What would Clean Energy Adoption look like for Africa?

The world’s attention is slowly turning to sustainable energy sources to enhance human activities and save the planet from becoming uninhabitable.  

In 2019 alone, 11 per cent of the global primary energy consumption came from renewable energy sources. This improvement shows how the world is transitioning from non-renewable sources of energy such as coal, natural gas and oil, an offshoot of the industrial revolution, to cleaner energy. 

For years, environmental analysts across the globe discovered the effects of non-renewable energy on humans and the environment. They uncovered that the emission of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases is causing global warming.

Consequently, innovators in the climate space sought alternative energy that would reduce human over-dependence on fossil fuel consumption. But does that mean fossil fuel consumption would phase out completely? Would the world still depend on fossil fuel anyway? What does the trend of adoption for renewable energy look like in Nigeria? 

Africa’s response to the adoption of cleaner energy 

In early 2005, the Nigeria government established the Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP) as an alternative project that would support Nigeria’s comatose energy sector. With average sunshine of six hours per day and hydroelectric generation capacity of 3,500 megawatts, Nigeria has enormous renewable energy potential. 

The REMP project set the tone for investment and infrastructure development in the adoption of sustainable energy. The project, full of promises at the time, aims to help the country transition from its overdependence on crude oil to a less hydrocarbon intensive economy. 

But 15 years later, little progress has been made concerning implementation of the REMP project partly because of political barriers, low regulatory environment, inadequate infrastructure, among other factors. 

The progress the country has experienced in the last decade has been pioneered and implemented by the private sector. For instance, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), a public-private initiative has provided renewable energy to households, MSME (micro small and medium enterprises) in off-grid communities across Nigeria, partly securing $200 million investments from the African Development Bank (AfDB). 

Since 2016, the REA has connected 19,888 households in 5,342 rural communities to a renewable source of power through 9,388 solar panels. REA effort only affects families in rural communities not connected to the national grid. Homes and businesses in the cities and towns connected to the grid are still far off in terms of adoption of cleaner energy.  

Although Rensource energy, another private renewable energy company, secured about $23 million investment to assist SMEs with decentralized renewable energy – most urban households are yet to experience adoption of cleaner energy. 

It’s a different case in Kenya and Ethiopia. The East African countries are ahead of the pack in terms of connecting its urban households to renewable energy. Kenya is cashing in on clean energy as the home to the biggest wind farm and geothermal power plant in Africa –responsible for three-quarters of its electricity, courtesy of its intense investment in geothermal power according to World Bank data.   

Its neighbour, Ethiopia is building Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam on the river Nile – which aims to supply constant electricity once the project is completed. Currently, the country generates 90 per cent of its electricity from biomass, hoping to complete its Nile project. 

Compared to its East African counterparts, Nigeria seems over-reliant on fossil fuels sources of energy. 

In 2020, Nigeria’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), disclosed that Nigerians spent about $14 billion on power generators and fuel for households and businesses in the country. This fact shows how fossil fuel generator, a significant source of power in Nigeria for many years, has become a substantial source of household and industrial capacity – courtesy of unstable power supply in Nigeria. It’s important to note that an excessive use of generators in Nigeria contribute to the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, an element responsible for global warming. 

This widespread use of the generator and its mass importation in Nigeria, no doubt signifies a negative trend for renewable energy adoption. Still, the decentralized structure of its use could provide a fair idea of how the general adoption of sustainable energy sources would look like – at least for households and small businesses.

What would inspire an overarching acceptance and adoption of cleaner energy? 

After many years of using Kerosene (fossil fuel) and burning firewood and charcoal (biomass), Nigeria’s switch to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), known as cooking gas, finally arrived due to an organized supply chain that contributed to the commercial appeal. Government policies such as the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) for LPG operators and investors, investment from the private sector were pivotal to the mainstream acceptance of LPG. 

Nigerian downstream company, Prudent Energy, is relentless in its mission of unlocking new energy possibilities. Through the construction of 6,000 metric tonnes of new LPG gas plant in Delta State, Nigeria, Prudent Energy is preparing its brand to work in sync with the adoption of cleaner energy in Nigeria. 

So, what would inspire a quicker adoption of cleaner energy? 

To promote clean energy like solar, hydroelectric and geothermal power, households in an urban environment should be part of the primary beneficiaries. There should be more investment in the infrastructural development of cleaner energy like the construction of more LPG plants to create a free market condition.

All these efforts would lead to one thing: preparing consumers for the future through cleaner energy.