Fixing Nigeria's Power Problems Needs New Thinking - Wale Yusuff


Tuesday, October 29, 2019/   03:50 PM / OpEd By Wale Yusuff / Header Image Credit: Wartsila Nigeria


Wale Yusuff, Managing Director of Wartsila Nigeria, says it is time to question the suitability of a traditional approach to power generation that has clearly shown its limits and is no longer fitted to unleash Nigeria's clean energy potential. According to Yusuff, flexible power systems will be instrumental in significantly lowering electricity costs, improving system reliability, as well as boosting the share of renewable energy in the Nigerian power mix.


Yusuff notes that Nigeria is in a position to take advantage of its vast renewable energy potential and resolve most of its power system problems in an economically justified manner. The required approach is a Renewable Baseload Strategy. In this new approach, traditional Gas-to-Power plants will provide the needed flexibility to integrate a large share of renewable energy in parallel, thereby securing power system reliability.

The power mix, as envisaged in Nigeria's Vision 2030, with a 30% share of renewable energy as well as a sizable share of thermal-based power, is a robust and appropriate mix for the country. But in this context, the high flexibility and efficiency offered by reciprocating engine technology (as opposed to regular gas turbines) will be a definite addition to the technical supply architecture, especially considering the current state of the power sector and the need for future renewable energy penetration.


Integrating Renewables with Thermal Power Architecture- A workable Strategy


According to Yusuff, "On one hand, Nigeria has abundant natural gas resources as well as considerable, but intermittent, solar energy resources waiting to be tapped. On the other hand, it is plagued with chronic power shortages. With this in mind, it becomes clear that the best way forward is to build baseload energy capacities that can work seamlessly with renewables. That's why we believe that Gas-to-Power technology is such a true game-changer for the country. The ultimate solution is to use utility-scale solar power plants integrated with engine power plants and energy storage", explains Wale Yusuff.


Not only is it more sustainable going forward, but it is also more cost-effective, says the energy entrepreneur. Detailed cost analysis has shown that renewables combined with flexible engine-based power plants are more economical than traditional baseload energy solutions, with a total cost of electricity up to 24% lower. Inflexibility has a cost by limiting how much cheap renewable energy can integrate into the current system.


Low Power generation; A Race Against Time


Yusuff points out that, "It is well-known that Nigeria is grappling with chronic power failures, as well as conventional power plants that operate at a fraction of their potential capacity. Much like the rest of West Africa, the country is racing against the lack of power, but also the lack of clean energy. In this context, it is time to rethink the way we have done things in the past and adopt a new forward-looking and sustainable power generation strategy. Today we are still far away from a 100% renewable energy future. However, renewables are already starting to become the new baseload in other markets like Europe, pushing inflexible conventional power generation out of the system", said Yusuff.


The Nigeria Electrification Roadmap (NER) aims to reach 11,000 megawatts by 2023. This target is achievable if the most advanced Gas-to-Power projects are given the go-ahead to complete their development in an organized way and with a robust selection based on injection points and tariff competitiveness.


Wartsila's chief executive officer, further notes that, "It is clear that ultra-flexible engine-based power plants tailored according to the specific requirements of the country are key to improving the Nigerian power system. It is the only strategy able to offer the highest degree of flexibility, enabling major savings, and creating an optimized response to rapid changes in intermittent renewable power generation", added Yusuff.


As head of Wartsila, Yusuff has presented his Renewable Baseload strategy in a whitepaper titled, "Path towards a 100% renewable energy future",  that lays out what he considers as a credible way to reach a fully green energy mix. "Any serious long-term energy strategy must embrace the following five key trends: the rapidly increasing penetration of renewables and decentralized energy generation, the increasing role of flexible Gas, emerging storage technology, as well as data and digitalization", concluded Wale Yusuff.

About the Author

Wale Yusuff is the Managing Director, Wartsila Nigeria. Wartsila is a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets. He is a seasoned professional in Management, Sales, Marketing and Business Development in the Nigerian Oil and Gas and Power Industry. He holds an MSc And Bachelor of Engineering degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos and Federal University of Technology, Minna. He has attended many training programmes both in Nigeria and abroad. He is a corporate member, Nigeria Society of Engineers (MNSE).


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