Many newspaper articles, songs, and even roadside conversations have documented Nigeria’s checkered history of power outages. Last year, the nation’s national electricity grid collapsed several times. That trend seems to have stopped, per a statement from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). According to the government utility company, the grid had been stable for 400 days.
But then the sector’s main problem, electricity generation, has proven to be a tough case to solve. For decades, Nigeria has struggled with increasing its power generation capacity. Despite being blessed with diverse sources of energy including solar, wind, and gas, many communities go without power for days, weeks, and even years.
Consider Okitupupa, a community in Nigeria’s Ondo state, which has been without electricity for a whopping 13 years. In April 2023, the government pledged to complete a 132/33kv substation that would connect residents with the national grid.
Renewable energy to the rescue
Like the rest of Africa, Nigeria has been called on to explore ways to improve its power generation efforts through renewable energy. Not only is it clean, but it offers several benefits that many generations after this one will enjoy.
Solar, arguably the most popular renewable energy source, promises so much. However, it has been underutilized in Nigeria despite its vast potential. A report commissioned to assess the likelihood of rooftop power generation found that solar energy could be highly beneficial to the Northern region first before other regions. This is because that area has the highest concentration of solar irradiation.
Joy Ogaji, CEO of a coalition of power generation companies, recently said that Nigeria can produce 427,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from solar energy alone. For context, data from the Power Ministry showed that the country’s grid generated 4,409 MW as of August 30, 2023.
Given the incredible possibilities stated above, one would expect Nigeria to jump on this opportunity. But then, it is not that easy—the average Nigerian views solar energy infrastructure as a costly investment. Limited financing solutions further complicate the matter.
Corroborating this assertion is Chibueze Ekeh, CEO of Ceesolar Energy, a renewable energy firm focused on solar system design and more. To him, the hefty upfront cost of installing rooftop solar panels and limited access to credit facilities are the major roadblocks to solar energy adoption.
“The upfront cost of installing a rooftop solar system can be exorbitant for many middle-income and low-income citizens. Furthermore, lack of access to financing options and limited awareness about the benefits of solar energy could also contribute to the slow adoption,” he explained.
When asked for comments on the problems his company faces in its efforts to serve Nigerians, he listed cost perception and low consumer awareness. As mentioned, the word “solar” is typically considered as expensive. This document also cites high initial capital cost as a notable challenge.
Tackling the above problems is tough, not impossible. Ekeh recommended that the government offer subsidies and tax incentives to reduce the fiscal burden of installation. He also called for collaborations between the private and public sectors to develop relatively affordable solutions. He concluded by advocating for more public awareness efforts.
Is Nigeria ready for solar?
One of the key findings in this report is that Nigeria’s growing population and its vast socio-economic problems make it a perfect candidate for solar energy adoption. Beyond serving as a means to increase its power generator capacity, a solar-powered Nigeria is beneficial for sustainability advocates.
If solar energy eventually receives large-scale adoption, it could pave the way for electric vehicles. Although some of the few charging stations in the country run on solar energy, increasing the usage of solar and other renewable energy sources will play a key role in driving adoption.
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!