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Adopting renewable energy in Nigeria

Engr. Abubakar Bahijjahtu

The need for a sustainable environment by reducing harmful effects of climate change has been overturned by global debates, calling for an end to human activities that contribute to the depletion of the earth as well as the health of the people. This fight against earth depletion and its harmful effects is no longer bizarre; it’s about adopting measures to phase out fossil fuels and cutting the emission of greenhouse gasses while ensuring energy security.

Renewable Energy Programme is one of the many alternatives chosen to fight the menace of climate change. In achieving this there have been sensitization programmes and advocacy campaigns by different environmental rights groups and non-governmental organisations to aid the adoption of renewable energy. It is an international consensus that the economic and environmental consequences of climate change are not evenly felt. Those who pollute and those who suffer are usually not the same. The attention that is drawn to disaster is also influenced by the status of the society or country in which it happens.

The expert’s consensus is that this fundamental shift in the way energy is consumed and generated must begin immediately and be well underway within the next 10 years in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change. The scale of the challenge requires a complete transformation of the way we produce, consume and distribute energy, while maintaining economic growth.

It is in line with this that the world and the international global regime has decided to respond by trying to put some measures in place and to do resource efficiency management to control the way the capital energy is used and the best measures to use in sustaining the environment.  This development led the Federal Ministry of Environment to put together the Renewable Energy Master Plan for Nigeria, initiated to fulfill its obligation as part of the African strategy on emission reduction and to address the challenges of moving towards clean, reliable, secure and competitive energy supply, which is long overdue.

Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat and can be replenished.
The Renewable Energy Master Plan in the country shows renewable energy can directly contribute to poverty alleviation by providing the energy needed for businesses and employment.

Renewable energy technologies can also make indirect contributions to alleviating poverty by providing energy for cooking, space heating, lighting and contributing to education by providing electricity to schools.  The renewable energy programme, which began in Nigeria in February 2012 was formally launched in Abuja recently under the supervision of Arc. Darius Ishaku, the Supervising Minister of Environment but it is yet to get the legislation to enable the programme assume the status of an agency.

In its bid to cut down on energy poverty, reduce the congestion on the national grid and improve the health of the people in line with achieving its set objectives under the renewable energy programme, the ministry also unveiled a programme tagged Rural Women Energy Security (RUWES). Arc. Ishaku said the project initiated by the Renewable Energy Programme of the Federal Ministry of Environment is targeted at under-served rural women with the aim of ensuring affordable and sustainable clean energy access to the rural poor.

Ishaku said that evidence suggests that widespread deployment of clean cooking stoves and solar lighting systems under the RUWES project with energy and combustion efficiency are improvements over traditional dirty fuel sources, which could also potentially help lessen adverse effect on human health, energy poverty, time and income savings and climate consequences.  He said it would also reduce black carbon emission by phasing out single-wick kerosene lighting and oily lamp through the introduction of small off grid lighting systems that use light emitting diodes (LEDS) and provision of household stand- alone solar solutions.

Engr. Bahijjahtu Hadiza Abubakar, the National Coordinator of Renewable Energy Programme explained that the programme was not only aimed at reducing the various health hazards many rural women were exposed to in the process of cooking, but also to enhance their economy as well as protect the environment from the negative effects of climate change.

Bahijjahtu while speaking to newsmen on the need to adopt the programme, said it is for the benefit of households as well as the government. “We should understand that it is a matter of saving life and also a matter of the economy, of how much the household will be saving. We need to position it as a matter of health, economy, and job creation,” she explained.

Faced with the choice of deadly, dirty, dangerous energy like firewood, coal, oil and nuclear power for cooking, the programme is also proposing the clean cook stove, which is safe, clean and has renewable power capacity. Bahijjahtu said: “We are introducing the clean cook stove because we want something close to what they are used to and to get them away from what is dangerous to their health.” She explains that some women cook breakfast, lunch and dinner with firewood and that is equivalent to smoking 3 to 20 packets of cigarette per day.

She stated that since the programme began in February 2012, over 1.3 million Nigerian women have been registered, adding that their target is to register 2 million people by February 2014. Meanwhile, the impact of the programme is beginning to be felt in some communities as explained by the coordinator.  She said about 600 homes in Mutum Biyu area of Gassol Local Government in Taraba State are now being powered by solar energy under the Rural Women Energy Security (RUWES) project in November 2012.

The youth of the community were also taught how to install the panels so that they will be able to maintain and take care of them, she said.
She added that other projects have also been ventured into, like setting up a solar powered skill acquisition centre that will be taking care of grinding and drying of agricultural products with solar energy for agricultural community but did not have 100% completion, for lack of fund.
Hon Zakari Mohammed, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs speaking to journalists during the 4th Annual Renewable Energy Day in Abuja, said the world is moving to renewable energy and Nigeria has all the natural resources in abundance and so should embrace it.

He also enjoined the media to up their campaign on renewable energy in the course of their public service. “When you tell them [Nigerians] how much it will improve the economy, how much money they will make and how much jobs to be created and of course how much years they will be adding to their age, am sure Nigerians will embrace it,” he said.

For Michael Sule, an educationist, the advocacy for the use of renewable energy is a welcome development as it will be good to our health and the ecosystem. It will help preserve our forests, which are being used for firewood exposing our land to erosion. “If we can adopt the use of solar energy which is cheaper to generate than a generator set, that will save our environment, health and money,” he stressed. Mary Onoja a housewife is of the opinion that clean cooking stove will help reduce the difficulties and dangers faced in using firewood but only if it is made affordable at the market.

According to John Isuwa, a civil servant, the concept of green energy in Nigeria will be difficult to adopt by people because there are far more worrisome problems in the country. “How do we achieve the green economy thing when we are still battling with poverty and political crises?” he said. The Energy Revolution 2012 states that renewable energy, smartly used, can and will meet our demands. No oil spills, no climate change, no radiation danger, no nuclear waste – simply energy we can trust. We can achieve a world with 100 per cent renewable energy.

Source: Daily Trust – http://dailytrust.info/index.php/environment/12972-adopting-renewable-energy-in-nigeria