Mr. Muyiwa Kolawole has been in the business of technology, e-Commerce, and renewable energy. In this nterview with Edward Nnachi, Senior Correspondent, the Director of Operations at Rensource Distributed Energy Ltd said innovation and deployment of solar technology is key to bringing affordable and clean power to Nigerians.
The thinking in this part of the world that renewable energy technology projects are capital intensive discourages would-be investors. What is your take on this?
It is not too far from the truth, because renewable energy projects are really capital intensive. One of the reasons is largely because we don’t produce much of the infrastructure needed for renewable energy in the country, and that makes it to be capital intensive. The best kinds of projects are the ones we can source locally and which we are not doing at the moment, to some extent. Therefore, is solar generally capital intensive? Yes. However, right now things are changing because a lot of investors now are attracted to this country as regards helping to bring solutions and that is because of the way the technology is moving to and the opportunities available. We know now as a country we produce conveniently less than 5,000 megawatts (MW) of grid electricity and lately, the minister of power said the country needed nothing less than 120,000 megawatts (MW) of grid power in production. So right now a number of renewable energy players have sprung up locally and we have been able to see international partnerships. Yes, it’s capital intensive; but with the opportunities available and the bulk need for it now, we are getting a lot of attention in that area. And I think that is changing gradually.
The world is shifting attention from fossil fuel to renewable energy and in Africa, Kenya and Morocco are leading examples. What do you think the government can do to join its contemporaries in the transition to clean energy?
What we need to know is that the grid power is no longer taking care of the energy need of the large number of people springing up by the day, when you match it with the population of Nigeria now which is over 200 million. And we are barely producing less than 5,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity; that amount is very small to a Nigerian user. When you go to a country like Kenya it will amaze you to see what EMCOPA is doing. EMCOPA is a leading player in the renewable energy space in that part of the world, which is basically trying to provide electricity in all parts of Kenya in its little form to meet basic electricity needs rather than focusing heavily on those ones that needed to power their 25 ACs and so on. They are trying to ensure that people can have basic electricity to, for instance charge their phones and light up their homes and all that. This is all possible in Nigeria. The first thing we need to do is to be realistic and let people understand that we cannot actually generate off-grid because right now, there is still a lot of attention on grid power than it should be. But there are lots of renewable energy sources even starting with the one that is very common, which is solar that we should start focusing on. And the truth about it is that we have to take it one location at a time right now, as long as we still run a central electricity grid though the ministry of power. If we can’t bring it down to the state level and make it state-owned project, then at the federal level we need to be realistic enough and take it one city at a time. There is just no way we can get enough as a country to provide wind turbines, solar panels, etc. to cater for the electricity need of the entire country at the same time; but it’s something we can do one city or state at a time and ideally with one state focusing on it, we can actually make progress in this sector. So right now, we have to be very realistic with what we want to achieve as a nation in the power industry and then focus on implementing it one city or state at a time.
Little or nothing is known about Rensource Energy. Tell us what your organization does and represents in the renewables sector.
We have been registered for almost two years now but fully operational in less than a year. Within this period, research has been going on. The founder and Chief Executive Officer of this company is Ademola Adesina, a Nigerian. Here, we are trying to provide technology solutions that can actually allow Nigerians pay for electricity, without actually breaking the bank. As much as possible, our business model is not centered on outright sales; rather it is more centered on utility payments, for example your water bill, DSTV bill and monthly power bills and all that. And we focus on a different technology. If you look around, you see solar systems set up here in our office. You can find pile up of batteries, inverters and things like that. But what we are doing is different and the kind of batteries we are focused on is lithium ion-this is one of the core areas of our business now. These are the kinds of batteries we have on our mobile phones, which are smaller and they last longer. The average life-span of lithium ion is about eight to twelve years. And our panels can go for as long as 25 years; and so, what we have tried to do at Rensource Energy is to build this technology that allows us to distribute or share power and our designs are very sleek. For instance, I have this box in my home which I can hang round my television set, and someone may not know it is supplying light to my entire home. And this little box, with the lithium ion battery in it, has some technology embedded in it, like controller and everything that helps it works. Another thing that makes us standard is that we have different systems right now and mini computers are embedded in our systems. With the larger systems we have right now, you can actually see the amount of power you are consuming and can also know when the load on your system is much, which helps you to be more energy-efficient . With this, you are conserving power because you can actually see the amount of power you are using. And this is very helpful and economical for us now because of the cost of diesel and petrol now. Sometime last year, we saw the electricity tariffs were increasing and, as far as we are still hanging subsidy over our head, petroleum products prices will continue to be on the high side. But with our own technology now, the reverse is the case. The price of lithium ion is going down and so the cost of batteries will continue to go down. So, basically we are yet to provide affordable solar solutions to take care of the stress of diesel and frightening energy to different homes at very affordable rate. With our systems, you can pay as low as N16, 500 per month and get the system installed with a-33 inch TV and two standing fans and others, all in your home. You can get all of that and just pay N16,500 and this is outside the solar power system that we are going to mount or install on your roof to get a better access to energy. That is Rensource and these are some of the solutions we are trying to provide.
May we meet you?
My name is Muyiwa Kolawole. I work for a company called Rensource Energy where, I am the Director of Operations. Prior to now, I have been in the business of technology, e-Commerce, and currently solar energy. I was the very first staff of Konga market place and I helped Konga to be what it is right now in Nigeria and Africa. We are focused on providing clean and affordable power to Nigerians staring with one city at a time basically. And over the last couple of months, we have worked on building technologies that can help raise the bar in renewable energy development and deployment in Nigeria; and we make bold to to say this is possible, having put smiles on the face of Lagosians in this regard. This is what we do at Rensource Distributed Energy Limited.