Ahead of the 2017 edition of the annual Nigeria Energy Forum (NEF) in Lagos Nigeria, Chair and Technical Lead of NEF, Dr. Oluwole Daniel Adeuyi, shared with OGN some of his views on the current state of Nigeria’s electricity market, and considered that the market challenges experienced by its traditional power suppliers are creating an opportunity for increased uptake of off-grid energy sources. Excerpts.
What is the Nigeria Energy Forum (NEF) all about, and for how long has it run?
The NEF is a capacity building, training and development programme for policy makers, business leaders, energy users, professional engineers, industry experts and academics in the energy sector of Nigeria and other African countries. Organized by a team of young research stars in Europe, in collaboration with the Nigerian Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (NIEEE), the NEF2 will hold on July 4-5, 2017 in Lagos, Nigeria, with the theme ‘Sustainable Energy for Economic Development’. NEF2 follows NEF1 held in April 2016.
For the length of time it had run, are you able to tell us in tangible details what accomplishments you’ve recorded?
NEF-1 attracted a representation of Vice President Osinbajo and the UK Minster for International Development, Mr. Nick Hurd. It successfully increased technical awareness of over 250 delegates from the government, academia, policy makers, industry, financial institutions, public sector and the international community. It showcased 9 energy innovation exhibitors and over 50 technical presentations across 6 super sessions. 16 energy essay and photo contest finalists, shortlisted out of 381 entries received from 20 different countries, with prizes presented to the winners – this is huge impact. The NEF-1 case study has been highlighted at international conferences in the USA and presented to development partners at DFID, UK.
Who really are the primary targets of the NEF, does it have a long term objective, what is this objective if it does?
The NEF is for stakeholders in the energy supply value chain, including policy makers, business leaders, energy users, professional engineers, industry experts and academics. NEF aims to address energy challenges; build technical capacity and promote innovation for sustainable energy development. The energy ideas competition organized by NEF-2 has already attracted 174 entries early-stage ideas from 14 different African countries – this is big impact. The Top 15 entries will be showcased using 2-minute videos at forum and winners will be announced. Prizes up to 1000 USD to be won plus business development opportunities and 8 out of the top 15 entries are from Nigeria.
NEF-2 will focus on rebuilding trust in the power sector, electrifying the off-grid sector and addressing the gas-to-power challenge. It will also provide top-class full-day hands-on training on community energy development; power system simulation; solar grids design; and energy research opportunities. These demonstrates practical actions to meet the energy challenges.
In trying to situate Nigeria’s energy challenge, what have you found out considering that your team is populated by credible researchers?
We understand there is a growing lack of trust between electricity utilities, consumers, regulators and gas suppliers – with much blame being traded between the different players and a significant reduction in revenue collection efficiency. These market challenges are creating an opportunity for increased uptake of off-grid energy sources and generation loss due to gas constraints.
Do you honestly think Nigeria can overcome its energy challenges, what is that one significant step that’s needed to end years of repeated mess in her electricity sector?
Nigeria can resolve its energy challenges through effective implementation of policies actions that promote high uptake of renewable energy generation, efficient function of the power and gas markets that facilitate sustained investment in energy infrastructure and diversification of the power supply mix.
Recently, the electricity regulator – NERC, signed into law the mini grid regulation that had been with it for years, have you seen this regulation, what does it stand to do for mini grid power investment and generation?
The recent adoption of the mini grid regulation and a range of ongoing renewable energy projects shows the keen interest and commitment of the Nigerian government to rapid exploitation of our abundant renewable energy resources to improve access to electricity supply in across the country.
The mini grid regulation would attract significant investment for distributed power generation and increase access to reliable electricity supply in several rural communities, health centres and across Nigeria. In addition to the simplification of the permit and tariff procedures and the introduction of cost-reflective tariff in boosting investor confidence in the Nigerian distributed energy sector.
But then, soft incentives in the form of tax holidays, import duty waivers and feed-in tariffs will further help to deconstruct barriers to mini-grid market entry, leverage local investments and enhance bankability of proposed projects.
How would you rate government’s appreciation of renewable energy sources, do you think it is committed to helping DRE segue in Nigeria?
There is a political will to deliver secure and reliable power generation through the power sector reforms and the provision of an enabling environment that attracts and retain foreign investors into the Nigerian energy sector.
There are claims that some of the traditional power systems may be opposing intense DRE deployment, do you relate with this sort of conversation?
It is true that DREs have the potential to shift market structures and could result in reduction of consumers connected to traditional power system. However, there are complimentary opportunities that could be mutually beneficial to both DRE developers and traditional utilities – for example if utilities purchase bulk power from DRE generation and supply to willing buyers, this could guarantee reliable power supply with increased revenues.
Kenya and a couple of other countries currently dominate Africa’s renewable energy market, despite Nigeria’s market size, how should she take the lead from these countries?
The enabling environment for business in Nigeria is improving, but significant changes to policy implementation, regulations and consumer behavior are required to de-risk DRE investments and enhance investor confidence.
Tell us what unique outcomes you’re expecting from NEF 2017, this year and beyond is considered by many as that for clean energy?
NEF-2 will increase technical awareness, transfer hands-on skills through training and provide practical knowledge exchange from international training providers from Canada, USA, UK to local professionals. Participants will access power system simulation licenses/toolboxes, experience of IEEE global classroom, assemble solar grids, and engage in team activity for collaborative research and development. NEF2 will inspire practical solutions; build technical capacity and foster innovation for the energy supply industry in Nigeria and Africa.