Renewable Energy: A Viable Option for Power Generation

Renewable Energy: A Viable Option for Power Generation
Chinedu Nebo and Sam Amadi

Access to energy is fundamental for socio-economic development and for poverty alleviation. A huge development challenge in Nigeria is reaching out to the 60-70% of the Nigerian population that does not have access to electricity and modern energy services. Renewable energy technology is a promising solution to the energy crisis in Nigeria.

Renewable energy, apart from being sustainable and inexhaustible, they can be set up in small units and is therefore suitable for community management and ownership. We cannot talk about renewable energy without energy efficiency. To achieve sustainability in the development of renewable energy, it should be promoted along side with energy efficiency.

On the 21st of November, 2007 the Community Research and Development Centre (CREDC) with supported from the Global Green grants Fund and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria organized a one-day conference “Promoting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Nigeria”. The event took place at the University of Calabar Hotel and Conference Centre in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. The conference was attended by Twenty-eight participants drawn from the government, academics, NGOs, private sectors, student bodies, and the media. The event featured paper presentations, discussions and resolutions.

Etiosa Uyigue, the Executive Director of the CREDC in a welcome speech said that the project “Promoting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Nigeria (PREEEN)” was conceptualized by the CREDC to reach out to the numerous members of the Nigerian population that do not have access to electricity and modern energy services. According to him, the vision of the PREEEN project is to provide renewable energy facilities to 10 million households within a period of 5-6 years through the use of revolving fund. The PREEEN project is designed to address the energy crisis in Nigeria and at the same time contribute to the reduction in the emission of GHGs.

Mr. Uyigue said that to achieve this vision the CREDC needs the right and favourable policy environment to operate, hence that is that is why CREDC is embarking on the current conference which is part of the Advocacy Phase of the project. The specific objectives of the Advocacy Phase of the project are to increase public awareness of renewable energy and energy efficiency and its potential for sustainable development; and to develop policies and enhance civil society participation in the development of these policies to foster the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Nigeria.

He said the Advocacy Phase of the project started in 2006 with a conference in Benin City and in the first quarter of 2008, CREDC will be organizing another conference in the northern part of the country. The conferences are being organized to get stakeholders from different parts of the country and build their capacity to advocate for renewable energy and energy efficiency, in preparation for a national forum where the stakeholders will dialogue with policy makers. The national forum is proposed to hold in 2008 in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Surveyor Efik, the Director of Human Orientation Movement for Environment (HOME) presented the first paper titled “Energy, Development and Climate Change: The Nigerian Considerations”. The paper provides details on climate change risk and vulnerability and development effort so far in Nigeria. The paper drew a link between renewable energy and energy efficiency and climate change and revealed that the issue of climate change 8 reinforced the need to advocate for renewable energy and energy efficiency. According to him, Nigeria is highly vulnerable to climate change and renewable energy and energy efficiency will help to lessen the risk/vulnerability to climate change.

He said that there is energy poverty in Nigeria irrespective of the enormous energy potential of the country. According to him, to achieve energy efficiency in Nigeria, the flaring of natural gas by the multinational oil companies should cease. He said that efforts to stop gas flaring on the part of the government have been discouraging.

According to him, Nigeria flares 75% of her natural gas because of lack of processing facilities and this account for 20% of flared gas worldwide. The flare-out deadline set by the Nigerian government by 2008 is unrealistic because government could not meet up with the financial obligation towards the process. He frowned at the low budgetary allocation to the energy sector by the Nigerian government and advocate for transparency in the extractive industries. He then informed participants of the about-to inaugurate network called Civil Society Action Network on Climate Change.

Concluding, he called on government and the multinational oil companies operating in Nigeria to put an end to gas flaring. He urged that the forum be used as a platform to launch End Gas Flaring Campaign in Nigeria. Etiosa Uyigue presented the second paper titled “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Development in Nigeria”. The paper revealed that there are strong links between energy and poverty and that about 60-70% of the people in Nigerian do not have access to electricity and modern energy services. The incidence of poverty in Nigeria is on the increase; about 91% of Nigerians live below $2 per day.

According to him the use of renewable energy sources will reduce over dependency on fossil fuel and moreover, instead of flaring gas in Nigeria, he advocated that the gases be converted to methanol and used as fuel for both domestic and industrial use. The paper revealed that Nigeria has high potential to harness energy from renewable sources. To achieve sustainability in the development of renewable energy, it should be promoted along side with energy efficiency. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are two components that must be integrated into the energy policy of Nigeria for sustainable energy development. He highlighted the advantages of renewable energy as: their rate of use does not affect their availability in future, thus they are inexhaustible; the resources are generally well distributed all over the world, even though wide spatial and temporal variations occur. They are clean and pollution-free and therefore are sustainable natural form of energy; they can be cheaply and continuously harvested and therefore sustainable source of energy.

He said that with energy efficiency practices and products, the nation can save over 50% of the present energy consumed. Using energy more efficiently would: reduce electricity bills; leave more energy available to extend energy supply to all parts of the population; increase the efficiency and resilience of the economy – including reduced reliance on oil and thus improve balance of payments; improve industries’ competitiveness internationally; minimize the building of new power stations and thus free up capital for other investments like health and welfare; reduce the negative environmental and human health impacts from energy production and use; and increase employment through interventions.

He recommended that Nigeria should develop policies on energy efficiency and integrate them into current energy policies; promote energy efficiency products and practices at the side of end users and energy generation; create awareness on renewable energy and energy efficiency; establish agency to promote the 9 use of energy efficiency products and ensure energy efficiency practices; develop and adopt energy efficiency technologies; develop appropriate drivers for the implementation of energy efficiency polic.

Ms. Omeyemen Lucia Odigie-Emanuel representing Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN spoke on “Gender and the Energy Crisis in Developing Economies”. The paper revealed that the key challenges facing the energy sector in developing economies is the provision of modern energy services of over 60% of its population. According to her, existing policies in Nigeria are gender neutral i.e. did not put into consideration gender issues and the consequence of this is the neglect of issues affecting women. Energy crisis is one of the characteristics of developing countries and that significant proportion of the population in developing countries relies on traditional energy sources. She said that lack of access to electricity inflate production cost and make competition in the global market difficult for developing countries. Women make up 70% of the 1.3 billion poor people in the world and they suffer most in the energy crisis and women’s livelihood can only be sustained by access to energy.

She advocated for gender mainstreaming as a key for developing an energy policy that promotes even development of men and women. Gender sensitive energy programme can ease the double burden of lack of energy and poverty on women and provide opportunity for education, income generation and improve the social and economic status of families. The Renewable Energy Master Plan of the Nigerian Government is gender neutral. She advocated the need to have a gender analysis framework aimed at understanding gender issues.

She recommended that the capacity of decision makers, policy makers, women, planners, implementers and researchers should be built to integrate gender issues in sustainable development especially in the energy policy, and that there should be a shift from the government-only approach to an approach that embraces partnership amongst government, private and the civil society

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