I listened to Ted Turner, the founder of the Cable News Network (CNN), advocating for investment in renewables.
He thinks that investing in renewable energy is not only a wise financial decision but also an important step toward ensuring the future health of our planet.
This is true considering the rate at which companies, especially the oil and gas multinationals, are divesting their current fossil fuel investments, in order to invest in clean energy.
While these quick transformations are happening in the world energy market, there are several Nigerians who still do not believe that renewable energy, like solar energy, is an effective energy alternative.
To be honest, you can’t blame these people for their negative perception of renewable energy.
Some of them have had very painful experiences with solar installations for personal use, which never worked well.
I was at Port-Harcourt airport one day when a passenger was lamenting about how he had spent so much money on a solar system to power his house, which never worked well.
Because I understand the system very well and know that it works very effectively when it is adequately designed and installed, I probed further to understand the challenge he was facing.
From what I deciphered; he got a system that was poorly designed.
In addition, you would have noticed that most solar street light installations in the country do not serve for more than 12 months, with some of them lasting for just six months.
These concerns do not from the non-functionality of renewable energy products and systems, but from a fundamental issue with Nigeria and Nigerians.
From my observation, there are several factors that make renewable energy installations not stand the test of time in our dear country.
The first is the quest for cheaper products. Nigerians have a strong desire for cheap goods. Even government agencies and parastatals are not innocent of this, as they prefer the lowest bidders in contract awards. This has encouraged the importation of low-quality renewable energy products into the country.
In fact, the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), which is supposed to check this, isn’t doing a good job of it at all.
Over 70% of these products are imported from China and India mainly.
So, when you contact a Chinese manufacturer to produce these products for shipment to Nigeria, he/she will always ask you what grade (specification) you want. They usually have grades A, B, and C, with grade A being the best standard and the most expensive. This is why the same company will produce products that last for 5–10 years in Europe and America, while the ones produced for the Nigerian market do not last for more than a year.
The SON should, therefore, enforce the importation of only quality products into the country.
Moreover, a certificate called SONCAP (SON Conformity Assessment Programme Certificate) is given to importers, for every product that is brought into the country. This is an irony.
Another source of failure in Nigeria’s renewable energy sector is our highly unskilled workforce.
We have a lot of people who have little or no training, parading themselves as renewable energy engineers.
Because we don’t have regulations, they jumped into the field with little or no training.
In the USA, they have the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), which is the most prestigious and widely recognized certification organization for renewable energy professionals.
With a NABCEP Board Certification, you can work in the renewable energy industry anywhere in the world.
We don’t have such a board in Nigeria, which is why most renewable energy projects don’t work because of flaws in our design, product selection, installation, and maintenance.