|Prof J Bala|
Prof. Eli Bala is the new Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN). In this interview with NKECHI ISAAC, he gives the roadmap of his administration chief among which the development of a web-driven national energy data bank and an intensive capacity building of the commission’s staff.
The public will like to know the issues that will set the tone of your administration. What will be the major focus and priority of your regime?
As you are aware, this commission was established by government to produce strategic plans and coordinate national policy on energy in all its ramifications, and in doing so, there are other things the commission is expected to accomplish in order to get that strategic responsibility done. Of course, to achieve this, we need strategic individuals who are aware of the nitty-gritty of the sector; so we need people that are knowledgeable. On assumption of duty, my preliminary assessment of the staff disposition indicates that we are short of the requisite critical human capacity to advance the mandate of the commission. Thus, staff capacity building will be encouraged and pursued with vigour during my tenure. One of the things I have told my staff that I will do in within this tenure is to build the capacity of the staff, for it is human beings that cause change and transformation and this government is all about transformation.
So one of the things I intend to do is an aggressive building of staff capacity. I want to ensure we have so many Master of Science (MSc) holders so many PhDs here.
Secondly, one of our responsibilities is to serve as a centre for gathering and dissemination of information relating to national policy in the field of energy. We also collate, analyse and publish information relating to the field of energy from all sources. This is relevant because we need to get inputs from the sub sector of the sectors before we can plan. And in doing so, I plan that, by the end of my tenure in this commission, we will have web data-driven national energy databank, so that all relevant information of the energy sector in this country will be domiciled in this commission and people from outside and within the country can access it to know what is happening within the sector. The databank will also give information of the investments, policies, physical programmes and projects available within the sector.
The other thing I would like to pursue is the promotion of renewable and energy efficiency. It is the theme especially for the purpose of climate change and energy security in the country. Oil and gas is the current theme; we depend on it, and if you look at the reserved production ratio, you will find out that it will not last for a maximum of 100 years. Even if lasts 200 years, it (oil and gas) is finite, so there is need for us as a nation to think ahead by promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. I am happy that the penetration of renewable energy into the energy sublime is growing but we will want to pursue it further.
I would like, by the end of my tenure, to have an overall national energy master plan approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). You know that there is power reform policies; currently the PIB bill is being debated which we believe will soon be passed; there are also policies and plans for coal and renewable energy development, but we want to have a single document where investors will be able to look at and see which direction the government is going and know what is on the ground.
Talking about getting investment for the power, we have been battling with getting stable power supply as a nation for the past 60 years; apart from the wasteful attitude of Nigerians with regards to power conservation, what other factors affect stable power supply in the nation?
Yes, we are wasteful in our use of even the little we have, but for us to have adequate, we need to improve in the generation capacity, especially the grid-connected power capacity. We also need to expand our transmission as well as our distribution capacity, but I’m happy that these things are being resolved by the government with the current reform in the power sector and the generation is coming up, the availability is also coming up because the grid is being reinforced and distribution will certainly be expanded, more so when the private sector comes in actively in both the generation and distribution sectors. And with the efforts of the National Council of Privatisation through the Bureau of Public Enterprise, I believe the power problem will be resolved very soon.
In your own assessment, what are we currently generating in terms of power?
I think we are currently generating about 4,700 megawatts grid while the capacity is about 8,700, so what is available is more or less half of the whole grid capacity.
If you are to give an estimate of what we have now and what the nation can come up with in terms of power generation in 2020, what will be your perception?
To be realistic, from the study done by the commission, we had projected 40 to 50 megawatts if we are to be among the top 20 economies in 2020, but at the pace we are moving, I believe we will go as close as that and that means we are still on the right track.
I am aware that some countries, like Ghana, have set a standard for specific electronics like the refrigerator, air conditioner and a couple of other electronics, while Nigeria has become a dumping ground for the products rejected by these countries; is the commission doing anything in this regard to check the importation of energy-wasting electrical appliances?
The commission has been promoting the use of energy efficient electronic devices and best practices generally in energy efficiency and conservation through sensitization of the public, workshops and so on. We got involved with the replacement of about a million incandescent bulbs (ILs) which are inefficient with efficient Compact Florescent Lamps (CFLs). It was a pilot project done in conjunction with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Cuban government and we are proud that the one million bulbs replaced have saved about 40 megawatts of generation; that is very significant.
Secondly, the commission is hosting the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) programme on energy efficiency and conservation and they are trying to set standards for electrical energy consumption appliances, as well as do an efficiency leveling of most of the appliances so that consumers will be able to know the level of energy each appliance is consuming. We hope that we will come out with standards for Nigeria through this programme.
There is also an ongoing programme in conjunction with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in terms of opening a laboratory to test the energy efficiency of products. We also have another testing laboratory we intend to site at our research centre at the University of Lagos, a research centre mandated to look into energy efficiency and conservation which is based in Lagos. This is because Lagos is an industrial city and we have energy efficiency in transportation, industries and homes. The two laboratories which will be sited in Lagos will commence full operation by the end of 2013.
Still talking of power conservation, have there been collaborations between manufacturers to educate them on the importance of power conservation through manufacturing of energy saving appliances?
It is actually to the advantage of manufacturer to be energy efficient because energy is the main contributor to their cost of production, and that is why the cost of made-in-Nigeria products is a bit high – which is not competitive and they complain about this – so it is to their advantage to have energy efficient electrical appliances since most of the energy they consume is electricity which is the most versatile and sought after energy. Meanwhile there are other forms of energy, apart from electricity; we also have fuels and processed heat for driving our economy, but unfortunately the industrial sector has been contributing very little to the GDP. Of course energy efficiency will boost that and also improve on our ability to mitigate negative climate change effects. We are collaborating with them through sensitization workshop; in fact energy audit and energy exercises have been done in some industrial sector under the auspices of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and UNDP.
What is your take on the development of other renewable energy resources like hydro, wind and solar?
With respect to renewable energy, now you will find out that the contribution of large hydro power plants in the grid connected electricity is about 30% – maybe about 2,000 megawatts of light hydro generated power plant at Kanji Dam, Jebba and Shiroro. Now, for small hydro power plants we have less than 70 megawatts; we have one in Jos; we have 30 megawatts in Gurara, then we have some smaller ones in Bauchi and Enugu. Our definition of small hydro power is 30 megawatts and below.
Hydro has actually been contributing since the word go, that is, since the Niger-Damaturu, but since then the contribution has not been very significant, apart from the new small power plants that I have been referring to, especially the Gurara which is the most recent one.
For wind, at the moment, we have about 10 megawatt pilot plant in Katsina under the ministry of power. As for solar, there is no grid connected power plant for either solar panel or solar thermal, but there is great vision for its use, especially in the northern part of the country where you have longer periods and higher intensity of sunshine. But then, in our own analysis in the commission, in our plant we projected that on a long term – about 2030, the total electricity supply in the country will have a contribution of about 20% renewable energy made up of solar, hydro, wind and biomass electricity.
Where do you see Energy Commission in the next five years?
I see it as an agency that must have contributed to the transformation agenda of this country. People will be here looking for information about the entire energy sector of the country and it shall be available through web-driven national energy data bank. The manpower here will be high calibre and well informed people on the happenings and information about the Nigerian power sector, and indeed the energy sector of the entire world. Energy Commission is an agency that has very high prospects.
Do you envisage any challenges to the attainment of these lofty objectives?
Of course, there will be challenges and the major one is funds – because there is nothing you can do without funds – and we are basically a government-funded organization. We also have the challenge of human capacity, but, like I said, we hope to improve on that shortly.