Stories by Ben Onyedika
A consultant with the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), Dr Afolabi Otitoju, has said that the renewable energy market in West Africa is coming of age with Nigeria taking the lead. He argued that with the right framework, large and small scale projects are doable in Africa and Nigeria in particular.
The energy expert who is expected to speak at the forth-coming West Africa power conference (WAPIC) has argued that renewable energy will soon take the chunk of the power projects in some part of Africa countries.
He maintained that great potential exist in the country for renewable given the nation’s dire need to up its power supply capacity.
“Renewable energy over the last two years has received significant attention from policy makers, private sector, civil society, and others owing to its great potential in the country. The recent transition of the electricity sector from a publicly owned entity to a private sector led institution has also helped to catalyse the need for the deployment of renewable energy in various locations of the country. The approval of the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy (NREEEP) by the Federal Executive Council in May this year also marked a great achievement for the sector” he said.
According to him there is a unique opportunity for African countries to go renewable and the exciting thing about it is that the advantage of renewable over other conventional energy sources is huge.“The integration of renewable energy systems into the national system need not follow the conventional power infrastructure. RE technologies are very compatible with a decentralised, stand-alone or small power generating unit, which enables local/rural communities far from urban areas to have access to basic electricity needs” he said. The energy expert pointed out that renewable energy off-grid systems do not put unnecessary burden on existing grid capacity, neither do they require system balancing nor need to be managed by the national grid system operators. Hence, there is a unique opportunity for African countries to have a diversified energy mix and yet to limit the risks of exposing the continent to the current high costs of power infrastructure which are not expected to abate in the near future.
Confirming the potential of renewable in Africa, Dr Sibylle Haase, Head of Unit, Renewable Energy at GIZ, another energy expert agreed that Nigeria can take the lead on renewable energy in Africa. “Nigeria has the potential to become a leader in renewable energies in the region. The sector is on a good way to roll-out large-scale renewable, and I am excited to be part of that process” she said.
Sibylle added that the authorities are motivated to explore renewables: “Absolutely. Renewable (in particular PV solar) can add much needed generation capacity in a relatively short period of time compared to conventional power plants with longer construction times” she said.
she noted that there are a lot of advantages that authorities are keen to explore. However inconsistencies in the regulatory framework, lack of protection of investors and long licensing procedures are said to be some of the main challenges in expanding renewables in the region’s energy mix.
Otitoju agrees that a key challenge is a general lack of policy and regulatory framework to drive the renewable energy sub-sector of the region. “For example in Nigeria, before the approval of the NREEEP 2015, there was no single policy adopted for the RE sub-sector. Now that the NREEEP 2015 is approved, a core challenge is implementation” he said.