Monday, October 12, 2009

It has become cliche to complain about Nigeria's power problems. The recent discussion on the potential government ban on imported generators, and the ire it created raises even more questions about power generation and the needs of businesses and individuals. It is definitely time to rethink Nigeria's approach to the creation and supply of electricity. Consequently, I now believe that Nigerians and its leadership should be discussing the possible benefits of a modern smart grid and not a power generation goal of 6000 or more megawatts.

As noted previously, Nigeria is struggling to supply domestic electricity demands and that creates problems not just for individuals, but for the businesses, big and small, located in the country. According to the Wall Street Journal, "[b]ig companies like Procter & Gamble Co. and Coca-Cola Co. have resorted to running generators to provide power to 100% of their operations, pushing costs in Nigeria 10% and even 20% higher than in neighboring countries, executives say. Other foreign companies have pulled out of Nigeria, citing high energy costs as one of the primary reasons for doing so." These facts do not even reflect the energy costs spent by small business owners or individuals. Furthermore, according to the government's 2008 estimates, the nation needed $85 billion to revamp its power sector. That amount has undoubtedly gone up since it was announced and continues to do so.

So, why isn't Nigeria talking about a smart grid? Smart grids are modern electricity networks that deliver energy to end users via automated digital technology. They are energy efficient, thus reducing cost by billions and increase reliability and transparency. They increase the cooperation and connectivity between various sources and suppliers of energy from hydro-power to thermal, or nuclear to coal. Smart grids are the energy picture of the future and various nations and municipalities have staked their claim on them. The U.S. Department of Energy specified the benefits of smart grids as follows -
  • they detect problems and automatically solve them (self heal), 
  • customers can easily access usage and other information (visibility), 
  • resists security attacks, 
  • "provides power quality for 21st century needs", 
  • "accommodates all generation and storage options", 
  • encourage innovation and is highly efficient.
IBM is currently building a smart grid for the island nation of Malta for a cost of $90 billion and it will be delivered in record time - 2012. However, parts of the U.S., like Dallas, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado have been using smart grids for many years already. By request of President Obama, the U.S. government is considering creating a national smart grid with its Senate conducting panels and research. Even Nigeria's West African neighbor Ghana has jumped on the smart grid bandwagon. It has hired BPL Africa to update its 11KV Volta River Authority system. The upgrade will expand capacity for amongst other things CCTV security systems, broadband and VOIP technology.

Illustration of how a smart grid supplies energy to a home.

A smart grid in Nigeria will help ensure that the various means of energy generation proposed by or already in existence work together seamlessly to the benefit of businesses and individuals. Currently, Nigeria generates electricity primarily via hydro power and oil, but plans to use coal and liquefied natural gas. It could also employ solar, wind and possibly, thermal energy, and if it revived its now defunct nuclear power program, it could take advantage of that as well for energy purposes. The upfront cost for a national smart grid project would be high, however, the long term benefits would be infinite. The most important benefit would be an electricity grid that provides power to energy starved Nigerians and affords businesses the opportunity to be competitive with their foreign counterparts.

If, however, the federal government is incapable of using 21st century solutions to tackle the nation's electricity issues, specific state governments can be lobbied to consider and create their own statewide smart grids. State governments with proven records of progress such as Cross Rivers or Lagos, can be persuaded via strategic pressure to plan for a statewide smart grid. (The states targeted must be states in which there is evidence that state leadership positions are not gained via rigged elections, in order to ensure that officials will be held accountable by their constituents, and thus work hard to retain their seat.)

In fact, any state with a smart grid would have an incredible competitive edge over all others and that could be used to bring in more foreign direct investment, tourists and other things that will benefit the state's economy and possibly have an exponential effect on other states in the country. Additionally, the intellectual capacity and skills introduced by a smart grid would equally help advance technology, another benefit for any state that would take upon this worthwhile challenge. A state like Lagos, whose 2007 GDP was higher than many African countries would be able to to compete with nations like Ghana where businesses have resettled after leaving Nigeria due to high energy costs.

A national smart grid or a collection of state wide smart grids are not beyond the reach of Nigerians. However, the effort needed to have these grids built must come from the people themselves. The benefits to individuals and businesses alike make smart grids a necessity for any country truly invested in preparing their people for the energy needs of the future. A group like Light Up Nigeria or other interest groups in the nation, would do well to advocate this vision of an energy sufficient Nigeria. I, for one, believe that smart grids should be the focus of all future electricity plans for Nigeria.

Hattip to Green Research and Amara Nwankpa, a brief discussion with whom generated this post.

From The Archives:
- Banning Generators in Nigeria
- The Mission To Light Up Nigeria (#lightupnigeria)
- More Solar Energy Plans
- Solar Energy Plans
- Could Coal Be A Power Solution For Nigeria
- Nigeria Is Full Of Gas
- Power Blackouts Loom Across Nigeria
- Nigerian Power Scandal: Authority Stealing
- Who Will Develop Nigeria?
- Who Will Develop Nigeria Pt. 2

AddThis Feed Button

3 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

KT said...

When I think of Nigeria's power sector problems, I also think of Solar and Wind Energy which are within our reach, but like you said here, the main problem is true federalism that will allow each state develop at its own pace towards whichever power solution suits their economic and technological need.

I have heard that Six Flags Inc would be bringing their Amusement Parks to Nigeria. I still don't know how they intend to make it work without a sustainable source of electric power.

Great post. #lightupNigeria.

Beauty said...

So, Procter & Gamble Co. and Coca-Cola Co. have resorted to running generators to provide power to 100% of their operations? They pollute our environment with business as usual while our Info minister goes after Sony for speaking. Yes, It is time to rethink Nigeria's approach to the creation and supply of electricity but what happens in the thinking that turned into talks? See NEXT news report below:-

A Nigerian engineer, Jude Igwemezie, has won a $500 million contract to build a monorail network in Iraq.

Mr. Igwemezie, who said he has been involved in negotiation with Nigerian officials in the last 18 months to construct several rail lines in the country, disclosed that it took “only two months to get the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) executed with Iraqi officials”.

Why 18 months when 2 months would do? So that, every clever so called big man get a huge piece of the cake meant for all. Now, that is a real 419!

Nigeria cannot talk about a smart grid until the initial condition is fixed. The corruption that allows speeches and glorious intentions to run a country of 140M. A smart grid needs a smart champion. Least I forget, God will provide.


@ Kola: Thanks so much for stopping by. Indeed, Six flags is coming to Nigeria. I think I sent out a tweet about that one some time ago. Anyway, an operation like that would indeed be running its own electricity supply, though details on that aspect of the contract are yet to be released, when last I checked. Definitely, there is little way they would risk their brand and customer security to the whims of electricity supplied by the FGN (though I hear power problems are not as bad in Cross Rivers as in other parts of the nation).

Let's see what happens. What is for sure is that as a nation, we need to have a true vision on what our energy future is going to look like despite the chaotic way it looks today. Hoping that the geniuses out there are working on these issue already. Actually, knowing Nigerians, all it takes is the right environment for those who truly care about the nation's future to put an idea like this and other positive ones to work.

Thanks again, for stopping by.

@ beauty: 'nuff said. To add anymore to what you said would be foolhardy. Hence, I won't. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

Post a Comment

Get curious...share your thoughts, long and short. But, do remain civil.