New Technology As a Means of Economic Growth: The Renewable Energy Example

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Wisdom Okoronkwo is a writer and a green advocate, researching the most effective ways to help Nigeria meet its energy needs and to grow green. He is also a trained Climate Reality Leader.

Renewable energy technology as the new next thing in the world today is a technology that countries are leveraging to make “economic quantum leap” for sustainable economies, that is required for this time. Nigeria will count in this connection, if it follows the global dynamics associated with renewable energy resources within her reach.

There are five major ways of economic growth through which countries and business organisations depend on to build large and sustainable economies and businesses, which include: rise in labour participation, discovery of new resources, an increase in labour specialization, increased trade, and new technology. However, ‘New Technology’ is the focus of this article.

Renewable energy technology is one sure new technology through which countries and businesses the world over are advancing upon, leaving the environment clean and safe, too. This new technology is sourced around solar energy, wind energy, and hydro energy, even geothermal energy. They remain constant and reliable sources of renewable energy. Wind remains the fastest growing energy resource. The sun as a source of renewable energy cannot be stopped by man. And, every new technology is a viable means of economic growth.

Before the advent of mobile phones in Nigeria, especially to the degree that it has become so common place, it was such a big deal to own one – the kind that operated with a sim card. It was not possible or common at the time. But through radical innovation process, Nigerians can breathe a sigh of relief, because Nigeria now ranks among those with the highest number of mobile phone penetration.

This level of penetration has moved people and businesses into the realm of technological advancement, creating huge socio-economic opportunities in the marketplace and among peoples and their relationships. Everything in life is built around relationship. Technology at different scales, as we all know, has become the precursor for so many thriving relationships today (real and “unreal”); with its tools ranging from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and to other social networking sites. Browsing the internet for readily available information is no longer rocket science. Just a tap on the phone button lands one onto a repository of information that is capable of turning things around. The stark reality is that renewable energy technology, at various scales, however, if well deployed, will leapfrog Nigeria just the same way mobile phones leapfrogged landlines. In a decade plus ago, the GSM technology deployment has revolutionized, positioned businesses and other aspects of human engagement in Nigeria. In the same fashion, renewables are the long term solution to our energy need as against the unreliable public grid. It is better both for the economy and the environment, because the impact of climate change is as real as its solution is.

Rise in sea level, erection of buildings along water pathways, carelessness, and other factors (which one might not be confident to say) have clearly been responsible for several cases of flooding in certain areas of Nigeria; namely, Lagos, Niger, Rivers, Benue States among other states. In Niger State alone, a man lost six children and two wives to recent flood in the state, leaving him nearly hopeless. There have been mass relocations of households into hotels in Port Harcourt. Even the recent outbreak of cholera in Lagos State is as a result of flooding in the island part of the state. This is just to mention a few cases of this negative phenomenon of climate change.

The Eurozone Commitment

Climate Change is real. For the most part, the flood examples mentioned above occurred, among other factors, through sea level rise from high temperature from carbon emissions into the biosphere. No wonder France, Norway, the UK, Germany, and the rest of the world are making commitments to outlaw non electric vehicles in their environments. Although the United States’ federal government has made a backward movement by wanting to leave the Paris Accord, the likes of China and others in the Asian region are pushing for better, cleaner, healthier global economy. A healthy environment breeds a healthy workforce, which translates to healthy economy and social wellbeing. Nigeria can borrow from this trend. Well, as a developing country, it can create policies that would encourage the hybrid models of automobiles, aspire for and begin to implement off-grid power generation incentives and rebates for investors, and gradually move towards 100 percent renewal economy at a later time that would be feasible for a developing economy.

It is no more news that large economies, which Nigeria shares both bilateral and multilateral agreements with, are making commitments already to leverage the new technology of renewable energy, especially in relation to automobiles. For instance, the UK has declared 2040 as a timeline to quit the production and use of fossil fuel cars; France – by 2040 as well; Norway is already on its way to 100 percent compliance by 2025 (eight years from now); Germany’s federal council, the Bundesrat, has passed a resolution calling for a ban on fossil fuel vehicles by 2030.

The need to save the global environment has never been more through green energy. The increasing human population and plant and animal species are in danger of the harm associated with climate change; hence, the need to leverage new technology in other to advance the noble global course of environmental literacy and action has never been more, too. The time for this radical change of power source in our Nigeria is now!

This is the reason focus has moved from the political discourse on climate change to the real economy, where the indices point to the reality on the ground rather than the politics of who takes leadership in the climate movement. However, it is clearly seen that the one who will lead in the climate change movement, is the one that will lead in the global affairs with regards to climate actions. The real economy shows that global economy is improving so that supply and demand dynamics are in operation – price competition; jobs are being created on daily basis, price of solar energy products are arguably cheaper than coal and other sources of pollution. As a result of this reality global businesses reckon that their bottom lines are better for it, both in the short and long runs.

The Indian example

A country with the world’s second largest population and as a developing country like Nigeria, India has done its due diligence and has seen that the economic figures favour renewable energy more than it does coal energy. Since 1992 India had established what it calls Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, which was formally known as the Department of Non–conventional Energy Resources. This ministry is saddled with the primary responsibility of policy formulation, planning, promotion, and coordination of renewable energy projects and programs, in order to fill the power poverty gap in their country. This is an example of political will and nothing more. Nigeria, too, can begin with such establishment as the nodal agency for off public grid affairs of the country with focus on renewables, and, then, take it up from there, keeping in mind the principle of “first things first”.

The Figures speak volumes

Today, India has become a favourite destination for renewable energy technology players: developers, service providers, and equipment manufacturers. It has the potential of setting up about 85,000 MW commercially, in wind, solar, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal sources. Report has it that India is currently ranked number one along with the United States in the area of installed solar power generation capability. Even presently in India there is about 35 grid interactive solar photovoltaic power plants that aggregates a capacity of 2.5 MW. This capacity alone generates nearly 2.5 million units of electricity annually. Notably, the potentials far outweigh the available capacity in India as yet. As part of its Renewable Mission, India already has a $19 billion plan to generate 20 GW of solar power by 2020.

On wind alone, it has an installed capacity of 4500 MW in 13 states. This second most populous country has a total of 250000 potential capacity of hydropower generation, and with the potential to generate 19500 MW of power capacity in biomass energy. India is currently generating 380 MW in same. This meager quantity, however, owes largely to lack of technology in this aspect of power generation.

Nigeria’s Instrument of Ratification of the Paris Agreement

As part of Nigeria’s commitment to the Paris Agreement of 2015 and as ratified by the President Muhammadu Buhari in the first quarter of 2017. By 2030, this proposal plans to achieve 20% reduction of Nigeria’s greenhouse gases emissions. Reduction in the level of gas flaring was well captured in the instrument. Interestingly, renewable energy, particularly decentralised Off-grid solar PV was considered among other aspects of the Paris accord commitment.

Renewable Energy Technology for Nigeria

With steady rise in global temperature, which is exaggerated to measure with that of Venus of 250 degrees Celsius if adequate mitigating and adaptive measures are not taken. Measures that cushion the earth to form the basis for resilience are shaping public discourse now. High temperature increases water level, which amounts to flooding and other negative incidents in the environment. Deployment of renewable energy technology in Nigeria will eliminate dangerous fumes millions of young and old breathe every day. By this, families, especially the impoverished ones will have little to worry about their health expense. The impact of this is that Nigerians will pay less on health insurance, and life expectancy will apparently improve with clean air and water to breathe and drink.

To conclude, Nigeria and its current administration can can meet up with its proposal as captured in the instrument of ratification, if it can create policies that would encourage the hybrid models of automobiles, off-grid power generation incentives and rebates (to encourage foreign and local investors), and gradually move towards 100 percent renewal economy at a realistic time. Much as this ambition is a no mean feat, given her peculiarity, Nigeria can start from somewhere! On the whole, there is the assurance of positive impact on human capital development, if it moves in this direction. It is said that “health is wealth”. More than anything else, a healthy environment breeds a healthy workforce, which translates to healthy economy and social wellbeing. So, the ministry of environment, Nigerian Hydrological Science Agency, the media, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and other relevant stakeholder institutions should call for state of emergency on growing a clean and better economy through strategic renewable energy program. This will not only cater for the power need in Nigeria today, but, it will help create a sustainable economy where Nigerians will have little to worry about air pollution and the need for continuous economic growth, which will culminate into socio-economic wellbeing of the people. Again, this will help position Nigeria among the league of those who are making frantic effort towards advancing their economies through renewable energy technology, especially as the next new thing today for economic growth and development.

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