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  According to, a cheap and steady power supply is a major catalyst of economic growth and job creation. No ...


According to, a cheap and steady power supply is a major catalyst of economic growth and job creation. No wonder all the states with the fastest growing economies in the US at present, especially in the manufacturing sector have one thing in common – cheap and steady electric power supply, among other factors. Common sense tells us that if your cost of production is low enough, your selling price will ultimately be lower than that of your competitors who are spending more production. In addition to the cost of labor, power constitutes a major cost to manufacturers. Nigerians have long grown tired of political promises that have failed to bear any meaningful fruits, hence, ploughing themselves deep into entrepreneurial ventures such as manufacturing all sorts of goods in China and shipping them back home. Others scour the world for locations where they can buy goods cheaply enough so as to make a decent profit at home.  In so doing, our epileptic power supply robs us of millions of jobs at home for goods that could be, and should be produced cheaply within our borders. Playing he blame game in regards to power supply has not gotten us far enough, so just as we devised means of sourcing for goods abroad, it is about time Nigerian entrepreneurs sourced for cheap power supply within Nigeria. 

A major problem with hydro-sourced power, which is the main source of electricity in Nigeria (and has been for ages), is that it is seasonal. As the rains dry out, the dams drop in levels leading to considerable decreases in power generation. This is not to say that hydro power should be shelved; not at all. As a matter of fact, diversifying the power sector by incorporating solar, wind and bioenergy components into our power generation system will help to plug the shortfalls that are bound to happen annually when the rains go on vacation. Abundant all-year-round sunshine in Nigeria suggests that solar power ought to be vigorously pursued. Having said that, one area that is barely tapped into in Nigeria and the rest of Africa is the Bioenergy sector. Before I go into the nitty-gritty of this, it is pertinent to mention that the bioenergy sector employed about 6.5 million people globally as of 2013, with hardly any of that in Africa. A major sub-sector in the bioenergy/renewable industry is ANAEROBIC DIGESTION. 

This simply refers to the use of naturally occurring bacteria to break down organic wastes such sewage, agricultural wastes (such as plant debris left behind after harvest and animal manure); municipal solid wastes, which include food-related wastes; industrial wastes such as wastes resulting from food processing etc.  These bacteria, which include numerous species and strains normally found in the digestive tracts of farm animals work in tandem to convert organic wastes to methane (biogas), a combustible gas which burns with the release of large amounts of energy. This energy can be used for cooking at the subsistence level or converted to electricity. Further, methane gas can be liquefied and used as liquid fuel for powering automobiles.

Globally, anaerobic digestion is expected to hit a market size of $US33 billion by 2022, with Europe, particularly Germany, United Kindgom, Switzerland and the Scandinavia dominating the market. The only national grid-connected biogas power plant in Africa took off in February 2015 in Kenya. The potential for anaerobic digestion in Nigeria is enormous. In Lagos alone over 8 million tonnes of digestible domestic waste is generated annually. This excludes sewage, which can be configured locally in septic tanks for the subsistent generation of cooking gas, or statewide for the generation of electricity. Currently, subsistence anaerobic digestion is serving communities in Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Burundi and numerous other African states, for producing cooking gas. 

Such initiative in Nigeria will significantly reduce dependence on wood and kerosene, with invaluable economic gains to families and the country at large. More importantly, commercial-scale Anaerobic Digestion stands to plug gaping gaps in power supply in Nigeria with ripple effects on the entire economy. The Nigerian economy is like a sleeping giant tethered to a cage. Every now and again, he wakes up, roars and threatens to break free but all to no avail. The government cannot and will not solve all our nagging problems. If the power problem in Nigeria is mitigated by at least 50% over the next ten years, there are indications that Nigeria’s economy will explode, literally (positively speaking, that is), on account of private entrepreneurial ventures that have been held hostage for years by our erratic power supply.

It is time for private entrepreneurs to vigorously pursue power generation and distribution form non-hydro sources in Nigeria. Nigeria is teeming with raw materials (wastes) for biogas production. As a matter of fact, the first group to establish a biogas generation plant in the country stands to make enormous profits, while creating jobs and wealth for many. Case in point, over 370, 000 people are employed in the Renewable Energy sector in Germany, the world’s largest renewable energy producer. Over 30% of Germany’s energy is derived from renewable resources. In Sweden, over 1363 GWh of electricity is generated from biogas, largely from sewage treatment plants. Across Europe a total of 13.4 million tonnes of oil equivalent of biogas was produced in 2013, with over 14, 500 biogas plants in the Euro Area. 

Clearly, these translate into enormous job opportunities for the youth, and mammoth profits for players in the sector. While the government has certain roles to play to get bioenergy/renewable off the ground in Nigeria, we as a people must take cue from Europe and Kenya to explore biogas production from resources that we are richly endowed with. The technicalities of setting up these plants have become far more simplified over the years and tested. Hence, now is the time to take a whole new approach to revamping our deplorable power sector. The private sector must make the most of opportunities that are begging to be exploited in the dormant renewable energy sector in Nigeria starting with solar energy and biogas production.

                                                            Written by:
                                      Victor Chinoo 

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