GREENING PROCESS

Nigeria 2017 | ENERGY | FOCUS: RENEWABLES

Acutely aware of the limitations of oil, Nigeria is investing heavily in renewable energy technologies to reduce emissions and improve social welfare by bringing reliable clean energy to those who need it most.

Long dependent on oil, Nigeria is in the process of boosting its alternative energy resources. Government and industry officials have stressed the importance of investing in renewables as a way to ensure the nation's economic, financial, and energy future. One of Nigeria's key initiatives is the Renewable Energy Program. Run by the Ministry of Environment, this program seeks to secure national renewable energy supply through a series of initiatives and incubation projects. Nigeria's ultimate goal is for 10% of the country's energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2025. This includes raising the supply of renewable electricity from 13% of total electricity generation in 2015 to 23% in 2025 and 35% by 2030. Long term, the government expects hydroelectric sources to be the primary source of renewable energy, with additional potential in the solar and biomass sectors.

There is little global disagreement at this point that the security of energy supply and climate change are some of the most pressing issues facing the world today. With the largest petroleum industry on the African continent, Nigeria has long been a leader in the fossil fuel extraction and production industry. Today, the industry accounts for about 15% of its economy. However, shifting global tides mean that governments and industry leaders are taking action to secure sustainable sources of energy for the future. Falling oil prices have made it eminently clear that the development of renewable energy sources is of the utmost financial importance. Thanks to its position in the petroleum industry, Nigeria is well equipped with the engineering and technological know-how to transition to this sector; the challenge is to apply this knowledge in such a way that the sector can develop rapidly and sustainably.

The Nigerian Renewable Energy Program was initiated by the Ministry of Environment to fulfill the country's obligations to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and as part of Nigeria's strategy on voluntary emission reduction. The Renewable Energy Program takes as its goal the all-encompassing task of developing strategies to regulate the renewable energy sector while ensuring that the country's regulatory structure is such that the sector's growth comes in a profitable and sustainable manner.

Although Nigeria's economic growth has brought social and health advances for most of the population, access to electricity is one of the biggest issues still facing the country. Many rural Nigerians are not on the grid, relying on inefficient and harmful energy practices for heating, cooking, and fuels. Due to these practices, the Nigerian government estimates that over 90,888 women die annually as a result of smoke-related ailments and infections. One of the Renewable Energy Program's main initiatives is to distribute low-impact energy technologies to homes and small businesses, aiming for a target of 30 million clean and energy-efficient cook stoves by 2020. By funding programs that distribute and train Nigerians in the use of solar lanterns, clean stoves, and other clean energy generation products, the Renewable Energy Program will both reduce a major source of emissions and bring reliable energy to populations that have not previously been able to access it. In this way, Nigeria hopes to demonstrate that there is no tradeoff between sustainability and economic growth; indeed, green technologies will drive new development.

Nigeria is also making a push for the development of biofuels, recently announcing a USD100 billion incentive scheme that includes tax exemptions and low interest loans available from the Bank of Industry and the Nigerian Export Import Bank. Government officials believe that biofuels can boost the country's economy by up to USD150 million a year. Fuel would come from ethanol produced by sugarcane and cassava, reducing emissions and increasing the country's energy independence. Large-scale production is expected to begin soon through the construction of agricultural plots, which should boost employment and produce additional crops for local use and export. As an added environmental benefit, they can also serve as wind breakers and shelter belts that will help prevent flooding and erosion.

Other projects are in the pipeline. The Nigerian government has set up agreements with companies that have pledged to set up a total of more than 5GW of solar power capacity in the country. New mentoring and training programs for SMEs and investors are working to create a culture of sustainability, and the Abuja Green City Initiative seeks to create the first low-carbon city in Africa. Nigeria has an advantage in that as a developing country it can skip the intermediate steps on the path to sustainable energy and jump right to green infrastructure; this “leapfrog” effect will allow it to rapidly implement new technologies without having to dismantle or retrofit aging infrastructure.