The Nigerian Energy Conundrum (2)

by Bemgba Nyakuma

The future of Nigeria like that of other developing nations ultimately rests on the supply of adequate and reliable sources of energy necessary for sustainable growth and development. It stands to reason that energy is the fuel that will drives the wheels of any economy. The efforts of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC nations) to stimulate investment, growth and development have led to their tireless quest for reliable sources of energy. In the same vein, Nigeria as a developing economy must seek to address this missing link in its quest to cater for its population of 150 million people. However the meager 3800 MW generated by the nation’s power plants only leaves a lot to be desired.

Therefore an essential ingredient in the quest to ensure a sustainable future for energy development and supply in Nigeria lies in energy diversification. The problem of energy supply in Nigerian has remained a difficult one to tackle due to among other things the old and poorly maintained hydropower plants in the country. This has not been helped by the over reliance of the entire populace (businesses, households & government agencies) on the meager output (estimated at 3800 MW). While hydropower is regarded as a sustainable form of energy, overreliance or total dependence on this form of energy without proper maintenance of the power plants has helped create a dearth in energy supply in the country. In comparison, Iceland, a nation of 318,000 and land mass of 103,000 km2 produces 100 % of its energy (16 TWh) from renewable sources (three quarter of which comes from hydropower and the rest from geothermal energy).

On the contrary Nigeria relies entirely on hydropower; whose supply is plagued by the whims of the rainy season and northern climes of the country where the Kainji Dam is located. On a slightly brighter note, reports of the Technical Committee on Power (TCP) headed by Prof Bath Nnaji suggests that power generation will be propped up to 6900 MW by April 2011 and 14000 MW by the year 2013. This is commendable but I refuse to thread along this path of optimistic forecasting. In truth, I believe it is rather ambitious, utopian and unachievable. This forecasting or scholastic approach to energy generation raises a myriad of questions. An obviously pertinent issue is how the PDP government plans to achieve an almost 80 % increase power generation in just 3 months – something it has not been able to do in the last 13 years of its rule. Is it just me or does anyone see propaganda to deceive people (PDP) written all over this one. More puzzling is how it also plans to double output to 14000 MW in another 2 years? More so this pessimism arises from the fact that there appears to be no major visible investment in the infrastructure necessary to achieve these targets – or are we to expect a Val Kilmer (The Saint Movie) style cold fusion technology over night. My doubts are further buttressed by the lack of clear cut plans or modalities (as we like to term it in Nigeria) including legislation. In my first piece on the Nigerian Conundrum I proposed the National Assembly pass into law, the Clean Energy & Climate Change in Nigeria Law/Act (CECIN). This law and the commission established by it will among other already enumerated actions; ensure energy diversification and investment in R&D. This can be achieved by investing in the alternative energy technologies research and development efforts in the nation’s top universities. With these funds, academics can effectively carry out research into energy technologies such as solar, wind, biomass and hydrogen energy technologies. At the last check, institutions including UNN Nsukka, UNIBEN, UDF Sokoto, ATBU Bauchi are carrying out some kind of research in Solar Energy; UAM Makurdi, UNN, among others have departments dedicated to research in biomass and biogas research etc. It is my conviction that with the proper investment, the research efforts of these institutions can contribute to the RX of our energy conundrum in Nigeria. The diversification our energy supplies and our over dependence on hydropower and diesel powered generators could well become a thing of the past.

The quest for energy self reliance must continue – Nigeria as a nation must not relent in the expending manpower and resources to ensure energy self sufficiency – for this commodity is the fuel that drives the wheels of any economy. All hands must be on deck, and all stakeholders involved in this grand plan must adopt what philosophers term the Pythagorean doctrine of reincarnation – wisdom, knowledge and courage – only then can we become a great nation!

Arise O’ Compatriots!

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