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An Economy Hungry For Power

By on September 12, 2011

Power will be always a strategic asset and resource in realizing nations’ dreams of building great economies or sustaining same. It is near the much you consume that signifies your economy’s strength and influence in the global market place. Even with the urgent need for green technology (smart and less consumption and protection of earth), we will have to continue consumption of fossil fuels until the economics of green energy is sorted out.

In a nation of people bursting with great energy and undying spirit, the near comatose state of power supply has compounded the woes of Nigerians who want to take their destinies into their hands. Where we have seen energy, there we have also seen very scarce infrastructure to power people’s ideas and help enterprises achieve their set goals.

We have these days are an urban unemployment  at 32%, crises of diverse hues, and rural-urban drift which has made the country one place of angry and frustrated youths. The power debacle makes the issue more terrible and frightful, as it has serves as a pointer to a failure of the system to address this infrastructural challenge.

According to the Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji, the sector requires an annual investment of $10billion for the next 10 years to achieve 40,000MW in the year 2020 compared to reach South Africa’s current level of power generation (40,000MW). More so, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said, “The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the National Association of Small-Scale Industries have estimated that their members spend an average of $1.8bn on power generation weekly.

At the individual level, it is estimated that about 60 million Nigerians now own generators for their electricity, while the same number of people spend a staggering N1.56 trillion (about $13.35 billion) to fuel them annually. “Even President Jonathan said that households spend about $13bn yearly to fuel their generators.

It seems will have concerned ourselves with the problems a lot that we have taken our sight off the solutions. First, let’s start with addressing this challenge. The gargantuan nature of  the power debacle demands a smart approach to keeping focus as over time we have to ask ourselves how much have we accomplished this year. We hereby suggest that set up a web portal to keep an eye on events and efforts being made to tackle this frustrating problem. This also can serve as an avenue for ideas to be injected into the process of boosting power supply. As much as we need one billion dollars yearly, we think we do not lack a pool of smart people and ideas within and in the diaspora which we can tap into to resolve our power dilemma.

Second, as we take charge to solving this problem, we have to factor in our care for the environment as per meeting the problem of climate change. Also it is popular that African citizens bear the highest electricity tariffs in the world. This is a cruel burden for a country with a disproportionately high number of people living at or below the poverty line and this should be considered in the new tariffs designs.  We have to strongly push to develop alternative power sources such as wind and solar, which are too expensive to develop in countries that have cheaper access to fossil fuels. It is important to note that regarding high tariffs, solar in rural areas is a suitable technology and smart energy solution.

In all, let’s keep this to mind, weak project planning and management capacity is a big challenge as some government ministries are only capable of spending about two thirds of their allocated infrastructure budgets in any given year. This hampers the pace of new construction and reduces the amount of money devoted to infrastructure while unspent funds are often directed to other programmes. We recommend training and retraining so our ministries would exercise the capacity to spend their infrastructure budgets effectively and in full every year and manage the process of making the economy competitive. As a UN study estimated that an additional $3 bn would be available annually without additional burdens being imposed on African taxpayers. This is critical of note as ministries play a strategic role in powering our industries and entrepreneurial ideas.