How can an environment be sustainable, healthy and the people living in it be healthier? One sure way is when countries or governments begin to harness natural resources like renewable energy as an alternative means of energy generation to cushion the effects of pollution and climate change – a global challenge that is affecting the environment and health of man.
Renewable energy is energy gained from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat, which cannot be exhausted but replenished.
According to experts, it could also replace conventional fuels in four distinct areas like electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, motor fuel and rural (off-grid) energy services. Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity/micro hydro, biomass and biofuels for transportation.
Current projections from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) show that at least 70 percent of Africa’s 600 million people are not connected to the electricity grid. Instead, most are forced to rely on inefficient, expensive and polluting energy sources to power their homes and businesses.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that in Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and South African countries are leading in the renewable energy revolution. The advantages of renewable energy utilization cannot be overemphasized, especially to a developing country like Nigeria, where population growth is high with an increase in industrial activities, which results into environmental pollution and economic difficulties from more consumption.
Nigeria, for instance, is one of the countries that largely supply crude oil in the world, but still suffers setbacks in terms of access to electricity for their daily usage in homes and industries. A climate change expert, Amaefula, wrote that, only 40 percent of households in Nigeria are connected to national grid due to decline in power generation and energy lost.
The only renewable energy source Nigeria utilizes is hydro-power and biomass; where solar energy is minimally utilised for street lightening, mostly in the cities. The country relies also on fossil fuels, natural gas and oil, which are non-renewable – they dwindle, are expensive, and pollute the environment.
Hydroelectric power plants with installed capacity and those coming on stream cumulatively account for roughly 13,000MW, but the effectiveness of supply is less than 5000MW across the country.
Alex Uangbaoje, a journalist said, for Nigerian economy to grow, the country must invest in an alternative source of power generation, to at least an average of 200,000MW, stressing that the country currently generates less than 4500MW.
He said inadequate power supply has affected his work negatively, since his gadgets rely on power to work, noting that, its absence made him incur more costs in terms of buying fuels to power a generator.
Similarly, Barde Luka, an Engineer, says, “Today, most of our reliable sources are hydro; that is why when it is dry season, power generation drops; hence the need to particularly utilize the wind to generate energy (electricity) so that, businesses that contribute to the economic growth would not pack up.”
He also noted that with the exploitation of renewable energy as alternative energy sources, it could go a long way in addressing climate change and environmental pollution.
In a chat with our Correspondent, Yakubu Ahyock, a Computer Engineer, said, “Imagine a steady power supply in the country – it can boost jobs and revive the local industries. Many youths would be gainfully employed in one way or the other because smaller industries would spring up and excel.”
According to him, Nigeria is blessed with various natural resources that, if utilized accordingly, each region can explore its endowed resource to generate energy, which can go a long way in solving the lingering energy crisis experienced in the country. He said, it can boost agriculture in rural areas and enhance development.
An environmental scientist, Suleiman Zubair Abdullahi, said when renewable energy are harnessed, it has less impact on the people and the environment, stressing that, moving into the path of renewable energy is a major path for climate control, not only providing energy.
He noted that, they are sustainable and very easy to maintain if the government can invest in harnessing them from their natural source. According to him, Oil has been the number one resource of Nigeria, which its exploration has negatively impacted the environment like the Niger-Delta region where there are oil spillages that have affected the availability of farmlands, water (for drinking) as well as the atmospheric conditions from gas flaring, resulting to climate change.
“By trapping flaring gasses from NNPC, offshore/onshore oil exploration, they can be used as resources of energy to reduce its effects on the atmosphere.
“Also, we have natural energies that can be harnessed and replenished naturally without exploration; all that is needed is for government to train people on how to harness, revitalize this energies to fight climate change and bring the environment to its natural state.
“Sustainable development does not mean that the environment should be protected and sustained or should not be developed, but there should be a control in such a way that the environment is not tampered with, polluted, or contaminated,” he added.
Zubair further explained that, a whole country or particular community can be powered naturally with renewable energy without any combustion of gas, (almost 0.001 pollution); hence, making the people and environment healthier, outbreak of diseases controlled.
According to him, “This is because the carcinogenic, mutagenic and terotogenic chemicals that come majorly from pollutants as a result of combustions or reactions of gas are being controlled.
“By the time these smokes/gases emitted (carbon emission) react with natural gases in the atmosphere, the reactions lead to so much perforation of the ozone layer; at this point, we will begin to have ultraviolet rise coming to us, which could result into different kinds of diseases and health problems such as cancer (among others). These gases that circulate in the earth surface are contaminated, and the water we drink are also polluted.” he noted.
The environmental scientist further pointed out that in some communities in Northern Nigeria, there is a scourge of Dengi fever, which is caused as a result of climate change. He noted that a recent research found out that Dengi fever is caused by a special mosquito form Asia. “Before now, we don’t have Dengi fever in Nigeria, but ordinary malaria; now people are losing their lives more from malaria than before.
“It started emanating as a result of climate change because it was not experienced before. As it is now, there is so much proliferation all over the north and even in the south-western Nigeria, where the issue of typhoid and malaria is high. They are not just ordinary malaria. Dengi fever can easily kill within the shortest period. If you notice the mosquitoes these days, they are not the types we used to have in the last ten years; they are black mosquitoes not as big as the ones we had; they are terribly dangerous.
“Government needs to do more, look for its source, cause, and control it so that it doesn’t spread, by fumigating the environment.”
He, however, tasked government to explore other renewable energy sources and be proactive in implementing its policies on power, energy, and environment as well educate the people on the benefits of keeping, maintaining, and protecting the environment, in order to have a sustainable, healthy environment and people.
Nigeria had a target in 2007 to produce 7% of its year 2025 energy needs from renewable energy with solar and hydro as the major priority.
Based on a report by Charles Opara-Ndudu, Nigeria has the potential to exploit its abundant solar energy resources considering its geographic location around the equatorial sun-belt – receiving abundant sunshine all-year-round, ranging from 6.70kwh/m2/day in Borno State to roughly 4.06kwh/m2/d to 5.86kwh/m2/d in locations such as Calabar in Cross Rivers State.
In states like Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto, the abundant natural winds can be trapped into windmills to generate energy.
From the NIMET’s info sheet, Nigeria is endowed with an annual daily sunshine that is averagely 6.25 hours, which is ranging between about 3.5 hours at the coastal areas of the northern boundary of the nation, and also has an annual average daily solar radiation of about 3.5 KWm2/day in the coastal area, which is in the southern part, and 7.0 KWm2/ day at the northern boundary.
Nigeria receives about 4909.212 kWh of energy from the sun, which is equivalent to about 1.082 million tonnes of oil; this is about 4000 times the current crude oil production per day, and also put at about 13 thousand times of daily natural gas production based on energy unit.
It is estimated that when 1% of Nigeria’s land area is covered with a solar technology of 5% efficiency, about 333,480MW of electricity may be produced at about 26% capacity factor. This electricity generation capacity will be more than enough for the country, up to year 2050, that will conveniently support 11% -13% economic growth rates, as envisioned by “Vision 20:2020.”
This level of solar radiation across the country can support huge deployment of solar and wind power infrastructures designed to primarily feed into the regional power distribution entities, which would add up to the national grid, offering a much more affordable, practical and healthy solution that could boost the economic and enhance healthy environment.
Most renewable energy comes either directly or indirectly from the sun. Sunlight – or solar energy – can be used directly for heating and lighting homes and other buildings, for generating electricity, and for hot water heating, solar cooling, and a variety of commercial and industrial uses as well as be valuable for rural usage where supplying electricity from utility line could be expensive.
The sun’s heat also drives the winds, whose energy is captured with wind turbines. Then, the winds and the sun’s heat cause water to evaporate. When this water vapor turns into rain or snow and flows downhill into rivers or streams, its energy can be captured using hydroelectric power.
Recently, Nigeria’s Minister of Power Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, in a write up revealed that Nigeria is engaging with countries like United Arab Emirate (UAE) and China to bring significant investment into various areas in the electricity sector. He noted that Nigeria would engage with UAE to bring solar power to the country at an attractive price, while China has signed collaboration agreement with Nigeria in the area of power infrastructure development.
He also revealed that, the country is also developing an energy mix that will explore renewable energy potentials in the country, given consideration to location of the power production facility in relation to the source of power by developing solar projects in Northern States like Jigawa and Kano, which have been identified as the most prolific solar area in the North.
In the North-Central Zone, the energy mix in that area will be a combination of solar, hydro and coal. In the South-South and South-West, it will largely be gas. In part of South-East, it will be a combination of gas and coal.
According to him, “the development would be a major boost for made-in-Nigeria goods for which the markets in the area have been famous.”
With what government pronounces every day, there is need for the Ministry of Environment and Power, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Energy Commission of Nigeria to take proactive measures on policies pronounced on renewable energy technology, by taking full advantage of the natural sources it has to boost her power generating capacity through adequate investment and collaboration with relevant local and international bodies to bring it to fore.
Renewable energy is clean and pollution-free and, is therefore, a sustainable natural form of energy, unlike the nuclear and fossil fuels plants.