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Boldly flying the green and white flag of independence

Yesterday Nigeria celebrated its 59th independence day. It was on this day in 1960 that Africa’s most populous country gained independence from the UK. After gaining its freedom, the country went through a shaky time as civil wars raged.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2019/10/01

This history can’t be erased. Still, Nigerians have persevered, and today the country is flourishing in some sectors and advancing financially—even overtaking South Africa as the continent’s largest economy in 2014; South Africa retook the position in 2016.

Nigerians are perceived as optimistic with a can-do attitude even as they are faced with ongoing power cuts and the rising cost of electricity. 

Did you know that in 1898, just 17 years after the world’s first public electricity supply in England, Nigeria’s Marina in Lagos had its first 60kW power installation? 

Dr Sam Amadi, the former Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), points out, “After first generating electricity in 1898, we should now be talking about 40,000, 60,000, 100,000 megawatts available generation capacity.”

That figure is closer to 4,000MW being delivered from an installed generation capacity base of approximately 13,000MW. This capacity is nowhere near enough to support over 200 million people living in Nigeria.

Even though the country has a mostly privatised electricity supply industry, it is stalled by a weak transmission system, lack of cost-reflective tariffs, insufficient metering by the discos, and exchange rates exacerbating the risks for investors.

For every challenge in the power industry, there is a potential solution, which raises multiple opportunities—this is the Nigerian positive outlook that I admire.

Recently, the Nigeria Energy Access Fund attracted $500,000 grant support for investments in sustainable energy, particularly in the country’s burgeoning off-grid and mini-grid sectors.

In terms of the metering debacle, NERC has published regulations specifying minimum, physical, functional, interface and data requirements for smart metering systems. This policy will give discos impetus to adopt smart meters, which can assist in reducing electricity theft and ATC&C losses.

But how will access to electricity increase in a meaningful way? The answer may lie in decentralised energy policy – a keynote topic at the upcoming Future Energy Nigeria conference, which is taking place on 12-13 November in Lagos.

As the official media partner to the event, I urge our ESI Africa readers to attend the event to contribute to these conversations that will lead to Nigeria’s 60th independence next year celebrating even more progress in its electricity supply industry.

Until next week.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.