Renewable energy refers to energy that can be replenished on a human time scale. The implication of this is that mankind will never exhaust the source of this energy. Examples of renewable energy includes: solar energy, hydro energy, wind energy, biomass energy, geothermal energy.
Climate change is caused by the release of green house gases into the environment. These green house gases trap and retain heat in the environment leading to a general increase in the earth’s average temperature, a process called global warming. Combustion of fossil fuels is a major source of releasing green house gases into the environment. Production of energy through coal power plants is a source of global warming. Also, gas fired power plants that we use to produce energy is a source of global warming and climate change. Flaring of gas which Nigeria is very guilty of is a major contributor to climate change.
However, this ugly scenario can be reversed if Nigeria will embrace renewable energy generation in large scale. According to International Panel on Climate Change, global warming emissions associated with manufacturing, installation, operation, maintenance, dismantling and decommissioning of renewable energy is very minimal. The time is ripe for Nigeria to fight climate change by embracing renewable energy generation.
Another advantage of renewable energy is that it offers improved environmental and health quality. The gas powered plants that Nigeria uses as well as the coal to power that Nigeria is investing on predisposes people living around the facility to respiratory, neurological, cancer and cardiac ailments. Renewable energy does not pose such risk. The implication of embracing renewable energy is that people will spend less on medical expenses and the amount of man hours lost due to health challenges will reduce. There will be a general increase in productivity. Also, both natural gas and coal plants have significant negative effects on water resources. They require water to operate, and in the process strain and pollute the available sources of water. Some communities in Enugu State are currently suffering from underground water contamination as a result of coal mining that was done before the Nigerian Civil War. Solar and wind energy generation on the other hand does not require water to operate, hence it does not strain or pollute existing water resources.
Another advantage of renewable energy is that there is a replenishable and inexhaustible source of the energy. Nigeria is located in the tropics, which is characterised by an abundance of sunshine. In certain parts of the country, mid-day temperature rises above 38 degree Celsius. The average number of sunshine hours per day is also very encouraging. Generally speaking, Nigeria is blessed with an unimaginable capacity to harness solar energy. Average rainfall in Nigeria is very huge. Along the coast it varies from 180cm in the west to about 430cm in certain parts of the east. Nature has made it such that underground water, surface water and other forms of precipitation operates in a cycle. So long as the water cycle is still in existence, Nigeria will never run out of the source to generate hydro energy. Also our potentials to tap wind and other forms of renewable energy is very huge. Nigeria is blessed with the capacity to meet the whole of its national energy demand with renewable energy options.
Renewable energy also has the capacity to create millions of jobs and other economic benefits for Nigeria. Generation of energy with fossil fuels is predominantly mechanised in nature. Generation of energy through renewable energy is predominantly labour-intensive in nature. This means that generating one kilowatt of electricity with renewable energy creates more job opportunities than generating one kilowatt of electricity with fossil fuels. A lot of jobs will be created along the various value chains of renewable energy including project development, manufacturing, transportation, installation, operations, maintenance, logistics and legal consulting services. The government is encouraged to build local capacity of Nigerians in renewable energy and then enforce appropriate policies geared towards renewable energy transformation.
The number of employment that will be provided for Nigerians through this process is massive. Aside from the direct jobs created, there will also be a positive economic ripple effect. Unrelated local businesses will benefit from increased household and business incomes. Government will also generate more revenue when owners of commercial renewable energy facilities pay property tax, income tax, rents, royalties, etc as the case may be. Government will also be able to save some money from energy generation in the long run as renewable energy is cheaper that generating energy from fossil fuels.
Nigeria and other countries of the world are stakeholders of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that is geared towards reducing carbon emission. Embracing renewable energy will not only cut carbon emission but will also earn us money through carbon credit on Clean Development Mechanism and other International Clean Energy Funds.