On May 29, 2015, Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari in his inaugural speech promised to join the international community to combat climate change and other challenges head-on.
Environment enthusiasts were happy when Nigeria’s new minister submitted its country’s INDC to UNFCC. At the COP21 conference in Paris, Nigeria made an unconditional offer to end greenhouse gas emission by 20% and provide access to electricity by the year 2030. Nigeria joined majority of the 161 countries in support of the 1.5 degree ceiling of carbon exposure against the 2.0 degree promoted by most developed nations. The signing of the Paris Agreement purportedly marked the beginning of the end of environmental rascality and the commencement of a new sustainable environmental pathway.
Few months after the euphoria and emergence of the new government; it was shocking to hear from the Minister of Power that Nigeria will reverse to the use of coal as source of fuel to improve its electricity debacle. Similar announcement by the Emir of Kano and Aliko Dangote to build coal powered plants has clearly shown that Nigeria is towing a dangerous and decelerating course in an era propelled by clean and sustainable energy.
Will the additional coal and petrochemical powered plants reduce the amount of carbon exposure as agreed in Paris? Is there no other better alternative to power than outdated fossil powered plants? What is the cost implication of choosing dirty energy against renewable alternatives at the long run?
Coal fired power plants are the biggest source of man-made carbon emissions. A third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal. This makes coal energy the single greatest threat facing climate change, from mining to combustion. Apart from climate change coal also causes irreparable damage to the environment, people’s health and communities. According to experts, if more coals are used around the world, carbon emission from coal will rise 60% by 2030 thus undermining the international agreements to tackle climate change.
In 2014, Nigeria’s renewable energy improved following private input and government initiatives. That same year a study by Pew Research survey indicated that 65 percent of Nigerians were very concerned about threats of climate change despite economic stability.
This country produces over 2.5 million barrels of oil daily yet the masses are denied basic electricity supply. It boasts of the highest concentration of small-scale generators in the world and yet wallows in energy poverty.
Petrochemical alone has contributed enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere especially in the South East region where gas flaring has continued unabated. The numerous oil spills in the Niger Delta has rendered farmlands useless and the waters toxic further impoverishing rural dwellers who are mostly fishermen. Crude oil has done enough damage to our environment and economy. The abandoned coal mining sites left several years ago were not properly managed and they constitute serious health hazards to the surrounding communities.
Diversification can play a critical role in reducing vulnerability not only to supply disruption and oil price hikes but also to climate change. Many factors may be taken into account, such as costs, pollutants, energy demand, land use system and distribution. The Buhari government can determine what constitute its mix of energy sources in order to quick-fix the power problem but should not ignore the impact of such technologies to the environment and health of the citizenry.
Yes, Nigeria holds large coal reserves estimated to be over 2billion metric tons. It is also true that Nigeria is located in the equatorial zone and can receive over 85% of sunlight proportionately across the states. Our landmass of over 900,000 sq.km still has more unused areas where enormous solar panels can be deployed to tap the sun energy for power generation. Nigeria has the capacity to achieve 100% renewable energy (solar, water and wind) before 2040, if a master-plan is judiciously pursued.
Morroco, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa and Algeria are already leading the race to sustainable energy in Africa. South Africa has established itself among the top 10 countries in the world harnessing renewable sun energy with over 15 solar plants providing electricity to 80,000 houses. Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Bauchi can collectively harness solar power for all the northern states; Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River can harness onshore wind power. The area being encroached by the Sahara desert can be used for utility-scale solar farms which can also act as artificial soil covers thereby protecting the area from further drought.
Germany has been able to produce 78% of its total electricity needs from renewable energy. The German Energy Transformation is a master plan to significantly shift from fossil fuels. Germany consumes more power than Nigeria.
All the relevant factors are favourable to Nigeria and each geographic zone can harness those renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind, hyro) more prevalent in the area as clearly stated in our national Renewable Energy Programme. Renewable energy will not only provide clean and sustainable energy it will provide job opportunities for youths. We can move from zero megawatt to 100% renewable energy. Let us break free from fossil fuels.
The Minister of Power and the current government should as a matter of urgent importance terminate the idea of using coal to power our electricity and pursue a more environmental friendly alternative which are readily abundant.
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