On 13 June, the Climate Parliament hosted a national virtual roundtable on the price of renewable energy in Nigeria. We were joined by Laura El-Katiri, energy expert at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, and Nkiruka Maduewke, National Coordinator of the Climate Parliament in Nigeria.
The speakers provided an overview of the energy access situation in Nigeria. According to Nkiruka Maduekwe, despite its installed capacity of 18,000 MW, Nigeria has a high rate of energy poverty with one in three houses lacking access to electricity. Even the households that do enjoy a connection to the grid battle everyday with unsteady power supply and constant outages. For that reason, many households, businesses and industries, and even public offices such as the Supreme Court and the National Assembly, must often rely on diesel generators. In 2005, Nigeria tried to increase energy access by unbundling the electricity sector and opening up the market to competition, but this move did not yield the results expected by the government. Indeed, even though that measure allowed the country to boost its generation capacity, this increase was not accompanied by enough investment in updating and renewing transmission and distribution lines. As a result, Nigeria still has to deal with a serious problem of power losses in transmission.
Nigeria is currently aiming at having 30% of its electricity supply from renewable energy by 2030. To achieve that target, the government must invest at least 155 billion dollars to improve the generation sector, and just as much on transmission and distribution infrastructure. Both experts encouraged the members of parliament to not think about the energy transition only in terms of building power plants and installing solar panels on rooftops, but also to integrate it with the wider question of economic progress. Indeed, Nigeria could reap a lot of collateral benefits from accelerating its transition to renewable energy. As the largest oil exporter in Africa, it is crucial that the country anticipates the decrease in demand for fossil fuels, as more and more countries are turning to renewable energy. The energy transition also offers tremendous economic opportunities. Nigeria, with more than 200 million people, is Africa’s fourth largest electricity market and has enormous potential for energy products. The energy transition can also generate jobs in a wide range of sectors, from research and innovation to manufacturing. Finally, having more small store lighting and street lighting powered by solar energy and battery storage, could support local economic activity as shops could stay open longer, with an increased safety and a better quality of life for both sellers and buyers.
To ensure a just transition that leaves no one behind, our experts advised the parliamentarians to think about energy policies with a holistic approach. MPs can combine them with education and training policies for employees of the fossil fuel industry, and help them transition to other jobs. Laura and Nkiruka also insisted on the importance of not repeating the mistakes made by the fossil fuel industry. Large-scale renewable energy projects, solar stations and wind farms, require land, land which is sometimes inhabited by pastoral communities and which should not be appropriated at their expense. Finally, they encouraged the MPs to institutionalise a culture of planning, to allow the private sector to have transparent access to what the governments aim to do, and how they intend to achieve their goals through credible strategies.