Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Repositioning Renewable Energy for Rural Electrification in a Fossil Fuel-Rich Economy

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Repositioning Renewable Energy for Rural Electrification in a Fossil Fuel-Rich Economy

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Very few countries can boast of an abundant supply of both renewable and nonrenewable energy sources. Nigeria is one of such countries - a nation "endowed with abundant energy resources, both conventional and renewable, which provide her with immense capacity to develop an effective national energy plan" (Akinbami, 2001, p. 155). However, owing to prevalent flaws in the electricity sector and poor exploration of available renewable energy sources (GEF, 2013; Ohiare, 2015) the overall level of electrification and "household access to electricity services in Nigeria is low" (Oyedepo, 2014, p. 261). The abundant renewable energy sources in Nigeria, "have not played a major role in its developmental efforts so far" (EfUrumibe, Asiegbu, and Onuu, 2014, p. 74). Compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries with similar topography, for example Kenya; with one of the most active renewable energy sectors in Africa (ABB Group Media Relations, 2015) the level of uptake of renewable energy sources for electrification especially in the rural areas is more or less at its barest.

Renewable energy has been touted "as one of the strong contenders to improve the plight of two billion people, mostly in rural areas, without access to modern forms of energy" (World Bank, 1999 cited in Painuly, 2001, p. 73). As a source of energy, it comes in different forms, with each form having its own unique costs and benefits depending on the type of technology adopted. The consensus is that renewable energy produces no emissions, is clean, affordable, domestic, and effectively infinite. Harnessing renewable power inherently creates jobs and generates revenue for local communities (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2012). Renewable energy sources "in contrast to fossil fuels, are environmentally friendly, ubiquitous, self-replenishing, infinite, and consequently considered world-wide as the way of the future" (Sesan, 2008, p. 2). However the reality is that, in most developing parts of the world, for example Nigeria, where renewable energy has been promoted as a likely solution to rural electrification and development problems (Okafor and JoeUzuegbu, 2010), there still exist a considerable amount of issues militating against its use for developmental energy and electricity projects.

Different reasons responsible for the dearth of renewable energy in rural electrification in Nigeria have been advanced in various studies. Some of these studies (e.g. Akinbami, 2001; Efurumibe et al., 2014; Karekezi and Kithyoma, 2003) argued that the issues with the development or large scale adoption of renewable energy sources for electrification in Nigeria were as a result of the country being a very large fossil fuel economy which basically implies little or no attention to renewable energy sources; others (for instance Mohammed, Mustafa, Bashir, and Mokhtar, 2013; Oyedepo, 2012) acknowledged that the generic barriers to renewable energy have essentially contributed to the challenges faced by Nigeria in its renewable energy deployment for rural electrification in particular and electricity provision in general. Likewise, policy implementation was emphasized by Ajayi and Ajayi (2013) and Brew-Hammond, Mensah, and Amponsah (2014) as one of the main issues facing the widespread adoption of renewable energy for rural electrification in Nigeria. While according to Chineke and Ezike (2010) and Eleri, Ugwu, and Onuvae (2012), it had more to do with political will and government support. All these concerns are not mutually exclusive as a proper orchestration of them all is required for renewable energy powered rural electrification to make any meaningful headway in Nigeria.

Going by the above assertions and considering the favorable characteristics of renewable energy, it has been argued that renewable energy powered decentralized systems should be the approach to rural electrification and sustainable rural development in Nigeria (Ajayi and Ajayi, 2013, p. …

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