Energy Poverty in Nigeria

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When we talk about poverty in Africa, the typical images and concepts come to mind. Children with ragged clothes, barefoot with distended bellies, shanty towns covered in filth and sewage, and beggars lining the streets crying for scraps. These scenarios are realities for millions around the world, in Africa, and in Nigeria. This form of poverty is more aligned with economic resources or lack thereof. Lack of money, housing, food, healthcare, etc.

Energy poverty in its simplest definition means the lack of access to electricity (and other energy sources) for large sections of the population. This lack of access cuts millions off from the very energy source that can improve the quality of life, and provide safety, access to information, comfort, and light.

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Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas on

Nigeria has enormous potential. It boasts Africa’s largest economy, abundant natural resources, and a young and rapidly growing population. However, one of its biggest challenges is energy poverty, with only 45% of the population having access to electricity, primarily concentrated in urban areas. This has a major impact on the country’s development and the quality of life of its citizens.

Facing the Challenge

To address this challenge, the Nigerian government has set a goal of achieving universal energy access by 2030. This is an ambitious target, but it is essential for Nigeria’s future. The government recognizes that to achieve this goal, it needs to invest in renewable energy and energy-efficient sources and grow private sector investments.

However, there are several challenges to Nigeria’s energy transition. One of the most pressing challenges is insufficient power generation. Nigeria’s power generation capacity is only about 5,000 megawatts, but the country needs about 12,000 megawatts to meet demand. This gap is being filled by private generators – which are expensive, inefficient, and commit noise and air pollution.

Inadequate infrastructure is another challenge to Nigeria’s energy transition. Nigeria’s power transmission and distribution grid is antiquated and failing, which means that even when power is generated, it often cannot reach consumers. This results in power cuts and unreliable service, which further exacerbates the problem of energy poverty.

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Failing power grid

In Nigeria, there is a high level of energy poverty. Over 140 million people lack access to electricity. This has a significant impact on their lives, including their ability to access education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Addressing energy poverty is critical for Nigeria’s development and the well-being of its citizens. The self-proclaimed giant of Africa – can not provide basic human services to her citizens. This should be a top priority for any administration.

Complications with currency convertibility, financing structures, and the availability of technology supply and technical know-how in operating and maintaining equipment are additional challenges to Nigeria’s energy transition.

Renewable Energy is Heating up

Nigeria has enormous opportunities to capitalize on renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro. Solar arrays are getting more popular, but mostly in small-scale residences or small factories. As this technology gets cheaper, the solar expansion will be positioned to lift rural and urban folks out of the darkness.

The government must play a crucial role in the proliferation of renewable energy. While Nigerians can’t or shouldn’t count on the government to handle everything – there should be a basic expectation that the administration should make a serious attempt to help ease the problem and facilitate solutions via loans and or training programs.

a solar panel on roof tiles
Solar Panels on Rooftop Photo by Kindel Media on

World Economic Forum

To address these challenges, the World Economic Forum is working with the Nigerian government and other stakeholders to accelerate the energy transition. Some of the initiatives that are being implemented include scaling rural electrification through distributed solar generation, mini-grids, and off-grid technology alternatives. This will help to provide access to electricity to millions of people who currently do not have it. Additionally, the Forum is developing financial and technical assistance solutions, making it easier for businesses and individuals to invest in renewable energy projects. Lastly, the public is being educated about the benefits of renewable energy, which will help create a demand for cleaner power sources.

In conclusion, Nigeria’s energy transition is a complex challenge, but it is essential for its future. The government, businesses, and the public can make it happen by working together. Achieving universal energy access by 2030 will not only benefit Nigeria’s economy and improve the quality of life for its citizens, but it will also help to address climate change and contribute to a more sustainable future for all. Do you think universal energy access by 2030 is realistic? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Roman Kingsley

Journalist based in the United States and Nigeria, focusing on Real Estate Development and the stories emerging in and around the built environment.

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