Launch of New Solar PV Standards: De-risking the Renewable Energy sector in Nigeria
*John Atseye, **Daramfon Bassey and ***Ifeoma Malo
The surge for good quality Solar PV and its components cannot be over emphasized. Nigeria, as a country rich in oil and gas continues to suffer from a chronic shortage of electric power supply — a factor that is propelling the need for an alternative power source. The slow performance of the public power sector to fix this problem has resulted in frequent power shortages, leaving large, medium and small enterprises as well as households without reliable electricity. With 180 million inhabitants, the country only has an installed electricity generation capacity of around 13,700 MW (in comparison: South Africa generates 51 GW), of which in 2018 only around 4,500 MW were available due to gas constraints, grid constraints and other technical issues.
Renewable Energy (RE) and Energy Efficiency (EE) are still underutilized in Nigeria. Policy development, however, has been encouraging in the last years with approvals of the national renewable energy and energy efficiency policy (NREEEP) and the vision 30:30:30, which calls for the installation of 30 Gigawatt by 2030 with a share of 50 percent renewable. Still, around 55 percent of the population do not have access to grid-connected electricity. In rural areas, the number goes up to even 75 per cent.
However, despite the presence of some solar components, manufacturing and assembling plants that have been set up by some solar component manufacturing companies in the country are still performing at a very low optimum. As a result, most local solar companies in Nigeria import solar components and products predominantly from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) in Asia, Europe and North America. They also mainly adopt three models of importation, namely: self-importation, joint importation, and through the use of third party import agents.
A lot of solar companies in the country outsource the importation process to third party import agents, largely because of the complexity of the process. These import agents are usually experienced and familiar with all aspects of importation and have strong working relationships with the government agencies and other key stakeholders involved in the importation value chain. Adopting this model makes it possible for solar companies who employ their services to focus on other key areas of their business instead of being bogged down by the complexity and stress associated with the importation process.
Despite measures such as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) — which is meant to ensure that only quality solar products are brought into the country — the proliferation of sub-standard and low-quality solar components and products in the market still remains a major challenge. It is for this reason that the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) collaborates with the EU and the German Government within the framework of the NESP on the development of Standards for key solar PV components, namely: solar PV modules (panels), batteries, inverters, charge controllers and energy meters. These new standards cover the testing, safety requirements, the datasheet/nameplate, consumption and voltage requirements, device requirements, and monitoring and measurements of these major components.
Importers and producers of solar products will benefit from these newly set standards since they will ensure that only items and components that meet these criteria are imported, due to greater client satisfaction, there will be fewer complaints from their clients and end-users about the performance of their products, resulting in customer retention and, eventually, business expansion and increased profitability.
With the renewable energy sector continuing to grow in the country, these standards will be crucial in greatly reducing the importation of low-quality solar products in order to accelerate energy access and economic development in the country.
The developed standards are also expected to bring a myriad of benefits for both technology providers and users. From an end-user perspective, it is especially supposed to enable the electrification of the health sector, the education sector, and the telecommunication companies, which are sectors requiring steady and efficient electricity to help drive the company forward. Similarly, other benefits for the end users with standardisation coming onstream, is the expectation that it will be useful for the system providers or suppliers, including solar energy component wholesalers and retailers, installers and the investors in the long run.
Accordingly the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), through the support of the Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP) is currently supporting the inclusion of new standards and implementation strategy. This work which is carried out through a technical assistance programme co-funded by the European Union and the German Government and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbHin by Micro Energy and Integrated Energy Supply Systems (INENSUS) was launched on 18th May, 2021 in Abuja with key stakeholders in attendance . The major objectives for these standards are not limited to customer satisfaction and retention, reliable power supply, quality power for critical infrastructure, value for money and reduced service cost.
With the launch of the standards and its adoption by key stakeholders it is expected that fair trade practices, cheaper manufacturing/assembly costs, consumer satisfaction, business expansion, job creation, and career development will all benefit from the implementation of these standards.
*John Atseye is the Senior Associate, Energy Access Clean Technology Hub
**Daramfon Bassey is the Manager, Cross-Cutting Practices Group, Clean Technology Hub
***Ifeoma Malo is the Co-Founder/CEO, Clean Technology Hub