EnergyEnvironmentRenewable Energy

Yellow Is The Color Of Gold: Musings on the Clean Energy Revolution.

I and many of us who grew up in the 90s in Nigeria can associate bursts of euphoria tied with restoration of power by the Nigerian Electrical Power Authority (NEPA). This was often reflected by loud applause and yells of “Up NEPA!!” echoing in the neighbourhood.  Almost a decade and half down the line and incessant power shortages still riddle our lives and livelihood as a country, however, we are no longer reliant on the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN – New name, same old ineptitude.)

In the new millennium, middle-class families like mine were able to afford small units of generators, popularly called “I better pass my neighbour”. This shifted the control of constant power supply from the hands of PHCN to the people and petrol stations. While this is laudable, as I no longer had to rely on PHCN to provide me with power to charge my phone or type this article; the reliance on generators seems heavily flawed.

For starters, these generators rely on the use of Premium Motor Spirit to be powered. An average cost of 5 to 10% of my monthly income may be expended on fuelling the generator based on power availability and when there are no scarcities of the product; for business owners they may have to spend even more. Other issues include noise pollution, toxic fumes which can lead to health hazards and climate change due to CO2 emissions from the machines. In essence, while generators have solved our problems temporarily, they are environmentally, socially and economically unsustainable.

The Million Dollar (or Naira) question then becomes, what do we do? If PHCN is unable to provide us with power and my reliance on generators does not help the world around me or my pocket; what is the way forward? Thanks to technological advancement and the information age, through the click of a button, I have been able to learn what individuals, communities and countries are doing about energy, most interestingly clean energy.

From floating wind turbines in the Scottish sea capable of powering 20,000 homes to solar-powered balloons capable of providing lighting for internally displaced people, various communities, both developed and developing are embracing clean energy as a way of life. The sources are infinite, non-detrimental to the environment and cost effective in the long run. So it seems like a no-brainer to toss out my generator today and have a panel erected on my roof already. Yet, I am yet to do it or even consider it.

The (second) Million Dollar question is why? Personally I have yet to become a convert because amidst all my many problems in life I do not know where to get a solar panel from or, how much it would cost me. Up until MTN launched its Lumos Brand, which has potentials of creating the Clean Energy Revolution in Nigeria, very limited information about the cost and capacity of solar panels was readily available.

Perhaps it may be that I did not search well enough. But with Lumos I did not have to search, the information was available on the radio, in newspapers and on social media platforms. Clean Energy initiatives should be made perhaps more accessible. For this to work, these businesses need to identify blogs and platforms that can showcase their products. Perhaps we can create a GreenPages database containing information of alternative energy companies as a start or maybe even a fair somewhere down the road.

In my quest to understand further, I asked a couple of friends why they had not considered solar energy as a power source. Their reasons where similar to mine, they did not know where to get it or how much it would cost them. Two responses stood out, the first being that someone thought it was an intervention for people in rural areas to access electricity, another thought that like inverters when they were first launched, it was for “big” men in the society and not the everyday man.

Two diverse opinions both with an element of truth in them but all leading to the same conclusion. We as sustainability champions are not talking about the revolution enough. Most importantly we were not providing information on the accessibility and availability of clean energy for people to even consider it as an option.

So while we wait for PHCN/NEPA or any new acronym they come up with in the future to get their act together or whether you are cynical about the reality of climate change; you will agree with me that cleaner, infinite sources of energy is the smarter alternative for future generations and your pockets in the long run! And for you and me, we need to take it upon ourselves to bring the sun to the people, if the people will not go to the sun.

Do you have a solar panel at home? If yes, how has been your experience so far, if not why not?

Olabanji Jackson
Banji is an Environmental & Social Risk Analyst whose work involves reviewing the E&S implications of large scale projects and making a case for integrating sustainability in business models. He is passionate about micro-finance, financial literacy and growing social enterprises. In his spare time he loves to dabble in photography and creative non-fiction writing.