Renewable Energy Sector: Discussing Green Energy in Nigeria with Anita Nana Okuribido

Anita Okuribido, affectionately referred to as Mama Renewable, shares her assessment of the renewable energy sector in Nigeria and explains what the advantages of using renewable energy, solar energy, green energy over more traditional types of energy are. She also explains what drives her to be so active in the renewable energy sector.

Interview with Anita Nana Okuribido, Chairman of Women Green Energy Institute

Anita Nana Okuribido, Chairman of Women Green Energy Institute

What has been the status of the renewable energy sector in Nigeria in 2020?

Recently, we have seen the awareness of the potential of renewable energy to meet the nation’s energy demand. Particularly, during COVID-19 in 2020, because of the lockdown, everybody was home, so we really needed a lot of energy to get around. We have had growing numbers of solar energy initiatives that have been faithfully implemented and have delivered great stability in service, particularly in the rural communities through the collaboration of so many other renewable energy stakeholders.

What has been your role in the renewable energy sector?

I am the immediate past president of the Council for Renewable Energy of Nigeria. I served for 6 years as the General Secretary and then another 6 as the President. Now, I am the Secretary of the Advisory Board of the Council. I am also the President of the Women in Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria. And just two years ago, Future Energy established Women in Sustainable Power Africa Network which I also chair. I wear many hats because the huge potential for renewable energy is mostly untapped. We need to make sure we demolish the barriers. We need these organizations to have a common voice through collaboration, mentorship, etc., so that we can have clarity in what we are doing in the renewable energy sector together with the government.

What is the progress and the future of the renewable energy sector in Nigeria?

Renewable energy is very innovative and it is a chain reaction. You have to take a step in one part of the renewable energy sector to take care of so many other challenges in the chain. That is why I am very passionate about it.

Through the National Energy Policy as well as the National Renewable Energy Master Plan, Nigeria is well positioned to upscale the use of renewable energy to meet the current energy crisis. We need to review the policies and make sure the policies have been implemented. If these policies are implemented, then we can operate seamlessly in a very friendly entrepreneurship platform. Just last year, in 2020, the federal government of Nigeria launched a solar power project. This is a program that is focusing on 5 million solar connections for the off grid communities as part of the economic sustainability plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. This solar power program is expected to generate an additional 7 billion naira increase in tax revenues per annum and $10 million in annual import substitution. My concern is for this program to be well implemented in such a way that women that make use of 80% of the energy consumption are well taken care of. That is why the Women in Renewable Energy Association is now collaborating with the Rural Electrification Agency of Nigeria. The federal government collaborating with the World Bank can afford to give some black women in a community this technology free of charge so that they can alleviate poverty and they can remove the drudgery in the lives of women. If we can give energy access to 25 million individuals, it increases local content in the off grid solar value chain and facilitates the growth of the local manufacturing and assembly industry. This green device will help them in their SMEs. Women in the community make up 80% of the agro value chain, the workforce, and 80% of SMEs in this country. When you bring everything together, that is about 60% of the GDP of this country. So, why don’t women have access to all the benefits? That is what I am fighting for with the group of women that I have worked with. This will also lead to the creation of 250,000 new jobs in the energy sector and about 50% of those should go to women. We also have some underserved communities and they need the provision of long term, low interest credit facilities. This also includes the qualified home solar value chain players, such as manufacturers and assemblers of solar components. It is all intertwined. It is a chain reaction. The stakeholders are going to benefit from it and then the end users are going to benefit from it on the private sector. Between late 2020 and early 2021, Daystar Power, which is a startup providing solar power solutions to businesses in the region, has secured $38 million in a series of investments. The investment was led by the Investment Fund for Developing Countries (IFU), the Danish Development Finance Institution, and additional investors included in the French Impact Infrastructure Fund. So, all these stakeholders have come together. The startup will use the funding to grow its operations in Nigeria and Ghana with an aim to expand to other countries such as Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, the funding will assist Daystar Power to increase its installed capacity to over 100 megawatts, catering to clients in various sectors such as financial services, agriculture, manufacturing, and more. There are other promising renewable energy startups providing stable solar home systems for rural, off grid homes and serving people without access to reliable electricity and revolutionizing the African markets. I also work with Siman Engineering Limited. They are also partnering with me to establish the first Women Green Energy Institute in Africa. We are working with the Academy to make women relevant in the green economy of Nigeria. Overall, Nigeria will only overcome our present energy crisis if she explores the abundant renewable energy resources in the country because we have a lot of potential. It is also interesting to see that in both private and public sector players and the increasing numbers on the part of investment and social economic development opportunities. Through Siman Engineering, we have seen a lot of innovation. We want to grow in the next five years to make sure that we have 1,000 youths being empowered in the local governments of Nigeria. This will significantly accelerate the country’s recovery from the economic downturn. The young mind is always looking for something innovative to do. With this initiative, the young ones will be able to stay back at home and find that greener pasture in Nigeria. The outlook looks promising going forward, particularly working with the youth and the women.

Can you explain in more detail the Solar Kiosk program in rural areas?

We have what we call the One Rural Community One Solar Kiosk program. In the kiosk, with the electricity to drive machines, the woman can have the freezers to store meats, chicken, vegetables, even cold drinks that she can sell to people in the hot season. For those who are into the viewing business, we have televisions installed in the Solar Kiosk and they can have the viewing spots. So many things can happen giving back to the business hubs in the communities.

What has been the response in country to the renewable energy industry?

I have had this dream in this industry for more than 10 years. Every day for me, there is something new coming out. I love to collaborate with men, with women, with the youth, even with children because we are going around to schools. It is so tremendous how these children when they give us feedback, they even are the ones that are actually giving the awareness to their own parents. Most of their parents do not know anything about renewable energy. These children go home and tell their parents they do not want kerosene stoves or kerosene lamps, but they want to use the solar lamp to do their assignments at home at night. When you go green, when you use green devices, you are mitigating climate change. So many things are happening according to the Sustainable Development goals. I want to bring a lot of players in to work with me so that we can achieve the zero net goal proposed by the UN. For us to achieve that zero net, we have to work every day, every second, every minute. We need to harmonize, we need to harness, so that we can have this ability and the clarity on what the result will be.

What are some of the other advantages to using this renewable energy, solar energy, green energy over some of these older, more traditional types of energy?

Thinking green, going green, and living green gives you good health. I am so passionate about going green because I discovered that you have energy, you exude energy when you start going green. Then, when you live green using renewable energy devices, green devices, you reduce the carbon emission in your immediate environment. For example, in Nigeria, we do not have access to a constant supply of electricity. Everybody goes to the market and buys a one kVA generator. About 13 million Nigerians have that device. When 13 million of such devices are running, you can imagine the carbon emission in the environment. If 13 million Nigerians would go to a one kVA solar device with no carbon emission, you can imagine how wonderful the environment will be. We need to use green devices because of our health and because of the environment. The second is the benefits to agriculture. Food security is very important. Apart from food security, in agriculture a typical agro value chain starts with water. If you do not have good water supply, you cannot do agriculture. With renewable energy devices, you have high yields. The best organic fertilizer comes from agro waste and we generate electricity from it. If mop up 30% of the agro waste in this country, that will take care of 30% of the electricity needs of this country. Agro waste normally will be burned off which emits carbon dioxide into the environment. In Nigeria, we still have not embraced mechanized farming because of the high costs. But when we use green devices for agricultural development, it takes away the drudgery. For example, the typical cassava agro cluster, when you cultivate, if you do not process your cassava within 48 hours it ferments because of the cyanide inside it. These women with their native wisdom know that within 48 hours, they have to start peeling, they have to start grating, they have to start removing the juice. It is a lot of work. How many cassava tubers can they process in such a short time? But with renewable energy and the green devices such as solar cassava peelers, solar cassava graters, solar cassava dryers, the women could actually work with thousands of cassava tubers in a short time and make it into tapioca, garri, and so on. We will keep working on this project using green devices for agricultural development. We have ones for plantains, maize, rice, etc. The rice is actually my favorite because we have so many rice communities in Nigeria. Now, we are going to work with stakeholders to mop up the rice husks and generate electricity. We also make briquettes from the rice husks to give the women clean cooking mechanisms so they do not use firewood or fell trees and cause deforestation.

What drives you to be so active in the renewable energy sector?

Renewable energy is very innovative and it is a chain reaction. You have to take a step in one part of the renewable energy sector to take care of so many other challenges in the chain. That is why I am very passionate about it. I am very happy to be in the green industry. The dynamic is such that it keeps my mind going. When we come together as renewable energy experts or stakeholders, our minds are always on what to do next to make ourselves relevant in the green industry.


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