By Sanya Adejokun
In a recent interview, the Managing Director, Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Mr. Chiedu Ugbo said there is “serious demand for electricity across the country. We also have gas in the ground across the country; we also have gas thermal power plants. Therefore, we must as a matter of principle and policy optimise the use of this gas to provide electricity for Nigerians. Out of the 14,000 megawatts contracted to power generation firms by Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), well over 85 per cent of that are for gas thermal power plants.”
So, what are you going to do with these plants if we are going to cut down on renewables? Also, where are we with regards to renewables? Again, I know it is the government’s policy to increase renewables over time. But as at today, about 85 per cent of the contracted 14,000MW is supposed to be fueled by gas and we need to harness this gas, get electricity to consumers, develop our country, and then begin to increase other sources of electricity.
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It has been stated that our electricity demand is somewhere around 28,000MW, perhaps we can then use other sources of renewables such as solar, small hydro plants and wind to develop the rest amount of electricity that is required.
In 2019, the World Bank reported that only 55.4 per cent of Nigerians had access to electricity. Yet, at the November 2021 Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a 2060 net zero target. Zero emission means that vehicles and other mobile machinery used for transport (over land, sea, air) and for other uses (agricultural, mobile power generation, etc.) will cease to be powered by fossil fuels believed to contribute heavily to climate change and pollution.
In its long history, the Earth has warmed and cooled depending on how more or less the planet received sunlight due to subtle shifts in its orbit, as the atmosphere or surface changed, or when the energy of the sun varied. In the past century, however, there are fears that warming has increased more than any time in history due to human influence. To cool things down, climate activists have been advocating deliberate actions to reverse the trend by national governments. Now, 192 countries have adopted the Kyoto Protocol which, among many other objectives, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent from the 1990 levels by 2012.
In spite of these commitments, only a couple of the 10 countries contributing the highest to global warming – China, United States, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Canada, and Mexico – are making any serious efforts at minimising their dependence on fossil fuels. These 10 biggest culprits are responsible for 65.53 per cent of total greenhouse emissions. Nigeria is scarcely recognised on the global emission map.
In 1976, late mercurial musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti released the album, “Mr. Follow-Follow” wherein he advised, “If you dey follow-follow, make you open eye, open ear, open mouth, open sense; Na dat time, na dat time you no go fall; If you dey follow-follow dem book, na inside cupboard you go quench”. So, why would Nigeria be pledging to banish the use of fossil fuels to generate energy within such a relatively short period when fossil fuels are its comparative advantage, and it must develop its heavy industries to get its young population employed?
A look at the 10 highest performing countries in the fight against global warming revealed that all of them are already providing electricity to 100 percent of their population. The countries are Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, Malta, Luxembourg, Morocco, Cyprus, UK, Sweden, and France.
Nigeria currently generates zero energy from its 379 million tons (MMst) of proven coal reserves as of 2016, ranking 44th in the world. Nigeria has proven reserves equivalent to 1,961.4 times its annual consumption. This means it has about 1,961 years of Coal reserves left (at current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves). On the contrary, India, backed by China, made a last-minute diplomatic push at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow to water down the language of the final agreement from calling for a “phase out” of unabated coal power to a “phasedown”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted coal mine expansion, with plans to ramp up domestic coal production from 783 million tonnes in 2019 to one billion tonnes per year as part of his self-reliant India policy.
Nigeria’s power generation relies mostly on thermal and hydro with an installed capacity of about 12,522 MW. Meanwhile, only 6,000MW of this is available! So, rather than be politically correct, Nigeria should team up with other developing countries across Africa and Asia to push for concession in the transition from fossils to renewable since the entire continent of Africa contributes less than three percent of total emissions. Just like Prime Minister Mordi of India, Nigeria should lobby for gradual phasedown or outright concession so as to develop coal turbines in addition to gas.
As of today, the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) Limited, the largest power generating company in Nigeria, is facing serious gas supply constraints. Its power generation has considerably been limited by gas constraints, a development that has also driven down electricity supply to households and businesses.
Adejokun resides in Abuja