09 August 2015, Lagos – Most knowledgeable energy followers are often bemused by the decisions of any country that literally sits in an energy-ocean but strangely chooses to laboriously harness its power needs from difficult sources. It is understandable that Nigeria as a major oil producer generates most of its electricity (80 per cent) from hydrocarbon powered turbines. However, it remains very difficult to understand why in the face of the failure of the fuel powered systems to provide the needed electricity in Nigeria, other available easy-pick energy sources have remained significantly unharnessed. In most countries, centralised large-scale power generations have become the paradigm for power provision which sadly have increasingly undermined the 20th century renewable energy realities. For Nigeria, a nation of over 170 million citizens located in the heart of the tropics, occupying a vast land area of 923,768 km² of high solar insolation, the inability to generate beyond its current level of less than 5,000MW of electricity has sadly remained a major blight in development of all sectors of its economy.
Today the common practice by most developed nations give prime considerations to generation from the renewables as mutual compliment to that from the conventional systems. Each of the following countries enjoys adequate power supplies from the conventional generation methods including nuclear power plants but yet embarks on energy generation from the sun. the total electricity generation from solar by these countries that are among the 14 largest solar energy generation countries, some situated in lower solar insolation areas than Nigeria, is quite revealing.
Enjoys much less sun resources than Nigeria but has been the world’s top PV installer for several years ahead of China, Japan, Italy, and USA. About 1.4 million photovoltaic systems are installed all over the country, ranging from small roof-top systems, to medium commercial and large utility-scale solar parks. The country is increasingly producing more electricity than it needs and exporting its surplus of electricity to its neighboring countries. As at February 2015, German overall installed generated PV capacity was 38,458 megawatts (MW).
The National Energy Administration set a goal of adding 8,000 megawatts in distributed solar capacity and 6,000 megawatts of new utility-scale solar in 2014. Total installed capacity at the end of 2013 was over 12,000 megawatts and by September 2014 attained over 18,300 megawatts.
In its desire to progressively reduce dependence on nuclear power generation after the Fukushima disaster (2011), Japan embarked on power generation from solar renewable sources. Between April 1 and October 31 2013 (less than 8 months) about 4,000 MW (4 GW) of new solar photovoltaic was installed in Japan. As at end of 2014, Japan had attained a level of over 15,000 MW from distributed solar scheme. Japan is the first country in the world to surpass the 1 GW of cumulative PV capacity. It should be noted that Japan’s sun resources are much less than Nigeria’s.
Solar power use in United Kingdom though relatively unexplored until recently, has increased very rapidly. The introduction of the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) in 2010 saw rapid growth of the UK photovoltaic market, with many thousands of domestic installations along with numerous commercial, community and industrial projects. As of the end of June 2013, of the 2,400 megawatts of capacity installed, 1,700 megawatts were small-scale residential and commercial installations that benefited from feed-in tariffs. In 2014, Solar PV accounted for 12% of renewable electricity capacity in the UK. According to UK trade body, the Solar Trade association (STA), the total UK installed solar capacity generated from homes, buildings and solar farms is now about 4.7 gigawatts. Currently there are 530,000 installations in the UK, of which 510,000 are domestic small scale types all generating about 8% of daytime electricity. UK with its relatively poor sun endowment today generates more electricity from sunlight than Nigeria currently generates from all of its conventional power generation systems put together.
Global solar photovoltaic capacity grew from 5 gigawatts in 2005 to about 140 gigawatts in 2013. The list of solar electricity generation capacity as recorded in September 15, 2014 for the top 10 Solar-Power-Using-Countries are- (i). Germany: 35.5 GW. (ii). China: 18.3 GW. (iii). Italy: 17.6 GW. (iv). Japan: 13.6 GW (v). United States: 12 GW, (vi). Spain: 5.6 GW, (vii). France: 4.6 GW, (viii). Australia: 3.3 GW (ix). Belgium: 3 GW, (x). United Kingdom: 2.9 GW. Some of these top 10 Solar-Power-Using-Countries are less sun-endowed than Nigeria.
The key to the successes recorded by the afore-enumerated countries derives from the proper implementation of well-articulated citizens driven Distributed Generation schemes. Distributed Generation (DG) is a scheme that employs small sized units owned by private citizens or bodies to generate electricity for their use with excess generated over needs discharged/sold to the grid at accepted conditions. In contrast to the use of a few large-scale generating stations located far from load centers. DG systems employ numerous small plants that can provide power onsite with little reliance on the distribution and transmission grid. DG technologies yield power in capacities that range from a fraction of a kilowatt [kW] to about 100 megawatts [MW]. DG from renewable energy sources provides lower-cost electricity and higher power reliability and security with fewer environmental consequences.
A detailed assessment of the following indices crucially necessary for the successful implementation of solar distributed generation scheme should clearly portray the potential viability of the scheme in Nigeria.
Insolation is a measurement of sunlight intensity over a given area for a defined period of time. Because Nigeria is situated in the tropics where sunlight is present all year round it has higher insolation than most areas where sun light is not always present. The sun intensity is not only high in most areas of Nigeria at any instance (irradiance), sun intensity everywhere in Nigeria measured over any given period (insolation) is ideal for photovoltaic power generation. For the records, more than one half the latitudinal area of Nigeria towards the Sahara, has very ideal DNI (Direct Normal Irradiance) for viable solar thermal electricity generation (a subject for another day). Most of the world’s leading Solar-Power-Using-Countries have lower insolation levels than Nigeria Many countries located in poor insolation areas in the world are not viable places for sun electricity generation. Nigeria is disposed to naturally endowed benefits of ideal insolation by location, and should therefore harness the gifted options of free electricity generation from the sun through the solar distributed generation scheme.
A clear policy must be in place that removes all ambiguities and strengthens the legal framework of all aspects of the DG scheme including creating legal backups for all –Incentive, Finances and all other drivers of the scheme. Such policies must among other vital covers grant conditions for, Easy and assured grid Connection; Purchase and payments for power generated and exported into grid; Set a minimum share of power to be produced from renewable sources; Set a reasonable goal for solar electricity procurement in the various service territories.
In all places the DG scheme has succeeded, the major driver for enthusiastic citizen participation derived from the very attractive incentive the scheme offers to individual generators. Such incentives include-
1. Net-Metering (NEM) which consists of Credit earnings and Debit payments on difference between metered generation exported into the grid and metered consumption taken from grid.
2. Feed In Tariff (FIT) which involves -Payment for all generated electricity even if directly consumed; -Rebate on standard electricity bill for using energy produced and Additional benefits for electricity exported into the grid.
3. Tax Breaks particularly for corporate entities for the electricity generation beyond a fixed minimum level. If the incentives are properly drawn up and implemented, Nigerians would fall over each other to get into the scheme.
Almost every Nigerian family, including the poorest, has at least one electricity generating set. This proven enthusiasm succinctly represents the fact that there would be overwhelming number of willing participants to choose from. Albeit, meeting the standard conditions of owning a property that has good roof size and orientation in selected areas for the projects. Even at a minimum average generation of 5kw per generator, the 36 states can plus the FCT can each generate enough electricity that will run into significant level within a year.
The huge need of electricity as it currently is significantly enormous. Experts have variously estimated Nigeria ideal electricity generation in line with needs to be between 25,000 and 40,000 MW. Total current electricity supply stands at much below 5,000MW. There is no question about the very high need of electricity to satisfy the huge demand in Nigeria.
Electricity generation from any source is very financially intensive. Even with the recent drop in PV prices, solar electricity generation ranks higher than the conventional generation methods in cost. In the face of the slumping oil prices, these are real hard times for Government and citizens of Nigeria. However, the generation systems of Distributed Generation as defined are owned by the generators. Ideally as obtains the world over, each participant should bear the costs of system. Depending on each of the likely financially handicapped participant to procure the systems, may never yield the prompt significant generation desired. A viable Government guaranteed financing, that would have each participant directly bear the cost of the generation unit acquired, can be worked out. It has been shown that complete recoup of all investment on the generating system is achievable within 10 years.
This is considered as viable since generating system (not including batteries), has a minimum functional life of 20 years requiring no intricate costly servicing.
Solar renewable energy source unarguably remains not only a viable tool towards achieving energy security in Nigeria, but can through the Distributed Generation scheme offer Nigerians better satisfaction from electricity provision than the GSM technology has provided in telephony. Solar Distributed Generation remains a viable solution to Nigeria inadequate electricity supply and is therefore highly recommended for careful planning and urgent successful implementation.
-Max O Uanikhehi, This Day