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Published On: Sun, Oct 12th, 2014

Why renewable energy alone can’t solve Nigeria’s power challenges-expert

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Chairman-NERC-Dr-Sam-AmadiBy Etuka Sunday

An energy expert from the Centre for Energy Systems Research, Tennessee Tech University, USA, Prof. Joseph Ojo on Friday said renewable energy alone was incapable of solving Nigeria’s energy problem.

Prof. Ojo who won Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC)’s Certification of Research Fellows, faulted the campaign by some government officials, especially governors of some states who have the misconception that renewable energy was the only solution to the current Nigeria’s power challenges.

According to him, Nigeria lacks expertise and technical know-how to professionally maintain renewable energy in the country, therefore advocated for capacity building in that area.

Ojo who made his submission on “Studies on PV and Wind Turbine System Interfaced with the Nigerian Distribution Networks” said there was need for renewable energy mix in the country especially at the rural areas so as to bridge the energy gap, but advised that renewable energy alone may not achieve much as being preached.

He said, high level knowledge was required to maintain the renewable energy in Nigeria.

“I am just sounding that note of warning that, though they have their benefits, we need to be very careful because they are expensive, difficult to maintain and need high level of expertise,” he said.

“The second lesson is the need for expertise, we went to Katsina power plant, I worked with Otis Engineering and that helped. What I saw there, the technology was very old and when I tried to interview the engineers, they didn’t want to talk but at last they did and I asked why they brought this technology to Nigeria at this time, something that nobody is using elsewhere. They had their explanation and some of them made sense. One reason was that we don’t have good roads in Nigeria and there is no way they can transport them from Lagos to the place so they had to use whatever they have.

“One of them confessed that they needed business in Nigeria and so they want to so something that is safe so that they can get more. So we need to build expertise in the renewable technology and since our universities don’t have it, you don’t expect the ministry to have it. So when they sign contracts for power plants, the investors just show them the box but we don’t know what is inside. We are being sold technologies that are old and are not the best in the market, and we don’t have the people to check and understand how they work.

“Like the Katsina plant, we went, everything has been built but we discovered that there was no substation. So went to see Prof. Barth Nnaji, the then minister of power and then they gave contract to build it, and until now, I understand that that plant has not been commissioned,” he said.

In his response, the Chairman, NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi said, “we should focus on load-base energy with much more reliable energy, increase gas stations and step up our capacity building.

Also on the issue of obsolete renewable technology, Commissioner for Engineering, Standards and Safety (ES&S), Engr. Mary Awolokun said many governments doing such projects only come for license when the project must have almost been finished and that gives little room to monitor the technology used.

She however noted that NERC engineers going for inspection of such sites should henceforth do more in-depth analysis of the technology.

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