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Decarbonizing Nigeria is feasible—Wärtsilä MD

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By Abraham Adekunle

Energy company provides report on building 100% renewable power system by 2060.

At a meeting last week in Abuja and Lagos for the 2023 Energy Transition Forum, Nigeria leading energy experts have outlined the country’s roadmap to decarbonisation and discussed what it will take to deliver universal access to clean energy for Nigerian households and businesses. Speaking in front of senior representatives of some of Nigeria most prominent private and public organisations, Wale Yusuf, Managing Director of Wärtsilä in Nigeria, explained how the most advanced studies had shown that decarbonising Nigeria was not only feasible, but that it could also be done in a way that lowered the cost of electricity going forward.

Yusuf said that many Nigerians still think that a renewable energy-based power system is expensive and unreliable, but it doesn’t have to be. On the contrary, he is confident that the country can reach universal and reliable access to low-cost clean power provided that the sight of the big picture strategy is not lost and the country endeavours to develop the power system in logical steps. According to him, all the technologies needed for a net-zero power system in Nigeria are already a reality. These include renewables, energy storage, balancing power plants, and sustainable fuels such as green hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol.

Nigeria needs smart planning and a transparent government to achieve this.

He said that these are the key ingredients needed to achieve Nigeria green electrification goals. When these technologies are combined in an adequate fashion, they deliver the lowest cost of electricity. He said that smart planning, strategy and transparent government regulations will do the rest. He added that wind and solar are by far the cheapest source of new electricity available, so their massive deployment is what will significantly bring the overall system costs down.

But as the share of renewables increases in power generation, the volatility of the system will surge, he explained. “That’s why grid flexibility is going to be the true cornerstone of Nigeria decarbonization efforts,”. In other words, as wind and solar grow to become the dominant source of energy, their intermittent nature will need to be compensated by flexible power capacities to ensure that the supply of electricity always matches demand. Flexibility in the grid comes from balancing power technologies, namely energy storage and engine power plants, which help avoid unnecessary stress on the power system.

Report details how to achieve full electrification by 2060.

To meet the explosive growth of Nigeria electricity demand, the managing director explained that the country’s power infrastructure must also be quickly expanded and modernized, both in terms of generation and transmission. “Bridging our infrastructure gap will require the union of different market forces: financing institutions both multilateral and local, government planning and private capital involvement,” he said. In 2022, Wärtsilä released a report which provides a detailed and realistic roadmap showing how Nigeria should proceed to build a 100 percent renewable energy power system by 2060.

In the report, the organisation posited that Nigeria has everything it needs to successfully accomplish its electrification goals. It is gifted with fantastic solar energy resources, but it also has significant and largely untapped gas resources. Gas is a key transitional energy source that is set to play an important role in the country’s electrification. This is why the gas infrastructure must also be rapidly ramped up. Cheap domestic gas is necessary to fuel the flexible engine power plants that the country needs to balance a renewable grid in the short and medium term.

Future fuels are becoming a reality in Africa.

Also, engine power plants offer the significant advantage of being able to run on different fuels, from natural gas and heavy fuel oil, to locally produced green hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol as they become competitive and broadly available. In this sense, they are the ultimate “future-proof” technology, meaning that they are an ideal foundation on which a fully carbon neutral power system can realistically be built. Future fuels are quickly becoming a reality in Africa. Examples are the very large-scale green hydrogen and ammonia plants, powered by renewable energy, which are already being developed in South Africa by industry consortiums.

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