Transforming simple ideas into energy solutions.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
West African Energy seeks to alleviate Nigeria’s power deficit going by a track record in the management of operational power plants. I chatted with W.A.E’s Managing Director, Dr. Martin Arumemi-Ikhide about how their brand connects simple ideas and improved human experience.
Born in 1957 in Ile-Ife Osun State, South West Nigeria, Alhaji Hassan Taiwo Elugbaju has been a practising tailor for over three decades.
Alhaji Elugbaju has two sons. His first son Kola, a sophomore at the Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Rivers State, Nigeria is also a tailor. Kola’s younger brother, Olumide is in secondary school. Alhaji Hassan’s tailoring practise pays for their education.
‘I learnt tailoring from my parents. While growing up I would stay with them in their shop to run errands after school. That was how I gradually learned tailoring. Today I can sew for both men and women’, says Hassan.
But tailoring was not his first career choice. A young Hassan had always wanted to be a soldier. He did get his dream job at some point but didn’t stay on that career path.
‘My parents didn’t want me to be a soldier. After much pressure from them I decided to quit’, explains Hassan.
After his short stint with the military, Alhaji Elugbaju decided to remain in Port Harcourt where he had been transferred to in 1978. In 1982, he set up shop in Rumuola, a suburb in Port Harcourt, Southern Nigeria.
Providing tailoring services for over three decades has not been without challenges. The most salient issue has been the lack of adequate power supply with alternative power eating deep into the Elugbajus’ bottom line.
‘NEPA light is our biggest problem. We don’t have regular power supply in this area. We spend the little money we make to fuel our generator. For example, we buy about N1,500- N2,000 worth of petrol daily’, says Kola.
The Elugbajus’ spend an estimated N36,000- N48,000 monthly (excluding Sundays) fuelling their petrol generator. There are months when breaking even is a challenge.
‘If you charge customers too high, they will look elsewhere to get their clothes sewn. So we try to charge minimal rates to keep our customers because the customer is always right as they say’, says Kola.
‘Baba’ as Alhaji Elugbaju is fondly called by those in his locality calls on the Nigerian government to provide stable and adequate power supply to enable businesses like his survive.
Alhaji Elugbaju is representative of small businesses circumnavigating the challenges associated with Nigeria’s business terrain. Energy poverty is a big deal in Nigeria and the situation is not unconnected with structural issues plaguing Nigeria’s power sector.
The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry data for 2018 revealed that in January 2018, 2302.8mw of electricity was not generated due to the unavailability of gas. An additional 415mw was not generated due to unavailability of transmission infrastructure with unavailability of adequate distribution infrastructure responsible for a loss of at least 290mw of power.
The issues persist across the electricity value chain with private distribution companies said to be turning back chunks of electricity sent to them by the generation companies. Concerns persist about dilapidated infrastructure used by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (T.C.N) while lack of basic infrastructure like transformers and transmission cables across some communities remains a critical challenge.
The first phase of the privatisation of Nigeria’s power sector concluded in November 2013 saw a US$2.5 billion transaction that unbundled the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) into six generation companies and eleven distribution companies. It is evident that privatisation has not delivered the antidote to the myriad issues facing power sector reform in Nigeria.
‘People comment that the privatisation of Nigeria’s power sector could have been more effectively executed but that experiences presented lessons and we as a country are moving forward. The challenges in the energy terrain persist because Nigeria’s energy market wasn’t ready for a long gestation period. The initiation of the National Independent Power Project (NIPP) as an instance was a show of commitment by the Nigerian Government and what is required now is a plan for the holistic development of the power sector’, says Dr. Martin Arumemi-Ikhide; Managing Director West African Energy.
West African Energy (W.A.E) is an energy company in the Nigerian power sector focused on power generation and making inroads into the transmission end of the value chain.
Arumemi-Ikhide believes that an energy mix that includes thermal and non thermal sources of electricity is much needed to tackle Nigeria’s multifaceted power challenges.
West African Energy (W.A.E) as an energy company is focused on transforming available resources into different energy forms. With plans to develop a power plant in Edo State (Southern Nigeria), W.A.E sees need to invest in renewables to scale up the small range of choices available to energy consumers in Nigeria.
Renewable energy penetration in Nigeria is still comparatively low due to technological and financing challenges. Renewable energy is one of the means of tackling climate change with the World Bank announcing its launch of a $1 Billion program to ‘fast-track investments in battery storage’ by September 2018. This move is meant to help speed up the deployment of renewable energy in developing countries.
‘Non-renewable energies tend to be cheaper today because they are commodities. Oil, gasoline, and natural gas are products that are bought and sold for the purpose of being consumed. Renewables are however different because they are technology and fuel. You don’t burn a wind turbine; you install it. Over time, technology becomes cheaper as production and installation methods are refined. This implies that non-renewable energies will be relatively consistent in price while renewable are on a path that is constantly becoming cheaper,’ says Arumemi-Ikhide.
West African Energy is creating pathways to transforming simple ideas into energy solutions for small businesses like Alhaji Hassan Elugbaju’s. Much can be said about a future where both thermal and non-thermal sources of electricity are in use to tackle challenges posed by Nigeria’s energy deficit and West African Energy is at the fore front of this enterprise.