Damilola Makindipe is currently the solar programme lead at the Lagos State Electricity Board, prior to this role, she worked with the Lagos state Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources as an electrical engineer. Damilola is also the first crowned Sisi Oge of Lagos and founder of the Pink Dove Charitable Initiative where she helps to create awareness about HIV/AIDS. Damilola is a graduate of Kingston Universtity, UK where she obtained a masters degree in Renewable Energy Engineering.

Read her interview below:

Briefly talk about your work in the Lagos State Electricity Board

I work in the Lagos State Electricity Board and I’m in charge of Solar Energy as the Solar Program Lead. Tasked with the responsibility of maintaining 213 solar systems installed in 172 secondary schools and 11 primary healthcare centres. I also manage all solar projects for the board.

Why did you choose a career in this field?

I chose a career in renewable energy because I find the course very interesting and engaging, It is fun to learn and understand because it is practicable; and with the issues of energy supply and insufficiency in Nigeria, coupled with climate change challenges, a green and sustainable energy system is essential so I wanted to be part of movement for renewable and sustainable energy in Nigeria

What would you say is the future of Renewable energy for Nigeria?

The country at the moment is exploring renewable energy sources in small projects and applications, though the growth process is slow but it’s consistent and that’s important, with time I’m optimistic renewable energy would be deployed on large scales. There is an abundance of sun to effectively generate megawatts and even terrawatts of energy from solar but the development of the economy itself would be proportionate to how fast renewable energy is harnessed. But without a doubt, there are high possibilities renewable energy would be explored and exploited on very large scales in the not too far future.

Is the Power condition in Lagos going to improve soon? If yes, what steps are being taken to make this happen?

The power condition in Lagos will eventually improve, how soon that would be I cannot say for now. But I know that efforts are in place to allow the state generate its own power asides of feeding off the national grid. These efforts will ensure more embedded generation closer to the end users and fed into existing distribution network. What I see happening is that, soon there will be quite a number of Independent Power Projects all over Lagos to cater to the ever increasing energy demand. Also the State is encouraging investors to approach the State for power solution and are willing to bridge the gap between the Discos and the investors; by setting up some form of tripartite agreement that all stateholders can benefit from. But this will not happen overnight and the cost of power generation is also a huge determinant to how quickly power would be made available in Lagos State.

Is Solar Energy truly viable in Nigeria right now (Cost, Storage, Expertise etc)

Solar energy is viable in Nigeria. The expensive initial cost associated with solar is a barrier just like in any other country. The need to generate our own power is further driving the uptake of Solar technology in the country. As with expertise, with time more competitent installers will flood the market. The only challenge I see is the influx of substandard goods just to reduce cost and maximize gain. This has been and will continue to be a clog in the wheel of progress of solar if measures are not in place to control and stardardize solar components or equipments into the country.

Which party do you think is more responsible for achieving Energy Efficiency in Nigeria? Government or People?

Energy efficiency and conservation can only be achieved through collaborative efforts; the government has the responsibility of ensuring effective energy efficiency during installation stage, by ensuring the use of efficient equipment, the people also can ensure efficiency by switching to energy efficient appliances and also ensuring the conservation of these energies through proper use. So both parties are tasked with the responsibilities of ensuring efficient energy use.

How challenging is it as a young person working with the government to improve lives?

 As with any life endeavour, there are challenges involved in working with the State Government, the bureaucracy of government makes its difficult to achieve results at a level that would have been desirable, however focusing on the bigger picture and avoiding unneccesary distractions is my style of coping with the challenges. Understanding that change takes a process and also learning to grow through the process is very key in surviving through the hurdles, because sincerely,it could be pretty discouraging when positive change looks dismal and impossible, when protocol interferes with results and brings frustations and discouragement rather than possibilities and potentials. It takes alot not to give up on working in service as a young person. A thousand times over I have tried leaving but was restrained by people I hold in high regards and taught to see things differently from what is visibly staring at my face.

Briefly talk about your Renewable Energy Studies 

 I studied Renewable Energy Engineering from Kingston University, London. I finished my MSc program in 2012 and my dissertation was on Solar Water Pump. I built a prototype of a working solar water pump in the school lab using a local community in Nigeria as a case study. It was a pretty challenging and interesting thesis because I had to gather data for a community here, design the system and then scale it down to a prototype level and then manufacture the model for display. I had a distinction in that thesis because asides of the research and documentation part of the project, there was a visual model that I had to make work and the model is presently in the school gallery.

How important is a post graduate study in Renewable Energy?

 I would say a post graduate study is very important, it has helped me understood the technology in the space of a year and im acquiring more knowledge of it through short term courses and practical demonstation of installing solar technologies. The post graduate was the foundation for me to know about the technology and it was worth my while.

 What is it like combining Family life with your work?

Combining family life with work can be challenging as both are demanding at the.same time, however knowing which call to respond to per time is key in ensuring a work-life balance. As much as there is fulfillment that comes from loving what you do as a job, it is important to know there are responsibilities you cannot delegate but you have to respond to yourself, with the mindset that family has to come first, you learn to respond better to both responsibilities.

 Do you think there would ever be a balance in the gender ratio of women working in the renewable Energy sector in Nigeria?

I do not see the need to have a gender balance ratio in any sector whatsoever, the more we push for relevance the more we create a barrier that needed not be there in the first place. To me, gender does not determine performance and I do not feel I need any preferential treatment on account of being a woman, though I cannot deny not benefiting from being a woman as suppose to being a man. I just feel everyone should accept their place and give their best in all capacity. Natural women are gravitating upward and moving up the ladder in many sectors, its not a function of efforts made but naturally life is yielding that to us, so I don’t see the need to be fighting for inclusion or relevance.

 Please tell SustyVibes something people do not know about you

Well, I do not know if people know this about me or not, I can be a funny person and make people laugh alot even though I appear snobbish n unfriendly. I also have a deep and profound knowedge of my culture.

What would you advise young people interested in a career along Renewable Energy?

 Renewable energy as a career is very interesting, I know I did not end up in this field by chance, a high sense of purpose must have propelled me in this direction. My advice to young people interested in renewable energy would be to understand clearly what drives and informed the decision to pursue a career in the field not just because it looked appealing and trending. Because where the underlying purpose is not known, it really won’t make any difference which career they are pursuing. So to me, renewable energy is life and building a career in it allows me to affect lives in ways no other degree perhaps would have allowed me to.

How can people reach you or get to know more about your work?

I can be reached through these mediums:

Email: [email protected]

LinkedIn: Damilola Otunbanjo-Makindipe

Twitter: @milolar