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Nigeria’s shift to renewables picks up momentum

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The vitality transition just isn’t simple to see in Nigeria.

Oil and fuel manufacturing continues to be the nation’s most necessary financial exercise, accounting for by far the most important share of Nigeria’s export earnings. The overwhelming majority of grid electrical energy comes from pure fuel. An enormous new oil refinery is about to change into operational. Diesel turbines stay ubiquitous. Electrical autos are nearly non-existent, whereas wind generators and photo voltaic panels are nonetheless rarities.

However the previous few years haven’t been type to the oil and fuel sector. Lengthy-running issues with theft and sabotage, alongside heightened perceptions of political and regulatory danger, have starved the business of funding. On the very time that international oil costs surged following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nigerian oil manufacturing dropped to its lowest degree in many years. A possibility for a significant monetary windfall was squandered.

President Bola Tinubu instantly introduced the removing of gasoline subsidies on taking workplace final Might. Motorists quickly noticed the price of gasoline enhance threefold. There may be little prospect of gasoline prices considerably receding any time quickly; even the long-awaited opening of the Dangote Refinery, which ought to scale back dependence on imports of refined gasoline, will solely make a modest distinction to the value of petrol on the pump.

Amid the skyrocketing costs of petrol and diesel, Nigerians are lastly taking a more in-depth have a look at the potential of renewable vitality. The nation possesses practically ultimate situations for photo voltaic vitality; in concept, at the very least, small-scale photo voltaic programs could possibly be deployed rapidly, serving to to increase electrical energy entry to tens of millions of Nigerians and lowering dependence on pricey and air pollution diesel turbines.

Blended image for oil and fuel

Nigeria’s oil sector has endured a torrid time over the previous decade. The crash in crude costs in 2014 depressed revenues for a number of years afterwards. However when an increase in costs accelerated dramatically after Russia’s assault on Ukraine, Nigeria was in no place to capitalise on the chance.

As an alternative, manufacturing fell to the bottom degree in additional than 30 years in 2022. Whereas this was primarily brought on by rampant theft from pipelines within the Niger Delta, it additionally mirrored sustained under-investment within the business. Worldwide oil firms have largely departed the Delta, retaining belongings solely in much less dangerous offshore areas.

The jury continues to be out on whether or not the Petroleum Trade Act, lastly handed in 2021 with the goal of bettering governance of the sector, will considerably shift investor attitudes. Shell is the newest to go for the exit; the corporate introduced on 16 January that it’s promoting its onshore Nigerian subsidiary to a consortium of native firms.

Oil manufacturing did rise barely in 2023 in comparison with the disastrous previous 12 months, though output stays effectively beneath the long-term common. Uwa Osadiaye, senior vice chairman at FBNQuest Service provider Financial institution, says that Tinubu’s authorities is specializing in attracting in funding in gas-rich deepwater blocks, because it seeks to place Nigeria as a fuel provider to Europe. Certainly, the outlook for fuel manufacturing seems rosier than for oil.

“There is a chance for a synergy to be made between Europe and Nigeria,” says Osadiaye. “We’re actually a fuel jurisdiction.”

Whereas there are two separate schemes for fuel pipelines to attach Nigeria on to the European market, Osadiaye believes that exporting fuel within the type of LNG is the “extra apparent possibility”. Certainly, one of many proposed pipeline routes, which might by way of Niger, now seems even much less viable following final 12 months’s coup in that nation.

In the end, Nigeria clearly has a chance to be a significant provider to the European market. Osadiaye estimates it may provide 10-20% of the volumes previously sourced from Russia. In the long run, nevertheless, Europe is transferring away from fuel; Nigeria must act rapidly to develop LNG export initiatives with a view to profit from the present interval of excessive demand.


Similtaneously decreased manufacturing noticed Nigeria miss the chance to extend oil revenues in 2022, the federal government was additionally left to foot a massively elevated invoice for subsidising the price of refined gasoline imported from abroad. The price of subsidy funds put Africa’s high oil producer within the weird place of struggling economically throughout an oil worth increase.  

A part of the rationale why the now abolished subsidy regime proved so damaging was due to Nigeria’s incapability to refine vital volumes of petroleum regionally. It exports uncooked crude, however then imports the extra helpful refined product.

In concept, the opening of the long-awaited Dangote Refinery – one of many world’s largest – will assist clear up this drawback. The $19bn facility exterior of Lagos was formally ‘commissioned’ by former president Muhammadu Buhari days earlier than he left workplace. In observe, development work just isn’t full, though the refinery did obtain its first crude supply in December.

Some expectation administration is required in the case of the impression of the refinery. Gas refined by Dangote Group will likely be bought at market costs. Refining regionally will scale back transportation prices, which, in accordance with Osadiaye, account for 15-20% of the whole value of the product bought to shoppers.

The constructive impression of the refinery won’t counteract the huge rise in gasoline costs, which trebled nearly in a single day following the removing of subsidies. In actual fact, the massive rise in gasoline prices raises questions over the long-term way forward for inside combustion autos in Nigeria.

“Impulsively, each possibility turns into an possibility,” says Olu Adeosun, former CEO of gasoline retailer Ardova and chairman of the Main Oil Entrepreneurs Affiliation of Nigeria. Whereas the federal government is eager on selling compressed pure fuel (CNG) as a long-term different to petroleum, Adeosun is sceptical that this technique is viable. CNG is “not naturally suited to automotive use,” he says, and would require massive and extremely complicated investments throughout the worth chain.

Adeosun is rather more constructive about prospects for electrical autos.

“I believe there’s quite a lot of traction there,” he says.

At first look, this seems to be a shocking assertion. In any case, there are just about no electrical autos (EVs) on Nigeria’s roads at the moment and public charging infrastructure is nearly fully absent.

However Adeosun says that there’s potential for the market to take-off fairly rapidly, significantly for electrical bikes, which he predicts could possibly be an improve on bicycles for tens of millions of highway customers in Lagos.

The town additionally launched its first two electrical buses final 12 months. A partnership between vitality firm Oando Clear Vitality and Chinese language bus producer Yutong is promising a complete of 12,000 such autos, although the realism of this pledge stays unclear.

Adeosun acknowledges there’s a “hen and egg sport” at current, with firms reluctant to be the primary movers in putting in charging infrastructure within the absence of clear demand. On the identical time, he believes authorities incentives will likely be crucial. However he’s optimistic that the EV market will in the end make a breakthrough.

“It’s coming – that’s my agency perception. It’s coming.”

Renewable rollout

Nigeria additionally faces large challenges in its energy sector. Some 90m Nigerians lack entry to electrical energy, in accordance with the nation’s Vitality Transition Plan, whereas 80% of the facility that’s generated within the nation comes from diesel or petrol turbines.

Restricted progress has been made in putting in utility-scale renewables that ship energy to the electrical energy grid. The nation’s largest utility-scale photo voltaic mission, commissioned final 12 months, has an put in capability of simply 10 MW (by comparability, South Africa’s largest photo voltaic plant has a 175 MW capability).

The scenario is extra promising for off-grid photo voltaic. A number of firms have entered the market to provide photo voltaic programs to companies or households, whereas mini-grids that generate energy from photo voltaic panels and usually serve rural communities are additionally rising in reputation.

A lot as the price of filling up a automotive has grown massively prior to now 12 months, the price of utilizing diesel turbines has additionally surged following the removing of subsidies. A scarcity of dependable energy is a big drag on productiveness, says Theophilus Nweke, managing director at photo voltaic system supplier Cloud Vitality. Companies which might be unable to afford energy undergo from “an enormous waste of man hours, an enormous waste of capital, an enormous waste of human sources”, he says.

Nweke says that photo voltaic programs could make a significant distinction, for instance with agribusiness enterprises that want reasonably priced electrical energy for chilly storage services. He tells us that Cloud Vitality has put in solar-powered mini-grids supplying energy to rice milling operations in Adamawa on Anambra states, that are serving to these companies to enhance their productiveness.

There are at the very least tentative indicators that demand for photo voltaic vitality is growing. Chioma Ome is the Nigeria nation director for Photo voltaic Sister, an enterprise that helps feminine entrepreneurs in promoting clear vitality merchandise together with photo voltaic gadgets of varied varieties in rural communities. She stories that rising diesel costs have had a significant impression available on the market.

“There was an amazing enhance in demand for different vitality,” says Ome. “Our girls entrepreneurs have really bought extra, made extra money … there was a constructive impression to their companies.”

The rise of photo voltaic?

Regardless of the tailwinds within the photo voltaic market, there’s a blended image throughout Nigeria’s photo voltaic vitality panorama. Lagos-based Arnergy, which acquired funding from Invoice Gates’ Breakthrough Vitality in its 2019 funding spherical, is among the most distinguished gamers within the photo voltaic sector. The rise in diesel value has been “completely internet constructive” for the enterprise, says its CFO James Fabola. Nonetheless, he says, “the flip aspect to that’s disposable incomes being hit”.

In different phrases, though the rationale for investing in solar energy, doubtlessly mixed with battery storage, as a alternative for diesel turbines is clearer than ever, struggling potential prospects merely can’t afford the up-front value. That is main firms to contemplate new enterprise fashions.

“It’s important to rethink your mannequin together with your engagement strategy,” says Fabola.

He notes that residential prospects usually favour a lease-to-own association, during which they pay for the system over a set time period. Business and industrial prospects, however, want an ‘energy-as-a-service’ mannequin, during which they merely pay for electrical energy with out ever taking possession of the system.

The fact that prospects want to have the ability to unfold the price of a photo voltaic funding implies that firms face new problems from having to evaluate their prospects’ means to pay.

“Given the place we’re headed, we now have to determine the way to minimise credit score dangers,” says Fabola.

Nweke echoes this level, noting that Cloud Vitality is within the technique of launching residential photo voltaic programs that prospects pays for over an 18–36-month interval. It’s essential, he says, to have the ability to assess prospects’ documentation; in some instances, the corporate depends on its neighborhood companions to gather paperwork and biometric information of different neighborhood members for KYC functions.

One other problem comes from provide chain bottlenecks. Photo voltaic vitality firms are reliant on imported parts, most of which comes from China. Olu Aruike, nation director for mini-grid developer Husk Energy, says that logistics and provide chain points at present current the “most crucial” problem for the corporate, which is aiming to put in 1,000 mini-grids over the following 5 years.

Whereas bettering lead occasions at ports and resolving different logistical hurdles is a part of the answer, there’s rising curiosity in growing an area photo voltaic panel manufacturing functionality. In actual fact, Nigerian firm Auxano Photo voltaic already has a small-scale manufacturing facility in Lagos with a capability of 110 MW per 12 months.

A extra dependable provide chain is essential if mini-grids, and renewable vitality extra broadly, is to make a significant contribution to fixing Nigeria’s energy difficulties.

“We’d like scale,” says Aruike. “We’d like firms who can do tons of of mini-grids yearly.”

He notes that mini-grids are an necessary a part of the federal government’s 30:30:30 goal, of deploying 30 GW of energy by 2030, of which 30% ought to come from renewable sources.

No-one would recommend that the event of renewable vitality in Nigeria will come rapidly or simply. Oil and fuel will inevitably dominate the economic system for a few years into the longer term. However the mannequin of counting on oil exports whereas neglecting different industries and leaving tens of tens of millions of Nigerians to languish with out primary requirements like electrical energy has run its course.

The basic logic of constructing use of Nigeria’s wonderful situations for renewable vitality, significantly its ample daylight to generate solar energy, is troublesome to dispute. The problem now could be to beat the headwinds going through the sector and permit the trickle of renewables to change into a flood.


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