Nigeria needs to optimise its huge potential to manufacture and even export components for solar energy systems like panels and inverters, as part of efforts to sustain an off-grid market for renewable energy.
This advice was given by renewable energy expert and outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the energy firm, All-On, Dr. Wiebe Boer, while speaking on the theme: ‘Foundational Blocks for a Sustainable Off-grid Market’ – during a valedictory session with stakeholders in his honour in Abuja.
The session, which was hosted by policy think-tank, Nextier Advisory, and moderated by Michael Nwachukwu, Business Development Manager – Africa Lead, of Steamaco, provided a platform for Dr. Boer to highlight All On’s impact in the growth and development of Nigeria’s off-grid electricity market.
Dr. Boer highlighted All On’s investment in several companies and programmes aimed at improving the adoption of off-grid energy solutions across Nigeria.
He noted that for now, renewable energy in Nigeria is primarily import-dependent and because the companies in the sector started small, importation was inevitable.
Nonetheless, All-On has been supporting some of these companies with loans and more, said Boer, as highlighted the effort of a start-up angel investee from the University of Nigeria (UNN) that has discovered how to manufacture solar products with chips and other other local raw materials.
He said there was a need to focus on core needs of developers, so that in the next few years, most solar products will be assembled in Nigeria and could be exported to other countries.
Boer lamented however, that some Nigerian-made products are sometimes labelled as made in China because Nigerian customers don’t believe in Nigerian products whereas some Nigerian companies are making products that work better than imported ones.
He canvassed constant encouragement from experts in the energy sector in order to build confidence, and that All-On has a strong operational team that tries to ensure the companies it is investing in are financially sound and have a good monitoring system.
Boer disclosed that All-On’s efforts have also focused on young entrepreneurs in the renewable energy space, and that one of its investees, has a CEO that is just about 23 years old.
He spoke further on exploring other energy sources like biomass and moving from the assembly of solar panels to solar modules, saying that “angel stage investment and ideation companies” are considering biomass and others, while solar panel and modules assembling are work in progress.
Describing Nigeria’s energy sector as full of potentials, Boer said the existing gaps can also be bridged with better interaction and collaboration between government agencies like Rural Electrification Agency, and private sector investors.