A social entrepreneur and fellow of the Ashoka – Lemelson International, Mr Joachim Ezeji has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to build resilience in the nation’s energy sector by supporting the renewable energy sub-sector. Mr Ezeji opined that meeting the country’s energy needs will require a broad mix of energy sources and this naturally should also include renewable energy as a complement to the hydro and hydrocarbon sources currently in use in the country.
Mr Ezeji bemoaned the nation’s continuing reliance on both hydrocarbon and hydro energy sources when inevitable circumstances have shown again and again that they are vulnerable to changing climate and economic recession. He therefore challenges the Federal Government to set the target for itself or lead the challenge in the West African sub-region in renewable energy development.
Mr Ezeji, a geologist and chartered environmentalist is piqued that at present, it is generally unknown how much of the nation’s energy comes from renewable sources; querying “Tell me just how are we going to get there, that is being among the world’s top 20 economies in the next 10 years?”
Mr Ezeji who is also the Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Nigeria Renewable Energy Association suggested that in focusing in the sector, the government should mobilize and motivate the private sector through a lot of incentives as well as setting the appropriate research momentum through the universities and the national academies especially the Nigerian Academy of Science, the Nigerian Academy of Engineering, and the Social Sciences Academy of Nigeria.
Also he suggested the setting up of a multi-stakeholder process to enable the drafting of an appropriate policy for the sector which should include proposals on regulating the sector as well as providing guaranteed income per unit of useful renewable energy produced by sector entrepreneurs. According to Mr Ezeji; “Nigeria needs a simple and coherent policy with coherent tariff levels. I say so because there is every need to achieve cost efficiency and large scale deployment of all renewable energy technologies in the country, particularly through the private sector”. Mr Ezeji insisted that all relevant technologies should be promoted and made eligible, including geothermal, biofuels and waste – to – energy technologies alongside the obvious technologies such as solar etc.
Mr Ezeji revealed that his company; LatrineTec Ltd plans to develop a pilot Biogas plant in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of eastern Nigeria. The plant according to him will utilize the large amount of sewage and domestic wastes in the city to generate both electricity and cooking gas. In his words “Using waste materials in this regards has the dual benefits of ecosystem well being and sustainable energy provision. For example, Mr Ezeji pointed out that each biogas unit installed per household will possibly help save around 1.29 tonnes of carbon dioxide per household per year from being emitted, which equates to the total carbon emission in a flight from Lagos, Nigeria to Surabaya in Indonesia.
Mr Ezeji stressed that one key underutilized energy resource in Nigeria is organic waste matter which can be converted to Biogas. According to him “There is overwhelming need to generate and use all biogas for electricity purposes”. Also, he said that relevant incentive or grant by the Nigerian government such as the Clean Energy Cash back Scheme in the UK will open a new era for micro generation from which businesses, communities and homeowners can all benefit. This he said should be designed to act as a financial incentive to install low carbon electricity generation technologies aimed at organisations, businesses, communities and householders. Mr Ezeji pointed out that in the UK it is expected to support 750,000 small scale low carbon electricity installations by 2020, and save 7 million tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.
He lamented that in the country, that the use of biomass fuel such as firewood, agricultural residue and animal dung – in traditional open-fire stoves is still the prevailing method for cooking and heating and that Nigerian children especially those resident in rural areas miss up to 3 days of school per week to gather firewood. “The use of wood fuel for everything from cooking to heating is one of the biggest problems in Nigeria” Mr Ezeji said.
According to him, when wood is burnt it becomes hot and releases gases which account for a large amount of the energy and heat produced. As cooking takes place every day of the year, most people using wood fuels are exposed to levels of small particles many times higher than accepted annual limits for outdoor air pollution. Combustion of wood fuels in open fires or traditional stoves results in very high levels of indoor air pollutants (IAP), principally particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO).
Mr Ezeji also identified a number of other dangerous chemicals including nitrogen oxides, benzene, butadiene, formaldehyde, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons as coming from burnt wood fuel. These gases and particles lead to respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affecting primarily the women and children.
Mr Ezeji pointed out that responding favourably to renewable energy by developing and adopting a national policy in this regard will help boost the 21st century development aspirations of the country. He underscored that renewable energy projects reaps from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), set up under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which allows industrialized countries to meet part of their commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by investing in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries, while also contributing to the sustainable development needs of the host country. Projects registered under the CDM can earn saleable Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) credits, each equal to one metric tons of carbon dioxide. “Nigeria should lead Africa in this regard based on its large size” Mr Ezeji said.