Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Why alternate energy might not work in Nigeria

by Hazeez Balogun

The search for renewable energy is becoming a global quest. All over the world, the cost of energy is constantly on the rise. In the US for example a gallon on petrol has risen from $1.77 five years ago to $3.30 right now. Another reason for the ‘alternative’ search is the realisation that Carbon emissions is the major cause of global warming, and it’s effects are being witnessed across the globe. 
Hence, people, organizations and nations continue to look for ways to cost effectively develop or implement alternative energy solutions that would work side by side the regular or existing sources of energy and in some cases become complete replacements where energy is generated, stored and utilized independent of the typical grid.

(more after the cut)

In Nigeria today we have a very disturbing scenario where the awareness of these alternative sources of energy is increasing by the day and yet the rate of failed alternative energy projects is on the increase leading to disappointments, wastage and in some cases outright dismissal of anything related to alternative energy.

The good news is that the problem is no inherent in the renewable energy sources themselves but with the implementation which means that a well thought out and planned alternative energy project should deliver on all promises if executed properly.

The reasons why the implementation of these projects run into problems according to Nigerian energy expert, Afam Nnaji, are 'People' and 'Technology'. According to Nnaji, Without a comprehensive energy analysis it is impossible to get an alternative energy solution that will provide the required energy for the duration or autonomy required. So, unless an end user is ready to provide a complete list of electrical and/or electronic products including their power ratings that end user can never get a solution that will deliver on the need as it will simply boil down to gambling and hoping for the best.
Also, alternative energy providers: Just as a referee in a football match is limited to his/her understanding of the FIFA rules an alternative energy provider will provide or recommend a solution based on his/her understanding, knowledge, experience and professional integrity. If one or more of these is lacking then you cannot be sure of anything.

It is the duty of the alternative energy provider to ensure that the energy analysis is correct, that the battery bank settled for will deliver on the expected autonomy, that the battery charger (whether integrated or dedicated) will charge the batteries properly, that the power inverters are suitable for the project and that all these units/components will work properly and in a very safe manner.
Then we come to the very important issues of after sales support and warranty. Who pays for repairs or replacements? What is the typical response time? What is the maximum waiting time for repairs or replacements to be carried out? Without having answers to these questions the end user or client will simply be taking a gamble and when it comes to the initial capital outlay of alternative energy projects this is a huge risk unless of course money is not an issue.

So, it is clear that getting an alternative energy project up and running is not just a matter of prices and promises as a very expensive project could crash in a matter of weeks and more often than not unrealistic promises usually lead to huge disappointments and wasted funds.
Alternative energy makes sense and it is cost effective and reliable if handled by competent providers who will insist on a high level of professional integrity at all times.

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