The net-zero carbon emissions ambition of world leaders is accelerating the global shift away from hydrocarbon-based energy sources and towards renewables.
Interestingly, many governments and agencies are making sustainable investments a strategic thrust and are using policies and incentives to drive innovation in renewable energy technologies.
Here in Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), is taking deliberate steps towards deployment of clean energy to reduce carbon emissions emanating from the sector.
The Commission’s executive commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Barrister Adeleke Adewolu, who recently dropped this noble indication said the Commission is committed to reducing the impact that telecommunications operation has on climate change and the environment while noting that the peculiarities of Nigeria’s electricity supply have resulted in the telecommunications sector being a contributor to carbon emissions.
Adewolu, who was speaking on arrangements to host an event to mark the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) in Abuja with spotlight on its regulatory initiatives on clean energy usage in the telecoms sector, stated that studies have shown that renewables and energy efficiency, boosted by substantial electrification, can provide over 90 per cent of the necessary reductions in energy-related carbon emissions. He said increasing the use of electricity sourced from renewables presents the best opportunity to accelerate world’s energy transformation.
The commissioner, represented by the executive vice chairman and chief executive officer, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, noted that the theme of the event is very apt this year, as we know the implication of the climate change disaster facing the world.
He said, “So, as a Commission, we are committed to reducing the impact of climate change. The telecoms sector contributes to global emissions, particularly when you realize that there are over 54,000 base transmitter stations powered, in some cases 24 hours seven days a week, by generators. You can just imagine the emissions from these.”
He explained that the Commission was already looking at introducing a policy to encourage ethical energy source, as part of the Commission’s commitment to safeguarding the environment for consumers and other users of telecom services, a move that is also in tandem with the process of actualising some of the key items of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In what has become a tradition in the Commission since 2017, when it declared 2017 as Year of the Telecom Consumers when it honoured telecom consumers by connecting with the global theme for the commemoration to celebrate the Day with landmark activities, the Commission has continued to promote consumer protection and enlightenment.
The theme of the 2023 edition of the Day is “Empowering Consumers through Clean Energy Transitions.”
According to the executive commissioner, in recent years, the Commission has introduced a regulatory framework on infrastructure sharing and collocation among the licensees which, he said, has encouraged operators to fully maximise their already-deployed infrastructure.
“By sharing infrastructure, some operators do not need to entirely build a telecoms site in an area where another operator had deployed one. With the challenge of inadequate public electricity supply in Nigeria, telecom companies rely on diesel-powered generators to keep their telecom sites live round-the-clock. But a regulatory framework such as infrastructure sharing and collocation is helping in this regard,” he said.
As investment in the renewable energy space expands, Agusto & Co anticipates that the world’s capacity to generate electricity from solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewables will grow significantly in the next few years.
In 2022, $472 billion was projected for investment in renewable energy, 44 per cent more than in 2017, when $326 billion was spent.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewables will account for about 95 per cent of the increase in worldwide power capacity by 2026, with solar photovoltaics (PV) alone accounting for more than half of the anticipated expansion.
Nigeria is not excluded from this pursuit of carbon neutrality, being one of the 195 nations that are party to the United Nations Paris Agreement – a pact that seeks to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, Nigeria has undertaken to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent between now and 2030 and to attain net-zero emissions by 2060.
However, Agusto & Co is of the opinion that Nigeria’s aspirations are rather lofty considering that the country is still grappling with inadequate electricity supply from the national grid as unmet demand is estimated at approximately 20,000 megawatts (MW).
With rapid industrialisation, population and income growth, this supply gap is expected to widen. The challenges confronting the Nigerian power sector are well documented, over-laboured and cut across the industry’s entire value chain. They were summarised by a World Bank study in 2020 where it was revealed that about 47 per cent of Nigerians lack access to grid electricity and those who do have access, face regular power outages.
Nigeria’s current energy mix is heavily skewed towards gas, with 23 thermal plants contributing 76 per cent of the total installed generating capacity.
However, years of underinvestment in the domestic gas market as a result of price controls, regulatory obstacles and pipeline vandalism have put question marks on the commercial viability of gas supply to the power sector.
Agusto & Co estimates that renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar) in Nigeria, which are frequently proposed as alternatives to gas, are still in their infancy and are not commercially viable on a sufficient scale to diversify the country’s energy mix.
Given its abundant and diverse natural resources, Nigeria is capable of producing significant amounts of clean and renewable energy (particularly solar energy).
The country is located within a high sunshine belt and has significant solar energy potential as a result.
According to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), the average annual daily sunshine in Nigeria is 6.25 hours. Nigeria’s Northern region enjoys average solar radiation of about 25.2MJ/m2 (megajoule/square meter) per day, with an average of 12.6MJ/m2 in coastal areas.
Wind speeds ranging between 2.5m/s and 6.5m/s in the Northern region of Nigeria, owing to the large expanse of dry land, also present opportunities to generate wind power, while biomass remains a potential and untapped source of bio-energy given the amount of waste produced.
While grid-connected electricity supply remains the cheapest source of power in Nigeria, it is not always economically efficient to construct gas pipelines and/or transmission cables to some remote villages with very little demand for electricity. Agusto & Co believes that this underscores the need to expand the current energy mix to include renewables.
Renewable energy plants can be constructed in remote areas as an alternative to running several kilometres of transmission cables, which are subject to vandalism. The poor and erratic power supply from the national grid also provides opportunities for small-scale renewable projects for individual households. Also, a decentralised energy production system is pertinent to address the transmission and distribution challenges plaguing the Nigerian power sector, which is provided by the use of solar energy. Nigeria’s market for electrification is ripe, with an estimated 215 million people and an annual population growth rate of 3 per cent.
Given the appropriate regulatory support, Agusto & Co forecasts significant investment in renewables.
Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source globally and many industry experts consider it to be the energy for the future with projections of as much as 85 per cent of global power output coming from renewables (mostly solar and wind) by 2050.
In its expectation, Agusto & Co hopes that with growing awareness of climate change and environmental sustainability, more Nigerian organisations will opt for renewables, driving their increased adoption – particularly solar energy – in keeping with the global trend.
This would place Nigeria firmly on track to effectively accomplish its national goal of increasing energy output sufficiently to overcome the domestic power supply shortfall and putting itself on a solid route to meeting its international commitment to achieve zero emissions by 2060.