Alternative Power Exhibition brings solar to Nigeria

Torrential rains and widespread power outages accompanied Nigeria’s third Alternative Power Exhibition, held in Lagos on July 11 to 16.

With a population of 150 million, Nigeria is the third largest economy in Africa. However, at present, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria’s generation capacity of 3,900 megawatts is a far cry from the 40,000 megawatts the country needs. The result is an erratic power supply that can cause widespread frustration.

In this context, there were no surprises that the opening ceremony of the Alternative Power Exhibition attracted government officials, labor organizations, private sector representatives and hundreds of interested members of the public.

There were ten stands with companies exhibiting their products and services. The exhibitors included Folub Eletrik Servz, Simba Solar, Bhojsons PLC, Emel and Suntech, GoSolar Africa and SME Funds, amongst others.

The organizers, Folub Eletrik Servz in partnership with Lagos State Television, took a holistic approach to alternative power generation. However, there was a strong focus on solar power. The exhibitors attributed this to the availability of sunlight in Nigeria and the scarcity of fuel to run diesel and petrol generators.

A wide range on display

On display were inverters and batteries, solar panels, complete solar generating systems, energy saving bulbs, solar lamps, fans and other equipment. The exhibitors were mainly involved in the import, sales and installation of solar-based power systems, with much of the equipment being sourced from India and China.

Amongst the exhibitors was Simba Solar, which had partnered with the government to install more than 6,500 solar powered streetlights and several boreholes around the country. GoSolar Africa & SME Funds, a non-profit organization, focused on energy efficiency and the reduction of carbon emissions.

They offer energy audit services and help individuals and businesses to be more efficient in their energy usage. They have been involved in community projects including the "Lekki Go Green Project" and the "World Cup Solar Powered Village" in the Ibeju Lekki area of Lagos. The Emel group, with its strategic partner Suntech Power Holdings, was more focused towards the private sector, including direct sales to wholesalers and retailers in the Lagos market.

Initial costs remain high

Initial setup costs appear the main impediment to the private purchase of solar systems. An average petrol generator costs about 100 euros in Nigeria, compared to the roughly 2,000 euros required for a solar system. However, the exhibitors were effective in convincing participants on the long-term cost-benefits and reduction in environmental pollution solar represents.

They expressed dissatisfaction with government policies, saying that it was guilty of double standards: on one hand, promoting private investors in the power sector and wishing to improve on foreign direct investments, on the other driving up the cost of solar through import duties and taxes.

The company Bhojsons PLC was particularly upbeat about Nigeria’s alternative energy sector, saying the market is huge and competitors few. Many attending the exhibition reported high levels of interest in alternative energy and the "hands on" product displays were especially effective.

In particular, the Alternative Power Exhibition offered much hope on a week when the heavy rainstorms left thousands of homes without power.?