Mr Segun Adaju is the Chief Executive Officer of Consistent Energy based in Magada Phase 1, Isheri in Lagos. He bares his mind during the recent New Media Conference 2016 in this exclusive interview with Tony Nwakaegho, on the use of the new media in creating awareness for the instalment of solar panels as the alternative source of power in Nigeria to display the use of generator sets in both homes and businesses. Excerpts;
Briefly narrate what the correlation is about the new media and solar energy as an alternative source of energy?
I am the Chief Executive Officer of Consistent Energy, based in Lagos. We owe the brand called ‘solar direct on your roof top’. I deal with solar for homes, small businesses and our mission is to displace generator sets and replace them with solar by putting panels on your roof top. In doing our business we have seen a very strong correlation with our presence on the social media. For example over 95 percent of our clients’ base are found on the social media, on Facebook, Snap chat, twitter, to promote how you can use solar and raise finances. Professionally I am LinkedIn and through this medium they know how to find us even though we have not done the regular advert in the newspapers. We only have a branded bus and we put that too in the social media via the face book and the twitter and it has helped our business a lot. Even the base of the pyramid of the market which we thought the social media will not reach interestingly we got there through Facebook. We are able to reach the barbers and the hairdressers who have been able to follow us on Facebook and twitter and it has really helped in promoting our business.
Where is your office located, and what level of capital have you invested in this business?
Our company is based in Lagos, but I have my office in Magodo. The company has a Share Capital of ten million units. We have raised capital from the Directors, Shareholders fund that is what we are using, but I will urge you to wait till our annual report is out.
What percentage of people has your company installed the solar energy both in their businesses and homes?
So far we have done over a hundred of such all over the country in less than one year in Lagos, Kogi, Niger, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and on the average about a hundred that we have done.
What efforts have your company made to reach out to government with this alternative energy initiative?
We have met with the Kaduna State government and the response is very positive, even at the Cross River State we are still talking with them and also at the federal level to see how this can become a policy that can help our business and a lot of Nigerians will begin to declare solar. So we are engaging the government.
What is success story of this initiative so far?
My company’s success story is that solar is a very good way of empowering yourself, your home and business if you are having your business and another success story is that of empowering a barber in his business with solar. Thirdly we are promoting solar in Makoko in Lagos, which is a slum on a water front and they are already buying into solar and are using solar.
Do you think that solar energy will be able to displace the use of generator sets that Nigerians have become addicted to for supply of power to their homes and businesses?
My number one goal is to displace this generator set that is called ‘I better pass my neighbour’. That is the vision I have that in Nigeria anywhere I see ‘I better pass my neighbour’ generator I would want to take it away and replace it with solar.
How affordable is this solar panel bearing in mind the present economic crunch in the country?
Solar panel is affordable in the long run because if you compare how much you are spending on your generator to buy fuel even at the current rate in the long run of over two to three years it is more expensive than my solar. So what we decided to do is let’s break it down to make it easier for people to afford so we are paying us on a leasing method. So from saving done by not buying fuel and then it becomes affordable. You can say that the initial capital is high, but our business model makes it affordable because we allow you to pay in bits.
What level of awareness has been created for this energy product?
That is why we are here now; it is also to create awareness. We believe that everybody listening to us at this New Media Conference 2016 are convinced now that solar work. We promote social media a lot and engage with every credible platform that we know. We have done one or two stories in newspaper also, but not advert or whatever yet. We are also trying to work with the Solar Promoter Association of Nigeria to also promote this technology. We have also got in touch with Goods and Cooperative societies to see how we can go solar.
You mentioned that you are reaching out to government, have you got in touch with an agency like NITDA and others with this initiative for funding and support?
I have heard of NITDA, but I have not had any direct relationship with them. I have dealings with Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC). The government stakeholders that are very relevant to us for now are the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Power, and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to set standard. These are the organisations that we have been relating with. It is not all about public sector incentives, it’s about the market and we are using the market approach. So, without the NITDA I should be able to do my business with the market women, but if there is any other incentives that we can obtain from them why not! But, we have come to realize that right now if we are relying on government agency to help us push our business; it’s still not very clear what the policy of government is with people like us. We have engaged with Associations, and we got Development partners, JFID and Pan Africa to support us after they asked us whether we can roll out about a thousand.
How far have you gone about using this initiative in creating jobs?
In every installation we require technicians and we have trained about 20 technicians. We have a team of four engineers and in any installations we have, they go with us and train people. We have trained some artisans to work with us and some of these small businesses we empowered; they have been able to increase their income and even employed people. For instance the barber’s shop at Magodo has employed two addition barbers and that is job creation.
What is your level of engagement in this solar business?
I was a former banker before finding myself in the IT space. I have been in this business of solar deployment in the last two years. I have been in the space of renewable energy as a consultant, financier in the last seven years.
How do you plan to penetrate the Nigerian market and make these solar panels affordable and accessible?
I have been in these trenches in the last seven years and I know what and what will not work for now. For now, I know it’s easy, that it needs to be affordable, or else you can’t get a balance. I believe we need to walk before we begin to jump and fly. We have begun talking with our partners and I know that in the next two years we will begin to do the assembling of technologies in Nigeria. Nigeria is a big market and everybody in solar is looking at Nigeria. The market is huge and Nigerians have over 60 million generator sets and everybody is saying this is where I am going to get it. I have done solar panel for bankers, churches because they are able to pay for it. We are planning that by next year we are going to be doing ‘pay as you go’ solution. We will have a machine that will print the recharge cards and we will install it in your house with the solar panel and you will use it for one week after that it will automatically shut down. For bankers they can pay even with postdated cheques but for SMEs how do I secure my risk? So this pay as you go solution will make you buy another recharge card before you can use the solar panel.