Nigeria’s poor power supply is one of its many hindrances to achieving growth and a stable economy. Nigeria’s centralized grid system hasn’t met the country’s energy needs. Over 70 million Nigerians lack reliable electricity, with a per capita access to only 2% of the United States’ electricity generation. But if we expand the grid system, more Nigerians will access electricity, fostering the economy.
Currently, only 25 power generation plants supply power to the entire nation. And due to poor maintenance, they operate below capacity. Also, Nigeria depends on gas-fired generation, which results in the disruption of power supply, and sometimes, a total collapse of the grid.
This erratic power supply leads to economic loss, as the International Monetary Fund estimates that it costs the country a whopping $29 billion each year. But if we adopt a decentralized grid system, we’ll have smaller generation and storage units closer to consumers.
Countries around the world leverage on smaller energy sources, and they’ve been able to address energy deficits within their communities. In Tanzania, a hydro-powered mini-grid in Ludewa District serves over 1,600 Tanzanians across ten villages.
Steps to Create a Decentralized System
Here are four steps Nigeria can take to create a more decentralized power grid system that caters to Nigerians in need of power supply:
1. Create Empowering Legislations
Nigeria needs to pass a legislation that empowers local governments to facilitate electricity generation and distribution projects. They can capitalize on natural sources like solar, wind, biogas, and hydropower. The legislation should further provide tax incentives for projects around renewable energy projects and technological development. The government will also need to offer loans for smaller energy projects.
Also, building the capacity of mini-grid developers and helping them develop effective business models will reduce energy poverty.
2. Disseminate Information and Implement
Nigeria needs to spread information about the need for mini-grids. Also, we need to maintain a database of existing grids and highlight their technical characteristics, tariffs, and quality of service metrics. This active database should be accessible to stakeholders.
But it doesn’t stop there, as interested stakeholders need financial and informational support during implementation. The government should also invest resources into studies to inform energy access strategies best suited to Nigeria.
3. Adapt a Relevant Policy and Regulatory Framework
Our government needs to embrace a framework of relevant policy and regulations to ensure energy innovations are adapted and integrated into our power sector. We can include mechanisms that allow relevant stakeholders to decide how to produce more energy. Such participation will encourage investments and private-sector involvement in Nigeria’s energy sector.
Also, the framework needs to be adjustable to the needs of micro-grid development processes.
4. Eliminate the Red Tape
Instead of obtaining permits, licenses, getting clearances, acquiring water, land, or land rights from different institutions, the government should coordinate ministries, departments, and agencies to coordinate all necessary processes. That’s because having a one-stop shop for obtaining approvals will minimize delays and encourage participation in the battle against energy poverty.
It’s Time to End Energy Poverty in Nigeria
While decentralizing the Nigerian energy grid may not be the only or ultimate solution to the energy poverty in the country, it is a feasible way to circumnavigate the centralized system that’s proven to be insufficient.
In sub-Saharan Africa, emerging innovative business models and renewables are fast transforming the energy sector. That’s why Nigeria needs to get on board the decisive actions and strategies adopted by countries like Tanzania.
Author: Christiana Jolaoso