Kenneth ChinenyezeNwosu, is a first class engineer, an IT professional, an e-health practitioner and a sustainability enthusiast, who holds an MBA in Information Technology, a Project Management Professional Certification (PMP) and MSc in Health Informatics. The graduate of University of Benin, who believes that Nigeria’s problems can only be solved by Nigerians, is currently the President of SITNigeria, an organization that is poised to bring a paradigm shift in the Nigerian burgeoning health informatics and renewable energy sub-sectors. In this interview with Edward Nnachi, Senior Correspondent,IT NEWS NIGERIA he talks about the benefits of digitalization in the energy transition and his company’s plan to train three million young Nigerians by 2020 in Solar Photovoltaics (PV) design and installation.
• How can the existing energy system cope with the increasing amount of volatile renewable energy electricity generation in the country, sir?
Thank you very much, Edward.
First of all, we have the conventional and the non-conventional energy sources. In the nearest future, the conventional sources such as petroleum, a good example of fossil fuel or hydro-electric power and the non-conventional sources such as solar and urban waste or garbage may begin to complement one another. Before I continue, however, I have to quickly point out that the word “volatile”, if I understand exactly what you mean by that in the context of your question, is not synonymous with renewable energy. Solar energy, for example, is not only sustainable for energy consumption but is indefinitely renewable, simply because the sun provides clean and stable energy. Anyway, it may appear to be volatile to uninformed Nigerians who do not know its immense clout in the renewable energy industry and the disheartening fact that Nigeria has not yet started exploring it for the benefit of mankind.
Presently, Nigeria’s power generation capacity, from a reliable online source, fluctuates between 4,000 and 2,000megawatts—which is too poor for a country with a population of over 180million. According to Nigeria’s minister of Power, BabatundeFashola, the country (provided all things are working) has the capacity to generate 12,000megawatts. Well, this may never be, because all things cannot work even in the economy of an advanced country, let alone that of a developing country like Nigeria. In reality, after all, the world cannot boast of any utopian economy. What is only possible is that, once Nigeria in its entirety becomes a key player in renewable energy generation, like most countries in North America and Europe and Asia, our all-year-round solar projects alone will be able to generate 7,400megawatts, i.e. 200megawatts for every state and FCT, even at a much lower commercial rate.
Besides, solar panels do not create waste or emissions while in use. A solar power plant produces clean, renewable energy, unlike a fossil fuel power plant. The solar energy source once deployed, requires no locating or re-locating, no transportation from place to place, no excavation of any sort, no combustion. It is an energy solution that is simpler, cheaper, cleaner, and better.
We all do not only know about the soaring electricity prices in Nigeria; we are also experiencing it. What the consumption rate was a couple of years ago is not what it is today. There is a steady upward trend. Imported solar panels don’t come cheap (which we hope to address and defy by means of our solar training). But the truth is, making an investment in the panels will always pay for itself in a shorter period of time.
Having this understanding at the back of our minds, however, we may be apt to agree that the two systems of power generation may cease to complement one another when solar energy is fully harnessed in the country. That is to say, by that time, the conventional system will most likely be generating a faction of the capacity generated by the non-conventional system. This, of course, depends on the development of better ways of storing the power generated for use when the sun is not shining.
• Having the necessary infrastructure in place is essential for driving national energy strategies. How can Nigeria get a unique insight into electricity and heat infrastructures and solutions that permit the integration of an increasing amount of distributed energy?
Globally, more than half of energy consumption is wasted, most of it in the form of excess heat which can be converted to usable electricity. As our population continues to grow, more and more waste is produced.
In Nigeria, for example, fuel-inefficient trucks transport thousands of tons of garbage hundreds of miles to communities that do not even generate the waste in the first place. This mal-practice increases the rate of wear and tear of our roadways and causes the belching of toxic exhaust into the atmosphere. Worse yet, the deplorable disposal sites are typically located in poorer areas of the country where increased rates of illness, birth defects, disease, and resultant absence from work seem to always be attributed to other factors, in spite of evidence that the tons and tons of garbage are most likely to blame.
The generation of waste is not only a reality but is inevitable. And waste has to be treated as a valuable resource that can be recycled for better use rather than seen as a liability that constitutes a nuisance. As a nation, we must therefore focus on the development and implementation of advanced environmental technology to combat the catastrophic effects that poor waste management practices and fossil fuel dependencies have made on both our health and economy.
Thermoelectric generators could be used in power plants to convert waste heat to electrical power. In the automobile industry, automotive thermoelectric generators are used to increase fuel efficiency.
The provision of this infrastructure can be achieved by means of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). And the various state governments, including the federal government, must be swift to approve PPP proposals and the subsequent perfection of MOUs and binding agreements must also be made to take immediate effect.
• In advanced climes, most companies have started using renewable energies and innovative energy efficiency concepts in their production processes. Is it possible for Nigerian companies to achieve this feat, too?
Of course, it is possible, especially in an economy like ours, using a combination of solar and wind power systems. In this country, almost all the energy we burn in our companies and factories and homes each year gets lost as heat instead of being put to use. We do so much work to drill crude oil and get it refined. But when we put (for example) petrol into use, most of the energy is lost through the exhaust pipes of our automobile or the chimneys of our factories and power plants. In fact, a fraction of what we lose as heat would have a considerable impact on our exploitation of energy. This is why the advanced countries these days cannot do without using renewable energies and the various concepts that foster innovative energy efficiency in their factories and power plants and offices and homes. We have to pluck a leaf from them for sustainable economic growth and development.
• Energy experts are now talking about digitalization in the energy transition. Are there innovative apps, digital solutions and software that would bring new exciting opportunities and business models into the shift to clean energy economy?
The energy sector has welcomed digitalization in the context of simulation, modeling for product design, control, planning, etc. This would lead, or has led already, to improvement in the quality of service and reduction in costs.
In fact, I read somewhere that it is a vision becoming a reality. And I quote the writer: “Digital energy transformation will help system operators making rational decisions and in the same time customers getting every day benefits and value added services”.
The SmartGrids European Technology Platform has constituted a Digital Energy Task Force with a view to identifying new services that can become known and develop the benefits of digitalization in the energy transition. The stakeholders and policy makers, I presume, must have been addressed with the summary of the results. Perhaps there are innovative Apps, digital solutions and software that would bring new exciting opportunities and business models into the global effort to provide mankind with clean energy.
• Sir, tell Nigerians the solutions you intend to bring to their lives in the midst of an economy that has been ravaged by depression, using the brand, SITNigeria?
We have four core operational areas, namely solar power, solar training, healthcare IT, and self-employment opportunity creation. And we need suitably qualified people to drive them and ultimately render premium services to every subscriber, services that are premised on speed, quality, and honesty. To this end, we published a list of twenty vacancies in the Guardian of 9th January, 2017 which had 28th February, 2017 as the deadline. This was also published in the social media and the number of applications received is staggering, so much so that the interviews may take us a couple of weeks to conduct successfully.
Talking about TaskNibbler, we came up with that at the pre-incorporation stage of the company. The urgent need for us to actualize our job-creation dream in Nigeria is the story behind TaskNibbler, hence the addition of that word to our registered name so that we have it in full as Solar, Infotech&TaskNibbler Nig. Ltd. Taking a cue from the business model of TaskRabbit, an American company now well-known on both sides of the Atlantic, we want to optimize this area with a view to creating numerable jobs for our jobless graduates who are now too many to count, especially those among them who want flexible jobs instead of the regular 9-to-5. TaskNibbler is an online job marketplace on the platform of a mobile App where Taskers who do the jobs meet with Task-posters who post the jobs on the App. The jobs include, but are not limited to, all manner of domestic and office chores and errands. Task-posters are usually the rich who want to hold a company, instead of an individual, liable for proven cases of abuse, pilfering, outright theft, or any other kind of loss or vice as a result of the Tasker’s negligence. Task-posters can also be people who are, for example, too busy or too old to do any chores or even take care of their children or grandchildren. A replica of TaskRabbit, TaskNibbler has come to stay in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. To know more about this platform, visit us at www.breadwinner.family.
Through our perennial solar projects, more graduates—experienced and inexperienced alike—will be employed in droves and provision shall be made for the establishment of solar-panel factories in Nigeria. The projects include both our solar e-training and the development of academic programmes in collaboration with educational institutions in Nigeria for capacity building, turning Nigeria into a solar expertise hub for the sub-Saharan African region. Visit us at sitnigeria.com to learn more about our training programmes.
These feats are all on the premise that energy is one of the most important components of economic infrastructure, the basic feature in the sustenance of economic growth and development. Then we have the healthcare IT which will bring about the sprouting of many kiosks or walk-in centres in several places in the country, to be manned by trained personnel. Here, you can visit us at www.sithealth.com for more information.
…To be continued