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Nigeria, like other nations, has long
recognised the potentials of renewable energy in the promotion of environmental
sustainability. However, unlike countries such as China, Brazil and Germany,
Nigeria’s huge renewable energy potentials have not been fully utilised. This
is due to a number of factors, such as Nigeria’s overdependence on the crude
oil revenue, lack of an overarching legal framework that articulates a
comprehensive strategy for promotion of renewable energy and political will to
drive enforcement and implementation of extant policies on renewables. One of
the overarching objectives of Nigeria’s National Energy Policy is to guarantee
adequate, reliable and sustainable supply of energy at appropriate costs and in
an environmentally friendly manner, to the various sectors of the economy, for
national development.

However, a review of Nigeria’s legal and institutional
framework on renewal energy development shows that the approach is not well
focused on the ideals of environmental sustainability, as the emphasis seem to
be more on energy access and sufficiency than on environmental sustainability.
The many regulatory institutions that exist in both the power sector and the
environment sometimes have overlapping mandates and responsibilities, resulting
in disagreements between agencies over jurisdictional boundaries.

Environmental sustainability forms
one of the pillars of sustainability development, the others being social
sustainability and economic sustainability. It is an aspect of the development
process which emphasises the harnessing of natural and social resources with
major considerations for continuity and the future. Renewable energy sources
such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, energy sources are by
their nature infinite and environmentally friendly when compared to
conventional energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas. There is,
therefore, a global shift to support the promotion of renewable energy.
Investment in renewable electricity would be desirable for increasing energy
security, mitigating climate change and promoting economic development.
However, Nigeria’s energy sector is dominated by oil and gas consumption. Most
investments in the sector are currently in oil and gas generating plants. Owing
to prolonged investments and economies of scale, the cost of generation of
electricity from oil and gas is lower than that of renewable energy installations.
Apart from hydropower, renewable energy sources hardly feature as part of
Nigeria’s energy mix. 

In many ways, Nigeria has
demonstrated awareness of the need to promote sustainable development. However,
while the post-1988 environmental law development period in Nigeria placed the
environment at the center of sustainable development objectives of the country,
it did not translate actual protection of the environment. Our environmental
protection laws are not strictly enforced because the Nigerian economy relies
heavily on fossil fuel, and serious environmental protection measures and/or
enforcement would affect revenue from crude oil production and transactions. It
then appears then that what Nigeria need is a way to balance its energy
interests with environmental concerns, hence the importance of a legal and
institutional framework for promoting renewable energy.

Nigeria is endowed with huge energy
resources, yet it perennially suffers energy poverty. Moreover, the reliance on
fossil fuel to meet Nigeria’s energy need has been attended with many problems
such as physical deterioration of energy transmission and distribution
facilities, inadequate metering system, increase in the incidence of power
theft through illegal connections, manpower constraints and inadequate support
facilities, high cost of electricity production, inadequate basic industries to
service the power sector, poor billing systems, poor settlements of bills by
consumers, inadequate generation capacity, deforestation, desertification,
erosion and a host of other environmental problems. There is also the problem
of energy access for the vast populated of Nigeria that reside in the rural
areas. Adoption of renewable energy sources as alternatives to fossil fuel will
greatly assist in addressing many of these challenges. Renewable energy is
cheap because its resources are naturally replenished, evenly distributed and
readily available, renewable at a reasonable rate, environmental-friendly,
divisible into small units, and flexibly transmittable.

Nigeria is a signatory to the Kyoto
Protocol and also has in place a National Policy on Climate
Change and Response Strategy (2011) for implementing climate change
activities in the country. The Kyoto
Protocol
 is the international treaty which extends the 1992 United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that commits state
parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific
consensus that, firstly, global warming is occurring and secondly, it
is extremely likely that human-made CO2
emissions have predominantly caused it. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in
Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005.
The National Policy on Climate Change and Response Strategy is a framework
for tackling environmental challenges occasioned by global changes in climate.
It is expected that this Policy will enhance Nigeria’s abilities to meet her
obligations towards reduction of emission of noxious substances in the
environment. The policy envisages a shift away from fossil fuel or
coal-generated energy towards renewables as the resources to meet the local
growing energy demand using clean technologies. Given Nigeria’s status as a
fossil-fuel dependent economy with a large climate sensitive agricultural
sector, the development of a climate change policy and response strategy is
critical; as climate change portends a serious threat to poverty eradication
and sustainable development in general. One of the key pillars of Nigeria’s Vision
20:2020 is investment in low carbon fuels and renewable energy. There are
however, the challenges of effective implementation of the policy. The impacts
of climate change in Nigeria require the widest cooperation and participation
in an effective and appropriate national response comprising mitigation and
adaptation measures that are efficient, concrete and targeted.

Since crude oil earnings have
continued to contribute the largest share of government revenue, and since
fossil fuel dominates the Nigerian energy mix, it has been a challenge for
Nigeria to reduce carbon emission from energy activities, and this has
continued to be detrimental to the environment. However, a careful balance of
renewable and non-renewable energy sources in Nigeria’s energy mix will not
necessarily result in a drop in revenue, if global best practices are followed
in the design and implementation of the required policy, legal and
institutional framework. The actual design of renewable energy support
mechanisms is more important for effective and efficient support than the mere
choice of support schemes a jurisdiction employs. Support systems for renewable
energy can be investment or generation focused, wherein the regulation may be
price-based or/and quantity-based.

The issue of deciding which policies
for renewable energy development to choose cannot be answered in a general way.
There is not one perfect support scheme that could be recommended for all
countries. The choice depends upon different factors such as: the current market
stage of the technologies, the budget available or the means of finance, the
anticipated renewable energy targets, as well as the desirability and
feasibility of the technology mix, with regard to the natural conditions in the
respective country. A country’s choice of support system depends on its
objectives and peculiar conditions. The support systems can be actualised
through policy objectives and legal instruments. Policy framework for renewable
energy can be direct or indirect, optional or mandatory. Lessons from other
jurisdictions show that technology-specific support mechanisms have been the
most effective and efficient, and that production-based support mechanisms are
better for the development of renewable energy projects than investment-based support.

Nigeria needs a support scheme which
is both effective and efficient. This is what the 2015 Regulations on Feed-In
Tariff for Renewable Energy Sourced Electricity in Nigeria aim to achieve.  Feed-in tariffs have become the policy
instrument of choice for so many diverse economies around the world because
feed-in tariffs are empirically proven to promote the fastest expansion of
renewable electric power, at the lowest cost. They also do so more simply,
transparently and democratically than other schemes. Unlike other mechanisms,
such as tax credits or research and development subsidies, feed-in tariffs need
cost governments nothing, being usually funded through costs spread among all
electric utility customers, as part of their regular bill. They are
performance-based, only paying for the actual output of renewable electricity,
not just given out as a grant for purchasing the equipment. Feed-in tariffs
work so well because they are simple and inclusive, allowing all players to
invest. They are more transparent than other schemes, have lower administration
costs, and when designed properly (and supported by appropriate planning laws)
can get deployment moving very quickly. Generally, feed-in tariffs also
accelerate the cost reduction of renewable energy technologies, making them
cost-competitive with conventional energy sources at a much faster pace. At
that point, no more support will be necessary. The question of how long support
is necessary also depends on the ambition of the country in question. Although
they can be used to meet a minimal target, they can also be applied
aggressively to redirect money flows in a significant way towards creating a
domestic renewable energy industry large enough to compete in the global
market.

Using the law to
integrate renewable energy into the Nigerian power sector will promote energy
security and access, a clean environment and economic development.
In order to effectively harness the
potentials afforded by renewable energy, Nigeria needs to have a robust legal
regime that promotes and regulates the development and utilization of renewable
energy. With an abundance of natural gas in the country and with the potential
of this form of fossil fuel serving as a transition fuel, the policy and
regulatory framework must carefully balance Nigeria’s need for economic
development vis-à-vis preservation of its environmental resources.

Michael Dugeri

mikedugeri@gmail.com