Nigeria is endowed with abundant energy resources, both conventional and renewable. Oil accounts for about 20% of GDP, 95% of export earnings, and 85% of budgetary revenues. While oil plays a large role in the Nigerian economy, energy poverty is still rampant in the country. About 85 million Nigerians – representing approximately 60% of the population – have no access to electricity services. Of the 40% of Nigerians who have ready access to electricity, less than 20% of them are located in rural areas.

Though some efforts are beginning to be made in renewable energy, it is a small portion of public-sector energy investment. Renewable energy has considerable potential in Nigeria, and could bridge the major energy gaps in rural areas. The growing opportunities for renewable energy in Nigeria are becoming more evident as new grid technologies, like concentrated solar power, are emerging as in competitors with conventional, oil-based power generation.
There are inherent obstacles militating against the effective implementation of an orderly energy policy in Nigeria. The inefficiencies overshadowing the allocation of energy resources coupled with the near depletion of fossil fuels, make it imperative for the country to exploit its huge natural renewable resources to avoid a worsening energy supply scenario.

To wean from an oil-based economy, policymakers must create incentives for the renewable energy sector. In 2003, the Nigerian government introduced renewable energy as part of its national energy policy. The 2006 Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP) commits Nigeria to short-, medium-, and long-term goals of development and implementation of renewable energy resources. Successful implementation should result in the installation of enough wind, solar PV, solar thermal, and hydroelectricity sources by 2025 to provide the equivalent of the entire grid capacity in use in Nigeria today. The master plan also stressed the need for exploring renewable energy in quantities, and at prices, that promote equitable and sustainable growth.

The Prospects
Solar is a major energy resource in Nigeria from a geographical perspective. Analysts have projected that Nigeria could generate 600,000MW by deploying Solar PV panels from just 1% of Nigeria’s land mass. Also, given the high level of solar radiation in the northern part of Nigeria (about 5.0-7.0Kw.m2/day), utilizing solar power generation in the northern part of the country has potential to steadily increase the power generation capacity in Nigeria. There is a ready market for solar power developers to operate in, in view of the huge demand for power supply; high population density; and the fact that solar power projects take less time to reach commercial operations compared to the conventional gas-fired generation.

Various researches carried out identified that great prospects exist for wind energy utilization for power generation. Offshore areas from Lagos through Ondo, Delta, Rivers, and Bayelsa to Akwa Ibom States were reported to have potentialities for harvesting strong wind energy throughout the year. Inland, the wind was reported strongest in the hilly regions of the North, while the mountainous terrains of the middle belt and northern fringes demonstrated high potential for great wind energy harvest. Nigeria has good wind resources over most part of the country. Although, wind speeds in the southern states are low, they can however be employed for standalone power generating systems using small scale wind turbines. This if employed, will be a major breakthrough for rural and sub-rural areas not connected to national electricity grid.
Nigeria’s Hydro Potential is high and hydropower currently accounts for about 32% of the total installed commercial electric power capacity. The overall large scale potential (exploitable) is in excess of 11,000MW. Nigeria has considerable hydro potential sources exemplified by her large rivers, small rivers and stream and the various river basins being developed. Nigeria has rivers distributed all over the country with potential sites for hydropower scheme which can serve the urban, rural and isolated communities. An estimation of river Kaduna, Benue and Cross River (at Shiroro, Makurdi and Ikom respectively) indicated that total capacity of about 4,650MW is available, while the estimate for the river Mambillla, Plateau is put at 2,33OMW.

Biomass is abundant in nature and broadly dispersed globally with its distribution being dependent on geographical area. Countries such as Nigeria have significant natural resources to produce transportation biofuels, biopower and bioproducts from biomass. Nigeria has substantial biomass potential of about 144 million tonnes per year. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration most Nigerians, especially rural dwellers, use biomass and waste from wood, charcoal, and animal dung, to meet their energy needs. Biomass (comprising crop residues, manure, charcoal, and wood) accounts for about 80% of the total primary energy consumed in Nigeria.

The Challenges
Irrespective of access to renewable energy sources, the country is still behind in renewable energy development and usage. The challenges include:
Regulatory Policies: Regulatory policies are essential in the successful implementation of renewable energy in a country. Nigeria does not have a good regulatory policy on renewable energy. In 2005, the Energy commission of Nigeria (ECN) came up with a National Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP). However, the renewable energy master plan provides a good opportunity for the nation’s renewable energy harness, but is not a national policy on renewable energy.

Finance: Huge capital is the main obstacle for renewable energy projects. Majority of renewable energy projects have very high initial cost, but long life span, with little or no running cost when compared to other conventional energy sources like diesel type. Unfortunately, many consumers with low income prefer to keep the initial cost low rather than minimize the operating cost which would run over a long period of time.

Technological Knowhow: Average Nigerians lack the technical skills to contain modern trends of renewable energy technology. This is a big challenge especially in the areas of inadequate and inaccurate resource data, low product quality, little or no research and development activity, and lack of human and manufacturing abilities.

Institutional Problem: Nigeria lacks good institutes to lead renewable energy technology, hence the direction and coordination of renewable energy activities in the country is a fiasco. Nigerian University Commission (NUC) should be of help in this regard to include renewable energy education in the curriculum of Nigerian schools, and government should create enabling platform and environment for the encouragement of indigenous renewable energy technology

Conclusion
Nigeria’s fossil fuel-based economy will undoubtedly come to an end, searching for alternatives early are of utmost importance. With an abundance of renewable resources and growing government support, the ability for Nigeria to incorporate renewable energy into its power grid is ever increasing. Renewable energy resources will not only improve the wellbeing of rural Nigerian communities, but also enhance Nigeria’s energy and economic prospects for potential global investment.

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