Building a viable solar marketplace in Nigeria

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In countries where there are established markets for alternative and renewable energy sources, economic and financial inducements such as feed in tariffs, tax incentives, net metering and self supply schemes have significantly driven market activities in the new energy sector and provided enabling environments for individuals, businesses and the government to play their respective roles in developing a more vibrant energy market.

At the vanguard of these encouraging economic policies are industrialized nations affecting their economies positively and making an impact on the everyday lives of their people. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, could learn a thing or two from these renewable energy front runners.

Solar technologies, in particular, have overcome so many obstacles over the years and are ultimately advancing in several countries against scores of odds; many thanks to policies that have been formulated to catch up with existing energy markets which favour the large utility companies who have called the shots for many decades.

In reality, the irony of the current situation is that all the top solar energy markets in the world (Germany, China, Italy, Japan, United States, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Australia and Belgium) currently have well-run energy delivery systems and remarkable power infrastructures in place.

Most are mainly seeking to diversify and reinforce their power generation capacities using alternative sources. On the other hand, countries faced with the mammoth challenges of energy insecurity and poverty, decrepit power infrastructures and in dire need for a revamp in their power sectors are the ones significantly lagging behind in the new and renewable energy race.

For many decades, the proportion of Nigeria’s population without access to the nation’s power grid has always been between 40 to 60 percent. As a result, the federal government proactively launched its power sector reforms in 2010 which was aimed to be a catalyst for growth and to improve the standard of living of Nigerians.

This conspicuously included solar energy as one of the main alternative sources of energy to be harnessed. With very favourable natural conditions and increasing energy demand, solar in Nigeria is justified. Her population, 170 million people, further reinforces the economic prospects and boundless market opportunities available. These, amongst many, are some noteworthy indicators which will play significant roles in developing the solar marketplace in Africa’s number one economy.

As with all forms of energy, with the right strategies, the large scale deployment of solar technologies can guarantee its success and encourage market growth which inevitably will bring down costs. Given solar’s potential, the solar energy sector in Nigeria should not be solely controlled by forces of demand and supply.

These will only result to very high costs and low patronage as currently experienced. To forestall the discouraging solar market trends in Nigeria, practical measures should be taken to engage interested parties and stakeholders in order to provide support and give confidence.

Practices currently employed in solar advancing markets evidently show that the forces of demand and supply alone will not effectively bring about the desired energy revolution. Nigeria could learn a lot from global renewable energy best practices and policies. The benefits of these are tremendous. Not only will there be increased power generation but also jobs creation, better standard of living and an improved economic outlook in general.

Lanre Okanlawon is the founder and CEO of Greenicles Energy and Trade Limited and a Renewable Energy masters degree holder from Durham University, U.K. As an individual, Lanre has a very strong interest in the development of solar electricity. Recently, he has been covering the prospects of solar power in Africa.