It is a week to the start of the 2015 General Elections, starting with the presidential and National Assembly polls next Saturday followed by the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections on the 11th of April. There are many issues that have defined these elections for voters and candidates: insecurity, corruption and of course, our perennial power problem.
Let us look at the facts for power: Nigeria so far has an installed generation capacity of about 9,000MW and a transmission capacity of about 6,000MW. This means that even if we were to generate at full capacity, our national grid will collapse as it cannot carry all of the power. So in some twisted kind of way, it helps that our peak generation has been hovering around 4000MW.
But let us delve further into the facts: even the full installed capacity falls way short of the current demand of 40,000MW, which is estimated to quadruple to 160,000MW by 2030. That is a lot of power that needs to be generated, with the accompanying transmission network and distribution infrastructure. No matter what angle you look at this problem from, it is a herculean task that will take time and loads of money to solve; for example, an estimation puts the cost of generating a megawatt of power at $1m – which means we will need $30bn to meet the current demand.
Rightfully, the presidential candidates and parties, especially the two major ones have been articulating their ideas for solving this gargantuan problem, and the voters have been following as well. The debate between them seems to be on whether to focus on building large power plants that generate loads of power or build and allow smaller power plants to be built that will not be connected to the national grid.
However, it does seem that apart from the presidential candidates, candidates for other offices are mute about how they will solve the power problem in their localities or be creative with power solutions.
Heartwarmingly enough, solving this is not rocket science because there is an easy and readily available resource that they can use – renewable energy, or more specifically, using solar energy.
Governors and legislators can install solar-powered boreholes in their states and constituencies in order to pump potable water for residents. They can also install solar-powered streetlights and lighting projects in places where they are most needed. Even importantly, they can subsidize the installation of solar panels for businesses to install, which will help in reducing the cost of power for small businesses that currently rely on petrol-powered generators that are expensive to run.
Not only is using solar energy cheaper, it is far more sustainable. It causes no harm to the environment – there is no noise and no emissions, which does not put our health in danger.
It is about time that we extend our questions on what those running for every office on what they can and will do with regarding power, especially using renewable energy.
I leave you with a short video that illustrates how community action forced a political office holder in that direction and the immense benefits the people enjoyed.