The power sector in Nigeria has experienced challenges over the years with regards to provision of constant power supply. As a result of these challenges experienced by Nigerians, the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency has reaffirmed its commitment to increase household access to electricity in the sub-region by 35 per cent through renewable energy sources by 2020.
The International Energy Agency estimates that in order to achieve universal electricity access, mini-grids will have to provide around 40 per cent of new capacity by 2030 with the largest percentage needed in Sub-Sharan Africa.
The centre noted that at the moment, household energy access to electricity in the ECOWAS sub-region was below 50 per cent, which was among the lowest globally.
The Executive Director, Mr Mahama Kappiah, made this known at a regional training for 17 renewable energy experts from English-speaking member states of the sub-region in Abuja.
He said that the regional policies developed by ECREEE were aimed at increasing renewable energy access to 35 per cent by 2020 and 48 per cent by 2030.
Kappiah said that the policies were adopted by the Heads of State and member states were engaged to develop national action plans.
“The ECOWAS Renewable Energy Policy aims to increase the share of renewable energy in the region’s overall electricity mix to 35 per cent in 2020 48 per cent in 2030.
“The ECOWAS Energy Efficiency Policy aims to implement measures that would free 2,000 MW of power generation capacity.
“Following the adoption of these policies, the Heads of State engaged member states to develop their national action plans towards the attainment of the goals of these policies.
“Every member state has developed their national action plans.
“Following that they (Heads of State) said every country should develop an investment prospectus, that is the investment requirement to meet this action plan that will take everybody to this target,” he said.
He further said that 10 countries had developed their investment prospectus adding that the other five countries would conclude theirs by the end of 2017.
“Once all this is done, then we, together with member states will go on the fund mobilisation to look for ways to get funding to support one another and get these plans implemented,” he added.
He explained that the workshop for the 17 renewable energy entrepreneurs was part of the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Entrepreneurship Support Facility.
Kappiah added that the training would help participants develop project proposals, marketing strategies and learn how to access finances from banks.
The Coordinator, ECOWAS Community Development Programme, Mr Guevera Yao, disclosed accessing finances from the banks was a major challenge faced by entrepreneurs.
Yao said that the training would assist participants to develop “bankable” projects.
“Bankable projects are those projects that really outline not just the technical aspect but the financial aspect specifically return on investment, risks involved, the mitigating factors and this is called a business plan.
“This is something that has been noted across the 15 member states; having a bankable project is so important to attract any financing,” he said.
The Environmental and Sustainability Officer for FCT and North, ECOBANK, Mrs Abimbola Odesanya, said that viable projects would be reviewed and the needs of the entrepreneurs would be taken consideration.
“We are here to offer our financial services; the aim of this training is to make sure the projects are bankable and there are some things the banks look out for before a project is financed.
“Most importantly is payment sources, we also look at customers’ cash flows to see if they can pay back; if the projects are viable and we see that they can repay the bank will be willing to partner.”
Odesanya said that ECOBANK was in partnership with the International Financial Cooperation and would use the feedback from the workshop to develop products favourable for entrepreneurs.
Also speaking, Regional Programme Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa, International Renewable Energy Agency, Safiatou Nouhou said that the training would also address challenges faced by renewable energy entrepreneurs.
Nouhou said that the workshop provided a platform to better engage with and understand the needs the entrepreneurs.
“We believe that training workshops and advisory assistance provided to entrepreneurs are ways in which we can closely engage with local enterprises and address some of their technical challenges so we can see more bankable renewable energy projects.”
The training is in partnership with IRENA, Centre for Renewable Energy and Industrial Maintenance and the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering, among others.
In a related development, a team of Africa’s green energy experts would be hoping to within 18 months identify the key challenges that stand in the way of a practical green energy revolution in the economies of four African countries – Nigeria; Kenya; Rwanda; and Ethiopia.
Comprising of whizzes in the diverse aspects of climate change; environment; and renewable energy, the team disclosed at their second brainstorming session in Abuja that they would within the 18-month long research, generate questions and answers that will address the energy and environmental needs of the four African countries.
Operating on the platform of the Governing Inclusive Green Growth in Africa (GIGGA) that’s funded by the United Kingdom Research Council, the think-tank explained their mandate was specific on finding ways to boost the capacity of the four countries to produce more energy from renewable technology to support their economies.
Team leader of the group, Prof. Chukwumerije Okereke, a professor of environment and climate change explained that GIGGA was set up to brainstorm on the capacity gap in green growth in the selected countries.
He said: “It pools African academics, NGOs, policy makers and business persons to come together and think about burning research questions in understanding how Africa can transition from a brown economy to a green economy.
“We have three work packages that include mapping the green growth initiative across Africa to understand who is doing what and motivations for the actions taken. We are also going to review the academic works on what they have published on green growth.”
Besides Okereke, another member of the team, Prof. Kenneth Amaechi, who explained its adopted working strategy to influence policy implementation on green economy in the countries, said: “We are working with agencies to help policy formulators understand the concept (green energy) better for implementation.”
Amaechi, called for a repackaging of knowledge and conversations on renewable energy in the continent to enable policy formulators understand better the significance of green energy projects in closing the energy gaps of African countries.
Similarly, President of the Sustainable Energy Practitioners Association of Nigeria (SEPAN), Dr. Magnus Onuoha, who is also a member of the team, stated that the job-creation capacity of renewable energy was enormous to be ignored by Africa which still revels in poverty and underemployment.
“In terms of value addition, for one megawatt of solar deployed, there are over 3,000 jobs cutting across the value chain,” Onuoha said, while asserting that Nigeria’s petroleum industry has been able to create just about 50,000 jobs in the 50 years of its existence in the country.
He noted that Africa stood to gain more from turning its brown economy to a green one, adding, “We need to as a matter of fact harness our resources through intense researches. So, our issue is a research challenge in Nigeria, we don’t need to import solar panels as we can make them.”
Buttressing these points, the Director of power, energy, climate change and green growth at the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Anthony Nyong, said Nigeria could lose such benefits of geometric job creation from green energy if capacity issues identified were not dealt with.
Nyong stated that: “Most of the processes for these jobs are in the manufacturing stage, by the time they come to us, we probably have only two jobs left; one that installs and the other that washes the solar panels and they are nasty jobs.”