The continued heavy reliance on fossil fuel-powered generators in Nigeria by government institutions, businesses and households for electricity supply constitutes a major threat to the nation’s climate change plans, ‘FEMI ASU writes
Diesel or petrol generators are often used in most countries as backup or emergency power when the national grid fails or during power outages or to provide energy in remote areas. But in Nigeria, generators have become the primary source of electricity for most businesses and households, as supply from the national grid remains abysmally low.
Mrs. Nwamaka Okoye’s Housessories Limited, which designs and manufactures furniture in Lagos, has been depending 100 per cent on diesel-powered generators for the past six years because of the poor supply from the national grid.
“We have to have two generators so that one will stand by for the other because they are designed to be standby generators; so since we are running them continuously, we have to turn off the generators for one hour everyday so they can rest,” Okoye, who is the managing director of the company, told our correspondent.
The use of diesel/petrol generator has over the years spread to almost every part of the country despite its negative health and climate effects.
“In Lagos, you will see that many times, there is a lot of smog and it is hard to breathe sometimes because there are generators everywhere. Even somebody who has a barbing salon has to run ‘I-better-pass-my-neighbour’ (nickname for the smallest generator),” Okoye said.
The proliferation of generators, or what Schneider Electric described as “the alarming reality of mass generator dependency,” exposes communities to harmful emissions of greenhouse gases.
The Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, described the situation as a big challenge, at least from the point of view of pollution and the huge impact on the environment.
He said, “We haven’t seen any reduction in the use of generators in the country. If anything, it has been on the increase because energy demand is increasing with population and the public power supply has not actually been improving.
“We have power generation of about 4,000MW and a population of over 180 million. Ideally, our energy consumption should be close to 50,000 megawatts. If you do the ratio of generators to public power supply, it will be around 70 to 30 per cent or even 80 to 20 per cent.”
After many years of government’s failure to solve the nation’s electricity woes, the power sector was privatised in 2013 in a bid to attract private capital and significantly improve electricity supply.
But power generation has in the last four years mostly hovered between 3,000MW and 4,000MW, unchanged from what it was pre-privatisation. It stood at 3,688.6MW as of December 22, 2017, down from 4,265.2MW on December 8, according to data from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
“Generators are too many in Nigeria; there is no major building, especially in the cities, where you will not see a generator. When you go to big organisations like the NNPC, CBN and BoI, you will see that they have up to four big generators, with a size of 500KVA, operated on 24-hour basis, and they are burning fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide,” the Executive Director, Greenado International Limited and a former Renewable Energy Manager, Bank of Industry, Mr. Lawal Gada, said.
He added, “Check Area 1 Shopping Plaza in Abuja where there are clusters of tailors, you will see the number of generators working as soon as the public power supply goes off. You will feel the heat around the environment. The carbon dioxide they are emitting is a major contributor to climate change.”
Two of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 are to ensure access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all by 2030, and to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.
With the power sector still stuck in crisis after privatisation, many businesses, households and public institutions continue to rely heavily on generators, on which they spend a lot to fuel and maintain.
For instance, 37 federal universities in the country are using 1,068 generators as alternative power source, according to an energy audit of the tertiary institutions by the Rural Electrification Agency.
Based on the figures presented in the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy and Rural Electrification Strategy and Implementation Plan, about 40 per cent of the Nigerian population have access to grid-connected electricity, out of which 72 per cent reside in urban areas and 28 per cent in rural areas.
Out of the estimated 16.4 million rural households in the country, only about 4.6 million are connected to the electricity grid.
Current power demand in the country is estimated at 17,520MW, including latent and suppressed demand, against 5,300MW peak generation capability.
Small-scale businesses and families spend an average of N3.5tn ($21.8bn) yearly to power their generators with diesel and petrol, a German development agency, GIZ, said in a note on October 2015, entitled: ‘Promoting Clean Energy Investments in Nigeria’.
According to the agency, about 86 per cent of the companies in Nigeria own or share a generator and about 48 per cent of their total electricity demand is covered by these private generators, with estimates suggesting that between 8,000MW and 14,000MW of decentralised diesel generator capacity is currently installed in the country.
The telecommunications sector is one of the largest end-users of diesel generators in the country, with the total number of generators in the sector estimated at 24,252, according to a recent World Bank report.
“With several millions of privately installed diesel generators, Nigeria leads Africa as a generator importer and is one of the highest importers worldwide, with the total annual import figure being N17.9bn ($112m),” GIZ said.
In 2011, 60 million power generator appliances or one per every 2.5 members of the population were said to be in operation.
Generator market remains buoyant
The African Progress Panel report 2015 noted that unreliable power supply had created a buoyant market for diesel-powered generators in Nigeria and other African countries.
“Around 40 per cent of businesses in Tanzania and Ethiopia operate their own generators, rising to over 50 per cent in Kenya. In Nigeria, around four in every five Small and Medium Enterprises install their own generators,” it said.
The report said Africa’s demand for imported generators had created a fast-growing market for companies in China, France and the United Kingdom.
In 2016, Nigerian importers spent a total of $243.6m on electricity generators and converters, according to worldstopexports.com.
GlobalData, in its Diesel and Gas Generator 2012 report, described Nigeria as the largest market for generators in Africa, saying the market in Nigeria had grown substantially over the last decade, having been moderately sized in the 1990s.
A report by 6Wresearch in September 2016 projected that Nigeria’s diesel generator market would reach $694.8m by 2022.
“High electricity demand supply gap due to inadequate power generation and distribution infrastructure along with rising demand for power in unreliable and off-grid areas owing to rising population, combined with the need to provide power backup to the expanding telecom and manufacturing sectors, are the key factors spurring the demand for diesel generators in Nigeria,” it said.
The report noted that economic crisis due to low crude oil prices led the country into recession with manufacturing and construction sector witnessing negative growth in 2016.
“However, during the forecast period, the market of diesel generators in Nigeria is expected to surge owing to the economic stability with the recovery in global oil prices,” it added.
A research analyst at 6Wresearch, Ravi Bhandari, noted that unreliable and limited power access, especially in rural areas, had been the major reason for high demand for small KVA rating diesel generators in the Nigerian market, which is dominated by low power rating (up to 125 KVA) in terms of volume.
This year, Research and Markets, in its ‘Africa Diesel Generators Market (2017-2023)’ report, said the growth in mining and oil and gas exploration in countries such as Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria would also spur the demand of diesel generators in Africa.
The Director-General, Africa Clean Energy Summit Group, Dr. Victor Fakorede, noted that dealers in generators had been having a field day in the country, adding, “Their business is booming, with unintended negative consequences. Some families have been wiped out by the exhaust from generators.
“All those generators have to be phased out. Any source that will not raise the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a better alternative.”
The Managing Director, Geogrid LighTec Limited, Mr. Dayo Sobitan, is also concerned that the country has been depending on generators for many years.
He said, “I think it is high time we took advantage of the efficient technologies that are available. I think it is also high time for the generators’ sellers to also begin to provide new solutions, rather than this individual selling of generators and we have proliferation of generators across the country.”
Generators and greenhouse gas emissions
“There is a direct correlation between the use of generators and climate change because the generators burn fossil fuel, either diesel or petrol, and release a lot of greenhouse gases and pollutants to the atmosphere, and you know in Nigeria, more electricity is generated from private generators than from the national grid,” the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, told our correspondent.
A usual warning written on generators is: “Do not use indoors due to danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Carbon monoxide, according to the GHG online, is only a very weak direct greenhouse gas, but has important indirect effects on global warming. And reductions in carbon monoxide emissions can most effectively be made by direct reductions in fossil fuel use.
According to the World Bank’s report entitled ‘Diesel Power Generation’, diesel generators contribute to emissions of fine particulate matter, including black carbon, which derives from the incomplete combustion of diesel (as occurs in many diesel generators).
Other greenhouse gases released by diesel generators include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.
Last year, the World Health Organisation listed four Nigerian cities among the worst in the world for air pollution, after it had tracked the growth in the two different sizes of particulate matter, PM10 and PM2.5 per cubic metre of air.
Onitsha, which was named the world’s most polluted city for air quality for high PM10, recorded 30 times more than the WHO’s recommended levels of PM10. Kaduna came fifth, followed by Aba in sixth place, and Umuahia in 16th position.
Particulate matter is said to be a predisposing factor for respiratory and cardiopulmonary disease leading to increased hospital visits and risk of premature death. Black carbon is the most strongly light-absorbing component of particulate matter and is the second largest warming agent after carbon dioxide.
The World Bank report said, “The emerging role of the BC as a significant driver of global climate change is increasing attention on its mitigation efforts. In addition to the negative health and the climate effects of emissions, most generators contribute significantly to noise pollution, which further reduces the quality of life of users and non-users alike.
“Black carbon also affects the climate. It absorbs sunlight and generates heat in the atmosphere, which warms the air and can affect regional cloud formation and precipitation patterns. Since the BC remains in the atmosphere for only a short period (typically one to two weeks) its climate effects will dissipate quickly if emissions are reduced.”
Although the combustion of diesel in diesel generators is dominated by black smoke, it is important to take account of co-pollutants, which reflect sunlight and thus have a cooling effect on the climate, according to the World Bank.
Nigeria, others take serious beating
Africa is said to account for 3.8 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 23 per cent of China, 19 per cent of the United States and 13 per cent for the European Union.
But no continent will be struck as severely by the impact of climate change as Africa, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
It said given its geographical position, the continent would be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, and exacerbated by widespread poverty.
The UNEP said, “By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people on the continent are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. In the same year, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent.
“Global warming of 2°C would put over 50 per cent of the continent’s population at risk of undernourishment. Projections estimate that climate change will lead to an equivalent of two to four per cent annual loss in GDP in the region by 2040. Assuming international efforts keep global warming below 2°C, the continent could face climate change adaptation costs of $50bn per year by 2050.”
Bassey said the impact of global warming had become very obvious in Nigeria, citing “increased desertification; erratic rainfall pattern including heavy rain in December, which is not normal; and serious coastal erosion, part of which can be attributed to rising sea levels and the degradation of natural barriers on the coastal lines.”
“We are in December, and there is supposed to be cold now, but because of global warming, there is not much cold. Even in places like Sokoto and Zamfara where there used to be higher cold temperature, now there is none because the atmosphere has been heated,” Gada said.
The 2014 World Climate Change Vulnerability Index classified Nigeria as one of the 10 most climate-vulnerable countries, and Lagos as the 10th most vulnerable city in the world.
The President, Climate Aid Initiative, Mr. Oluwatosin Kolawole, said in the North, climate change had increased the drying up of Lake Chad, and driving mass migration from the North towards the South.
“It is also driving the clashes Fulani herdsmen have with farmers. Because they cannot fine agrarian and fertile land that can sustain grasses for their cattle, they are forced to move downwards South,” he said.
He said some communities in Lagos such as Alpha Beach had almost been wiped out by coastal erosion.
“For us, who are in Lagos Island, there is fear of the sea volume increasing and it is increasing and eating up land. It is reducing our access to land. For people in the East, it is increasing the rate at which people experience land erosion.”
Global fight against climate change
The global fight against climate change has gathered more momentum in recent years, and Nigeria has been engaged in international climate policy negotiations. The agreement inked at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015 has the target of limiting the global temperature rise this century to below 2°C. Nigeria became a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994 and ratified its Kyoto Protocol in 2004. The country submitted its First National Communication in 2003 and a Second National Communication in February 2014.
In September 2012, the Federal Executive Council approved the Nigeria Climate Change Policy Response and Strategy, whose strategic goal is to foster low carbon, high growth economic development and build a climate-resilient society.
President Muhammadu Buhari stated in his inaugural speech in May 2015 that Nigeria remained committed to tackling climate change.
In November 2015, Nigeria submitted its new climate action plan, Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In its INDC, the Nigerian government identified poor access to energy as a principal constraint to economic development and demonstrated its determination to grow its economy sustainably while reducing carbon pollution.
Under a business-as-usual growth scenario, consistent with strong economic growth of five per cent per year, Nigeria’s emissions are expected to grow to around 900 million tonnes per year in 2030, which translates to around 3.4 tonnes per person.
According to the INDC, the mitigation options for energy address both energy demand and energy supply.
It said this could be achieved through implementation of three significant policies. “Firstly, reliable gas-powered generation, using associated gas currently flared, can replace small generators. Secondly, rural electrification will be driven by cost-efficient renewable solutions. Thirdly, energy efficiency is greatly improved so as to reduce overall demand for energy and in doing so, serve more people, faster.
“Poor air quality is the bane of urban residents and a health threat. Drastic measures to reduce soot (black carbon) pollution from cars and trucks, small generators and industry are needed. Failure to do so could make Nigeria’s mega-cities unliveable.”
The Director, Department of Climate Change, Ministry of the Environment, Dr. Yerima Tarfa, said the Federal Government established a department in the Federal Ministry of Environment to serve as a vehicle for driving national climate change efforts.
He said climate change had become a critical issue, both for its global importance and threats to Nigeria and her people.
“For instance, we have the desertification process advancing southward and potential submergence of the 853km stretch of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. There will be some changes in climate that cannot be avoided due to past and inevitable future global emissions, but the detrimental effects can be avoided if we can reduce greenhouse gases emission to an acceptable level.”
But industry stakeholders expressed concerns about the government’s efforts towards tackling climate change.
“It is one thing to sign the pact; it is another thing to have deliberate policy on the ground to show commitment. I am not seeing that,” the LCCI DG said.
Kolawole said that the government had pledged to reduce carbon emission in the country unconditionally by 20 per cent by 2025.
“Then, we might upscale it to 45 per cent by 2030. That one is conditional because it is contingent on the ability of the developed countries to support us with some financial mechanism,” Kolawole said.
Renewable energy to the rescue
Okoye, who is also the president of Stanford Seed Transformation Network, highlighted the need for the government to prioritise the provision of power and focus more on exploring renewable energy.
“We have a lot of sunlight here, so I don’t know why we have not maximised it. We need to focus on alternative sources of electricity such as solar and wind technology. If we are really serious, that is what the government should focus on – provide incentives for people to provide alternative means of power generation,” she said.
The Federal Government is seeking to achieve about 30 per cent of renewable energy contribution to on-grid generation capacity by 2030, with a target of 5,300MW and 13,800MW by 2020 and 2030, respectively.
A former UN Secretary-General and Nobel laureate, Kofi Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel, said, “Climate change demands that we rethink the relationship between energy and development. The carbon-intensive energy systems that drive our economies have set us on a collision course with our planetary boundaries. We can avoid that collision.
He noted that some African countries were already leading the world in low carbon, climate-resilient development, adding, “Africa stands to gain from developing low carbon energy, and the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high carbon pathway followed by today’s rich world and emerging markets.”
According to the APP report, Africa cannot afford to stand on the sidelines of the renewable energy revolution, and low carbon technologies can be rapidly deployed to expand power generation and to extend the reach of energy.
Bassey stressed the need to invest heavily in renewable energy such as wind and solar, stressing, “Inevitably, as the world itself is moving away from dependence on fossil fuel, this will trickle down to Nigeria. So, the best thing we have to do is to move ahead to renewable energy and not wait till the time that these things become totally unfashionable.”
Fakorede said the Africa Clean Energy Summit had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with some SMEs in the country to help them in replacing generators with specially designed solar LED sources.
“We are targeting areas with a high concentration of the SMEs in Lagos, Abuja and some other places,” he said.
Gada said promoting the use of renewable energy in rural areas and the un-served and under-served areas would help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“India is one of the countries that have embraced renewable energy. They are more populated than us but they take actions better than us. The airport in New Delhi, India, is fully powered by solar 24 hours. This is the kind of measures we need in Nigeria.”
Last month, one of the nation’s integrated energy service providers, Forte Oil, launched its solar power business for homes and businesses.
“As the world moves towards more investment in clean energy, we believe this move by Forte Oil will impact on the overall outlook of Nigeria’s energy and environmental outlook,” the company’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Akin Akinfemiwa, said.
The LCCI DG, Yusuf, wants government to put in place incentives to make renewable energy, particularly solar power, cheaper and more accessible.
He said, “Government can subsidise solar panels and batteries. The import duty on solar battery is still very high. Solar is good for households and micro businesses. They can migrate to solar easily if the incentive is there to reduce the costs of acquiring those things.”
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