batteries.
He said: “In the course of our work, we have decided to champion an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program in Nigeria to set the template for how renewable energy companies and other companies across the country including importers of batteries and recyclers should manage used batteries. It will work with international best practices using the standard benchmarks accepted globally.”
Further, the communique quoted an expert on used-battery management, Dr. Gilbert Adie, to have stated that proper management of ULABs could create investment opportunities with the price of lead globally going for as high as $2,200 per ton.
Adie, suggested a benchmark assessment tool for ULAB management with focus on areas such as assessing best practices for the collection of ULABs and ensuring battery recycling plants are located only in industrial areas.
According to the communique, at the moment, there was only one recognised battery recycling facility in Nigeria which is operated by Ibeto Group and based in Nnewi, Anambra State.
It added that there is no specific policy for battery recycling in Nigeria at the moment, adding that guidelines such as the National Environmental Base Metals, Iron and Steel Manufacturing and Recycling Regulation (2011), National Environmental Vehicle and Miscellaneous Assembly Regulations (2012) are however applicable to ULAB management.