THE GUARDIAN - Ify Malo is the Campaign Director for Power For All in Nigeria and Co-founder of the Clean Tech Hub. In this interview with EMEKA ANUFORO, she spoke of a neglected potential for improved electricity access in Nigeria.

With the threat posed by militancy, to what extent can renewable energy fill the gap?
In May 2016, the National Bureau of Statistics reported that Nigeria’s youth unemployment, which actively represents almost half the country’s labour force, has risen to 42.24 percent, with as many as 15.2 million young people unemployed. In addition, with the recent drop in commodity prices, direct correlation can be drawn between the increasing lack of electricity across the country due to the increased militancy on oil and gas pipeline.

The clean, reliable and quickly available power sources provided via renewable energy cannot come soon enough for Nigeria as a whole, especially for the young and growing population for whom economic opportunities are becoming much more limited. The lack of reliable grid power occasioned by the increased militancy means that already in Nigeria, 80 percent of enterprises rely on fuel-based backup generation to cover gaps in supply, with an estimated 100 million diesel generators in operation. When diesel or petrol is available, it can cost around four times the amount of grid power, limiting a company’s competitiveness. Self-generation accounts for a significant portion of most businesses’ recurrent expenditure.

We certainly think that renewable energy is the way out of this quagmire and that renewable energy can certainly complement the electrification gaps currently experienced in Nigeria, provide jobs, increase a number of social and community activities, particularly in rural areas and be an engine of growth in the current recession climate the country is experiencing.

For instance, in late April and May 2015, when the national grid was greatly affected by frequent outages, most businesses were shutting down, including schools and hospitals, but health centers powered by renewables in Lagos state, under the Solar Nigeria programme were the only ones staying online, when grid power was unavailable for weeks at that time.

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