NIGERIA’S ENERGY VIRUS: IN THE GALLERIA OF TRUTH
Nigeria's energy virus is of three fundamental facets namely lack of innovation and wealth creation in energy sector, absence of sustainable environmental initiative in the energy sector and total absence of power security. These three thrashing challenges are bothersome as they are ravaging the emerging economy and survival of the current generation of Nigerians. Even by 2020 sufficient power supply in Nigeria would not be realised. In 2014 over 50% of Nigerians have no electricity at all. Even the privatisation of government assets in Power Holding Company Nigeria (PHCN), commonly known by other names such as 'Please have candle nearby', has not eased the intensity of darkness in Nigeria. Nigeria produces less grid electricity than South Africa, Brazil, and the Republic of Ireland. Why is Nigeria without any energy security policy? As a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and Africa's biggest economy, Nigeria's electricity supply policy should have been outstanding and productive by now. A country 100 years old, whose oil has been explored since 1908, yet it cannot boast of sufficient power supply in 2014 even as its GDP is rebased. After this oil windfall, how can Nigeria survive the imminent energy crisis that is gradually putting the international community at a restless mode?
Of all the emerging economies enlisted for expansion in the coming years by Goldman Sach's boss, Jim O' Neil, both in BRICS and MINT (coined by Fidelity investments but popularised by Jim O'Neil), Nigeria is the only economy without clear energy security policy. 'Of course the 4,000MW now being generated for Nigeria's population of 150 million is still far too low. In contrast, Brazil generates 100,000MW of grid-based power for 201 million and South Africa generates 40,000MW for 50 million. But the successful effort to increase power delivery by 35% has bought breathing space for the major reforms that are required to attract the investment needed to transform Nigeria's power sector and give Nigerian consumers and businesses all the power they need. We will cover these in a future article,' Guardian 2013 contends.
The UK House of Commons in a 2007 communiqué described the term 'energy security' as referring extensively to the pressures on ' energy supply from rapidly industrialising China and India, liberalising markets to produce interdependence between countries, protecting pipelines from attack and diversifying from fossil fuels to renewables'. This designation is not just practical; it also aligns with an International Energy Agency (IEA) report in 2006 which summarily defined two issues on energy security identifying them as very vital contingents of any harmonised energy policy programme: calming alarming energy insufficiency and minimalisation of the challenging energy supply chain at high prices partly due to trade liberalisations in the emerging economies. Other issues considered by the IEA regarding energy security are:
-The need to diversify production and consumption both by fuel type and by geographical location.
-The consideration of the critical levels of environmental harm caused by over-consuming fossil-fuel energy.
-The review of the demand in oil and gas which is increasing and thus detailed analysis of the disruptions and price shocks which strike hard on consumer satisfaction.
Energy is the engine of the world's economy. Electric energy influences economic growth as well. Nigeria loses over $130billion annually to its electric energy challenges. Economic growth in any nation's energy policy refers to an energy decision that will fuel growth and development via the economy. This means that when such a decision is adopted the country can benefit vastly economically in the long-run. Economic growth via energy refers to energy resources that can remain profitable while enhancing business and human life-span. In Nigeria neither solar, hydro, coal nor wind energy sources are functional, profitable, or efficient. The average Nigerian graduate and business person know that the power crisis is a great energy challenge depreciating the growth possibilities of the country's economy.
Also environmental and energy supply sustainability are crucial global matters at this point but totally absent in Nigeria. The Kyoto Protocol, the Copenhagen Summit and the popular climate change initiatives around Europe, America and Asia come to mind here. Energy economics, human life and environment, have always crossed paths in the developed world. The ExxonMobil Valdez oil spill, BP's Gulf of Mexico spill, and the multiple Niger Delta spills etc, are examples of how the quest for profitability has left the environment in tatters. There is a clear correlation between power supply, economic growth and environmental sustainability. Nigeria's environmental deterioration due to bad energy management is alarming.
An EDF report in 2008 argued that no particular energy source actually meets perfectly all the environmental questions in the energy policy harmonisation. This is understandable. Fossil fuels emit a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and will sooner or later run out; nuclear energy emits radioactive waste; renewable energy such as solar, hydro and wind are irregular and costly. The angry part is that none of the sources of energy is functional in Nigeria. Nigeria currently has an energy virus. There is no clear cut energy goal. The power privatisation programmes in place, grossly politicised, are void of any future.
The idea of environmental sustainability here is to build energy infrastructure that will not be harmful to man and the environment no matter how expensive it is. If Nigeria's oil finishes how will the country survive the ugly energy virus? There must be suitable sites for the new energy generating technologies, better planning and sufficient industrial capacity to support renewable energies and to replace the harmful energies that are encouraging global warming. Nigeria's government still do not have any working environmental sustainability policy. The future is uninviting. The bleakness of energy security in Nigeria is excruciating given that Nigeria is a country with numerous human resource capital, natural resources such as coal, water, solar, gas, wind, and crude oil that are badly managed.
In this atmosphere of insurgency and change where the lifestyles of men, women and children are altering speedily, in a century of surprises where the global village is indisputably modifying, there is a broader threat somewhat biospheric tagged climate change. Reading global warming and green energy scientists empanelled by different governments and international academic and corporate organisations on the impact of energy use on climate change and the looming threat that man-made greenhouse gases pose to the planet is pretty disturbing. In a contextual front, Nigeria as rich and poor as it is has remained dumb on the way forward for its green energy economy given the ravaging unchecked effects of climate change on the lifestyle of its citizens. Nigerians have witnessed flood, uncontrollable heat, pollution of all kinds; water pollution caused by oil, manufacturing and telecommunication companies, air pollution, land pollution caused mainly by solid waste. Unfortunately, the existential danger posed by climate change and the unimaginable grouse government silence on that raises make one worry about the future and security of the country's ecology as well.
The average African Nigerian does not understand the scope of the climate change problem. Some keep 20 private vehicles. Some keep 5 Generators. Some burn their bushes in the village. Some hunters set forests ablaze just to get animals out from their holes. Many still cook with firewood. Pure water bags and plastic bottles are thrown out everywhere. Gutters are filled with refuse. Oil companies pollute the waters with incessant spills. Gas flaring is ongoing in the Niger Delta as I write this. Some corporations leave their electric lights on 24 hours. Even in urban locations people leave lights on during the day. Yet, the atmosphere is changing rapidly. The weather conditions are getting prickly and messy. The atmosphere in Abuja, Owerri, Aba, Ibadan, Ilorin, Kano and Lagos, is so horrible. The level of food, water and air poisoning is horrific already.
Government should lead the way. Local governments must be encouraged to invest in recycling, reusing and in aggregate greening of the communities. They must take part in building economic growth in the energy sector, environmental sustainability and energy security. Nigeria does not have any current energy security policy due to bad government. However, does the problem have remedies?
What should the government do?
-Increase investment in forestation; cities should engage in tree planting. Build more ecosystems, more natural habitats that will serve as carbon sink. If not for Amazon Rainforests the earth would have been boiling. We need more trees in Nigeria. Stop deforestation.
-Reduce or stop importation of second hand vehicles, electronics and machines. Innoson should build smaller cars for Nigerians. Volvo, Nissan and Toyota should be encouraged to make cars in Nigeria as in other countries. Sony, LG, Samsung should be incentivised to launch products they made in Nigeria. Products cheaper and more durable for Nigeria's system can also be made in Nigeria. No more second-hand stuff that spoil easily and contribute to the pollution of the country every day.
-Invest in reuse, recycling and management of waste in Nigeria. Major cities in the country all smell of refuse and there is a bad strategy already in place on how to manage solid waste.
-Investment in solar energy. Government should take this as serious as possible. Entrepreneurs should also invest more in solar energy, as this will reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses and improve power supply in Nigeria.
-People are scared at the increasing showers of heat. Global warming is real. Government should invest in research on how to reduce the impact of global warming on Nigeria's urban and rural areas. Corporations must be charged to reduce dangerous activities such as gas flaring done in River State and Bayelsa state.
-Oil spill on water or land should never repeat in Nigeria. Government must take it up with Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil. They are damaging the country's water fronts. Strict legislations should be put in place regarding oil spills.
-Agriculture must be taken seriously in Nigeria. People should learn to cook with naturally cultivated plants. The dependence on canned and imported food must be minimised. The packaging for those foods endangers the environment when not properly recycled and of course the preservatives for canned food are not healthy.
-Invest in collaborative education, science and technology. Attract Japanese, Chinese technological colleges to build campuses in Nigeria. The Asian spirit is needed in Nigeria to stop this continuous breeding of engineers without real technological products to show.
-The energy virus can be cured by offering a 3E harmonised energy policy that will consider Economic growth, Environmental sustainability and Energy security. Such a policy will serve as a white paper that will enhance the energy restoration plan in the country.
-Some analysts argue that for the 3E's to be achieved in an energy policy the centralisation strategy makes more sense. No doubt decentralising energy distribution increases management tension and disparity. Whereas centralisation brings economies of scale and makes it easier to handle energy providers in the case of a major problem, yet it could cause monopoly. I think that given the need to diversify and quickly build new energy sources in Nigeria decentralisation is needed. Every shop or home may not be powered by Nuclear Plants, Gas Wind, Solar; the only real and workable strategy is a decentralised energy distribution formula. Some may want to power their house with hydro-energy. Let the six geopolitical zones plan how to power their zones.
- Should government build Hydro and Solar systems in every geopolitical zone? Yes. Decentralisation will increase private investments in several sources of energy in Nigeria and reduce the price of energy. Currently PHCN has continued to force Nigerians to pay bills they did not use. The privatisation of power supply must be followed with a strong monitoring programme.
I think that making laws on these few recommendations is not draconian. Implementing energy and environmental security programmes should be followed seriously. Our politicians and mostly governors and senators should stop sleeping around! Nigeria's energy virus is real.