In recent years, the concerns for the development of synthetic fuels, combined with soaring energy prices has sparked increased interest in renewable resources such as solar energy, water power, wind power and biomass fuels. This has made the call for renewable energy a global call that has had its way into every quarters and flooding every news line with the nitty-gritty of this singularly distinguished concept i.e. renewable energy and particularly clamoring that more attention is paid to the need to tread the trail of renewable energy as it is being plied by the developed world.
Renewable energy is defined as energy that comes with resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat. This definition reminds one of Arnold Schwarzenegger who posited that “the future is green energy, sustainability and renewable energy.” The same notion was taken up by Al Gore: “I think the cost of energy will come down when we make this transition to renewable energy.”
It is now being seen by many people around the world as a cost-effective development solution, Nigeria and Nigerians should fix their gaze in the same direction. A report recently released by International Development Organization Oxfam argues that renewable energy source is in fact a more affordable energy source than coal for poor people in developing countries around the world.
To further explore other kinds of renewable energy resources in generating electricity, it is important to know that there are currently two main types of power plants in Nigeria: the hydro-electric and the thermal or fossil fuel plants. However, the focus needs to be put on the hydro-electric power. Why? Well, it is convenient to state at this juncture that the whole world has come to the realization of the fact that fossil fuel energy is not only destroying the ozone layer, but it is also a threat to climate change and to the inheritance of generations yet unborn.
In the heart of the civil war, Kainji Dam was where all roads led to, it was the commissioning of the first national hydro-electric dam – Kainji hydro-electric station, in New-Bussa, Niger State. Kainji wears the crown as the oldest of all dams and hydropower stations in Nigeria, however there are other power stations in operation, while some are in their proposal/construction phases as outlined below;
Hydro-Electric station Year completed Capacity (MW)
Kainji Power Station 1968 800
Jebba Power Station 1985 540
Shiroro Power Station 1990 600
Zamfara Power Station 2012 100
Proposed Hydro-Electric station Year to be completed Capacity (MW)
Kano Power Station 2015 100
Kiri Power station 2016 35
Mambilla power station 2018 3050
With that in mind, it is expedient to state at this point that as of December 2013, the total installed or nameplate capacity of the power plants was 6,953mw (i.e. hydro-electric and the thermal/fossil fuel plants). The available capacity was 4,598mw and the actual average generation was 3,800 MW (2013 Year in Review, presidential task force on power pg. 16.)
Exactly a year later, there was yet another report that puts the total installed capacity of the power plants to be 7,445mw, with just 4,949mw as its available capacity (2014 Year in Review, presidential task force on power pg. 16). Although the presidential task force on power’s peak demand forecast is 12,800mw (April 2015).
Power supply is still a challenge in Nigeria, largely due to the fact that it relies highly on hydropower generation. Nigeria has expended close to $20 billion on power supply since 1999, yet it has only brought darkness, frustration, misery and resignation among Nigerians.
How can this social malady be salvaged? In solving power supply challenge in Nigeria, plans, programmes and strategies put in place by the government and other stakeholders involved should go beyond just damming and hydropower generation, instead it should embrace and open wide its arms to the opportunities, privileges and benefits accrued from other renewable energy sources. In doing this, the concept of decentralizing stations for generating electricity (solar farms, wind farms etc.) should also be put into clear perspectives. Yes, because decentralization allows for close monitoring and at the same time ensures efficiency in power generation and supply because the grid of population to be served is optimal, and as such, managing the anomalies and loop holes that comes along with the hydro-electric power generation, distribution and supply would be a lot more easier.
Many industrialized nations have installed significant solar power capacity into their grids to supplement or provide an alternative to conventional energy sources. Similarly, a number of less developed/industrialized nations have turned to solar to reduce dependence on expensive imported fuels, typical examples are Morocco, South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya.
Also, in Denmark for example, 39 percent of all electricity demand is currently provided by wind energy, this is followed by 27 percent in Portugal and, of course, 21 percent of all energy in Nicaragua is also provided by wind energy. When comparing renewable energy investment against Gross Domestic Product (GDP), there is no-one better than Burundi: at the same time they are closely followed by a list of countries that may not have expected to do so, such as Kenya, Honduras, Jordan and Uruguay. This collection highlights not only global interest, but diversity of renewable energy sources which Nigeria should as a matter of urgency develop with all level of seriousness.