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Renewable energy can provide 24 hours electricity for businesses, homes to drive the economy — Engineer Chukwu

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Engineer Anya Chukwu is the Managing Partner of LIFAN Energy Consult based in Ibadan Oyo state. He is an accomplished electrical engineer with over 30 years of experience in the Nigerian power industry. He majored in power system engineering and he is a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers registered with the Council for Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria (COREN). In his interview with Patience Ogbo, Mr. Chukwu talks about how to provide constant electricity for Nigerians and how to manage energy for business to drive the economy at the macro level among others.

What can be done as an alternative to the epileptic power supply in the country?

The solution is renewable energy. We aim to get 24-hour alternative energy for every Nigerian. To achieve this, we are approaching the banks and government to provide loans for people to buy renewable energy. From our research, the minimum requirement for a home is 10KVA at N6.5million at a go. One thing with renewable energy is the initial investment and not everybody has that money so we want to see if people can go through Cooperatives and the banks; the government to float something like a renewable energy fund for Nigerians to access to buy solar energy and turn, the person pays the loan installmentaly. Traders in the market belong to Cooperatives so they can access the loan, likewise, civil servants can get the loan and the money can be deducted from their salary. A person who collected a million loan can pay that money over thirty-six months without starving the family and that is the essence of our approach. We are still trying to hold a meeting with the Minister of Power to see if the government can float a fund for individuals.

How can salary earners and business owners benefit?

The government and the banks are the ones to fund this project. If the government can take care of the incentives, the banks will take care of the Cooperatives. There are many Cooperatives in the country. Take for instance the people who deal in the drinks cooling business, all they need is incentives for them to take a loan that will pay for their alternative energy while they are doing business, they are paying daily to the account they opened in the bank. That way, they can cool more drinks, employ more people, make good profits. Others like the hairdressers, tailors, barbers, the welders among others need constant electricity and with solar and our approach, they can have constant electricity supply for their businesses. This way, we are driving the economy at the macro level smoothly. Imagine when there is complete power failure due to the grid collapsing, then they cannot do their business or the alternative is to use a generator which is quite expensive but t with solar, businesses are not interrupted or disrupted at all. For instance, in Oyo state, if we convince the government to give each civil servant N5miilion for renewable energy, say from level 12 to 14, gets an N5million and from level 5 to 10 gets N3miilion each for renewable energy, the person in a two bedroom apartment will power his flat with electricity conveniently. The person who has 1.5KVA solar can listen to the news in the morning and the evening powers his television day and night but if you are talking about a home where you have two freezers and two fridges, then that person will have a minimum of 10KVA and that will ensure that the food in the freezer does not get spoilt. From 8 am to 4 pm, the solar will be fully charged and by 4 pm, you can switch off your fridges and TV and put on your fan which you can use all through the night. That way, you have generated twenty-four hours of electricity in your home but if you want to combine it with an air conditioner, then you need a higher capacity.

There are worries that renewable energy is expensive and not last, what is your take on this?

That is where energy management comes in. You will ask yourself; do you want to power your fridge and your television? Do you want to power your electric heater? there is also a solar heater which you can mount on your building. It may not be boiling but you can get warm water; that is why some hotels are implementing smart energy usage. People need to learn how to manage their energy. That brings us to smart housing. If you remove your key, all the electricity in the room will go off. People should invest in alternative energy like solar. For the trader who uses just electricity to see and a fan, they will need about N40,000 to N80,000 for their renewable energy. Since it is a market, it can be programmed in such a way that between the hours of 8 am to 8 pm, the electricity will be on for them to use but if there are some of them who have fridges, or freezers we can work it in such a way that the electric will carry only the fridge and the freezers overnight. From our research, when you calculate in a year how much a person spends on electricity, you will be shocked at the amount but because we don’t keep records, we don’t know. Whereas if such a person installs solar, he or she can graduate from six hours to 18 hours of electricity supply, let’s say someone should pay N6.5million, break down that amount per month and by day. At the end of the day with N1000 per day, you will have electricity supply for at least 18 hours per day. The problem is that people do not see this break down and secondly, who will fund it? If you have solar, you are not making any noise or disturbing anybody. If you have to run the generator to power your solar for two hours, you can use that solar all through the night, but calculate the cost of using fuel or diesel all through the night, it’s a lot.

Why is the initial amount for renewable energy high?

The cost of importation of solar equipment is high due to the high dollar rate and all the prices of solar panels, inverters, and batteries are sky rocking too. There should be a policy that will encourage foreign investors to produce solar equipment in Nigeria. There is also the need for the government to provide a conducive environment; tax reduction, and security. Let there be assurance that they can do their business without any hindrances. In a country like Australia, where there is a meter connected from your house to the grid, the meter records the energy you are generating, even your solar capacity if you increase it to 20KVA, you will be supplying the grid, so at the end of the month, they check the difference and they pay you but in Nigeria, they bill you to weather you lock up your house and don’t use the electricity. In 2004 when they contemplated selling the discos that is when they created PHCN, the World Bank recommended that the electrical losses in the system should be reduced to 4 percent which is why they introduced the HVDS High Voltage Distribution System. The benefit of the HVDS is that it will reduce vandalization; illegal connections will be taken care of.

What if there is not enough sun to power the solar cell?

The sun coming out of Nigeria is enough to power the solar cells. If you watch those foreign countries, like Canada for instance, they use solar and they do not see the sun like us so we have sun all year round. Don’t forget that when one person gets this alternative energy, the neighbours will come to the house to charge the phones so you can see that it has a multiplier effect on the community.

 

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