The Nigerian electricity industry (NEI) is dominated by fossil-fueled power plants and less than 30 per cent of large-scale hydropower plants. Currently, there is a strong drive to improve electricity access and reduce GHG emissions through the exploitation of renewable energy sources like solar.
One of the challenges militating against large-scale grid-connected renewable energy development is the limited local human and institutional capacities to build, operate and maintain large-scale grid-connected renewable (like solar) power plants. As a result, renewables have not been able to compete with fossil fuel-based generators.
To address this deficit, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) and other stakeholders are working on a project titled ‘De-Risking Renewable Energy NAMA for the Nigerian Power Sector’ which seeks to address the challenge of limited human capacity in the area of renewable energy development.
In line with the project’s objective, the UNDP GEF with support from the ECN, the Lagos Energy Academy (LEA) and the National Power Training Institute (NAPTIN) organized an intensive two weeks train-the-trainer workshop on design, installation, operation and maintenance of grid-connected solar PV for renewable energy development in Nigeria at the LEA facility in Ikeja, Lagos.
Giving the rationale behind the workshop, the national project coordinator/project manager, UNDP-GEF derisking RE project, Engr. Isaac Ierve, talked about the need to enhance participants’ capacity to deliver renewable energy (RE) trainings on the installation of medium to large-scale grid connected PV systems to independent power producers (IPPs), undergraduate students and public institutions on a cost-recovery basis.
He said the training programme which drew 20 participants from UNDP-GEF, ECN, LEA, NAPTIN and solar PV company was necessary to create the enabling environment through building technical capacity of key players across board.
Ierve said the training was organized to build local capacity in Nigerian engineers and technologists who would in turn support large-scale solar PV industries and build local capacity in the design, construction and maintenance of on-grid solar PV to support the integration of renewable electricity into the grid.
Other objectives, he said, included to offer medium-to-large-scale solar PV safety and commissioning of standard training that would focus on the prevention of unnecessary damage to equipment and persons during large-scale PV installations and operation; and train Nigerians on solar PV troubleshooting and maintenance services to support local on-grid or large-scale PV industry, improve local O&M skills and mitigate resource & technology risk.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, some participants underscored the importance of RE for stable power generation, highlighting building expertise as a very vital ingredient for the achievement of the nation’s quest to develop the sector.
In her remarks, scientific officer at the ECN, Mrs Indi Gbaja, said the global trend to curb climate change was renewable energy, pointing out the need to train the experts on ground for effective training of other engineers and stakeholders to get the critical mass to drive change in the sector.
“It is high time Nigeria developed its renewable energy sector from solar because the access to energy in Nigeria is quite low considering the population of Nigeria. And globally, the trend is renewable energy because most developed countries are trying to address the issue of climate change so by engaging in this training Nigeria is trying to develop the renewable energy sector to address the issue of climate change.
“If you look at it the professionals in this sector are not many, so LEA being a platform where people are being trained is being used to train the little trainers we have on ground, they’ll be trained better on grid renewable energy to train the newcomers to the sector in order to harness the potentials of the sector,” she said.
She stressed the need for the involvement of more women, who are passionate about change to come onboard and be part of the drivers of effecting change in the nation’s renewable energy sector.
“The renewable energy sector is mostly dominated by men because most women have the phobia of delving into the engineering sector. It is high time we all put our efforts together to develop the sector, women can take up the challenge existing in the sector. Secondly, there are a lot of opportunities for women to explore it, it might not be the hazardous part of engineering, there are other fields of the renewable energy sector they can be engaged in to solve the sectorial problem in Nigeria,” she added.
The head trainer, LEA, Adetutu Adelekan told LEADERSHIP nations are looking for better ways to generate power globally because the world is really adopting renewable energy as a very clean source of energy, adding Nigeria should not be left out in the drive to source clean energy.
“As you know as a country, we’re generating barely 5000 megawatts of electricity, the aim of this training is to help facilitate sponsored project by UNDP GEF to construct a 100 MW solar which would be grid tied. So, it is a form of capacity building because this is the first of its kind in Sub Saharan Africa,” he said.
The train-the-trainer project coordinator underscored the importance of expertise in driving the RE sector, saying the overall aim was to train a few people whereby the knowledge could be transferred when the project kicks off.
“The major problem in the RE sector is the lack of technically skilled people to handle the sector. So, that means we have a lot of quacks who claim they do solar who lack the in-depth knowledge of how the system works whereby you have so many failed installations whereby it works for a few period and then the system is down. That is why it is very important to have the necessary technical knowledge of this and which is what we’re trying to achieve here.
“We need to give renewable energy a good name because we know renewable energy is not cheap. So, it is always a pain when installations are made with a huge amount and then fails within a very short period. So, with the training of more people, it will serve the people better,” he stated.
Similarly, the technical instructor, NAPTIN, Engr. Bawa Gamiya, stressed the importance of expertise in developing the nation’s RE sector, saying Nigeria’s solar sector was not operating optimally because there was no capacity/competence/expertise in the field.
“Now, you cannot do what you don’t know. If we want to get it right the first thing we have to do is build capacity, get experts and people who are knowledgeable in the field. This forum provided by UNDP GEF is a good forum because it is a way of building capacity and increasing expertise in the field. Let’s say for one year each person turns in 5 people, if it is multiplied two or three years from now, you see the capacity would have swelled up and we can have more experts to handle any challenge that may come up in the grid site management system. So, you cannot take away the fact that we do not have enough capacity to run the sector but this training would help solve this problem,” Gamiya added.
Authored By: Nkechi Isaac