BY LANDE ABUDU
The unparalleled health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has other far-reaching impacts. Oil prices plummeted 30% to their lowest in almost two decades. The aviation industry is on near-total shutdown, worldwide supply chains have been decimated. There has been a 30% drop in Foreign Direct Investment across Africa. Nigeria’s downward budget revision of the benchmark oil price for 2020 to US$30/barrel and oil production to 1.7mbpd is an immediate effect.
A global recession looms large. The social consequences will be huge, creating the need for well thought-out strategies going forward,
In the immediate aftermath, the Central Bank of Nigeria established a N50 billion Targeted Credit Facility as a stimulus package to support households and micro, small and medium enterprises affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The apex bank introduced an additional N100 billion intervention fund in healthcare loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners for expanding capacity.
Medium term plans to support a post-COVID-19 economy include The Ministry of Finance, Budget & Planning’s establishment of a N500 billion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund to upgrade healthcare facilities and fund Special Public Works Programme that will generate employment.
The Federal Government is working to lessen the economic damage. Beyond the healthcare emergency, there is an opportunity for Nigeria to include sustainable energy into future economic plans. The nexus between Sustainable Development Goal #3, health and well-being and SDG#7, access to clean and reliable energy presents an outline for building a sustainable economy. Post-COVID-19, Nigeria’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, to reduce global greenhouse emissions, will not disappear. Boosting large scale investment to develop renewable energy must therefore be a priority in any stimulus plans.
Accelerating clean energy solutions will move Nigeria closer to achieving Vision 30:30:30 (electricity generation of 30GW by 2030 with renewable energy forming 30% of the energy mix), will add the much-needed jobs, thereby boosting the economy. Very importantly, it will contribute significantly to closing the energy access gap among 90 million Nigerians, approximately 55% of the population currently underserved or unserved. Now is not the time to lose so much of what has been gained in the last decade by adopting clean energy solutions. Clean energy lifestyles have seen a boost in Nigeria; the temporary reduction in fossil fuel prices as a result of the pandemic should not mean a loss of focus in our bid to ensure sustainable development.
The Nigeria Electrification Project, Energising Economies Initiative and Rural Electrification Fund, all initiatives of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in collaboration with the private sector have impacted tens of thousands of communities – electrifying business clusters such as Sabon Gari market in Kano, Sura market in Lagos and Ariaria market in Abia has allowed for business growth; under REA’s Energising Education Programme, Africa’s largest off-grid solar hybrid, a 7.1MW project powers Kano State’s Bayero University while another 8MW Solar hybrid project gives reliable electricity to Alex Ekwueme Federal University in Ebonyi State. These significant gains must be built on.
The potential of decentralised renewable energy to boost healthcare infrastructure is already apparent in the swift deployments across the country under All-On’s N180m COVID-19 Solar Relief Fund. This includes a 22.5kWp solar system installed at the Lagos Emergency Response Centre and a 9.6kW solar and 30kWh battery storage solution at Eleme Isolation Facility in Rivers State. Investing in health systems will influence the other sectors and possibly help avoid other health emergencies.
As Nigeria plans a post-COVID-19 future, a sustainable energy future must form an integral part of stimulus plans – diversification of the economy, promotion of local content and decreasing Nigeria’s energy poverty are only some of the benefits that this can bring. There is a need to be deliberate about future policies that will support continued growth of Nigeria’s renewable energy sector.
Lande is the executive secretary of Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN)