Nigeria, a future major solar energy producer?
By far the most populous country of Africa (with 177 million inhabitants in 2014), and consequently the first GDP of the continent, Nigeria is a member of the OPEP and has a large amount of oil resources, which represents the major part of its economy. The rest of the GDP is mainly divided between the agriculture sector and artisanal production. The electrification rate of the country is rather low: in 2012, only 55.6% of the population had access to electricity. The lack of infrastructure affects mainly the rural and poor populations. To overcome the inexistence and the low reliability of the electricity distribution in several areas of the country, the rural populations invest in diesel generators, which are expensive and polluting.
Nigeria will face several challenges in the coming years: improving the electricity supply to remote villages, offering a reliable electricity supply to local companies, controlling its CO2 emissions, etc. And all of this, while taking into account the depletion of the oil resources in the next decades. The Nigerian government considers several substitutes for fossil fuels (which represents the main source of produced electricity, the remaining power is generated by hydraulic power plants).Solar energy generation is a major axis of the Renewable Energy Programme that has been put in place by the Federal Minister of Environment, because of the high solar irradiation rate in the country.
A lot of work to be done to supply electricity to the whole population of Nigeria
A large part of the population lives in remote areas, the choice to develop off-grid solar plants will allow supplying affordable electricity by avoiding the high costs of construction of energy transport infrastructure. Larger solar power plants will offer cheaper electricity by making economies of scale. During the next decades, the diminution of the exploitable fossil fuels, the increasing demand of the growing industry and the booming population will force Nigeria to draw up an appropriate answer, and the evolution of its energy mix is needed. Even if hydraulic energy is currently the main renewable energy source, the number of workable sites is limited, and solar is the most promising source of energy to be apart of a renewable, sustainable and ecological energy mix. This willingness is boosted by international constraints, which press countries to control their national CO2 emissions.
In Nigeria, the necessity of a Feed-in Tariff to develop solar energy
Despite the numerous advantages of solar energy, and the will of the government to develop its market, several subsidy schemes have been designed but none of them has been materialized. The current legislation, in force since 2011, the Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP) aimed to reach a proportion of renewable energy of 13% in 2015, 23% in 2025% and 36% in 2030. An additional objective is to reach an electrification rate of 75% in 2025, with 500MW of solar power. Financial Measures have been taken to encourage project developers to install renewable energy plants in Nigeria: import duties for renewable energy technologies, capital incentives, and preferential loan opportunities for renewable energy projects. But no Feed-in Tariff scheme has been put in place yet.
However, the Federal Minister of Energy has announced the development of a National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency program before the end of 2015, followed by a National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP), which will activate a Feed-in Tariff scheme for solar energy. Nigeria is a promising country for solar power plant development, thanks to an advantageous climate, high economical needs and the necessity of the electrification of its territory. Once the Feed-in Tariff will be in force, local and foreign actors will invest on the development of numerous photovoltaic power plants.
Photo Credit: wanphen chawarung/shutterstock