The Managing Director/CEO of NASENI Solar Energy Limited (NSEL), Dr. Jafar Oshiobugie Mahmud, has said, the deployment of Solar energy which is Nigeria’s low hanging fruits in Nigeria’s energy mix will go a long way in bridging the country’s electricity deficit.
Dr. Mahmud, made the disclosure in an interview with select online news editors at the Company’s production/manufacturing office in Karshi, Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
QTN: Sir, kindly give us the background for the establishment of NASENI Solar Energy Limited (NSEL)?
ANS: First and foremost, my name is Dr. Jafaru Oshiobugie Mahmud, the Managing Director, NASENI Solar Energy Limited (NSEL). The Company emerged as brainchild of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). It is therefore, a product of Research and Development (R/D), which is in response to the cry that energy was truly insufficient across the country and that nobody was doing anything about it. The establishment of NASENI’s energy is government’s deliberate contribution to improving or boosting the energy required for technological, social, political and economic development of Nigeria.
In 2010, NASENI, established this factory as Karshi Solar Manufacturing Company, that was what it was called then as an arm of NASENI. Significantly, it was the late Prof. O. Adewoye, the former Director General (DG) of NASENI, said solar energy should commence from Karshi, so the first solar panel was produced in 2011.
Fortunately, the current Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, worked very closely with Prof. Adewoye and he shared in that dream that NASENI should be able to contribute to the energy mix of the country through the production of alternatives power supply, combining the Small Hydro Power (SHP) and Solar energy, which was actually meant to demonstrate the practicability of solar energy, such that investors and venture capitalists will take up that responsibility and run with as business.
QTN…cuts in, are the other stakeholders taking up the call?
ANS: Well, I will say to some extent.
…I’m still driving the history of the establishment to that point and, so the EVC, now said no, since venture capitalists and private investors are usually afraid to test the appetite for risk excepting, they see the numbers, let us run NSEL as a limited liability company and that was why in 2013 the former Solar Energy Manufacturing Company was incorporated as NASENI Solar Energy Limited.
And when it was established, milestones were set such that an investor will be able to understand the trajectory if he wishes to get involved in the solar energy sector. So, NSEL continued with the solar PV manufacturing/production and of course from the Completely Knocked Down (CKD), but gradually local content started coming in and as of today the manpower development in the sector has reached 100 percent status.
But for the contribution of the local content in manufacturing, we are in the neighbourhood of about 23%. We have some local things that we are fine-tuning and today it is no longer business as usual where you just bring in raw materials and begin to assembly.
Again, we took proactive steps to further close the manpower gap by setting up a first-class training facility, which can seat 120 persons at once.
The facility will be dedicated to hosting training and other related capacity development geared toward bridging the manpower gap.
This will assist the sector in getting tailored-made solar solutions.
So, in the case of awareness, we are trying to reach out to media houses, some directly and some from the headquarters to help us propagate this epistle that solar energy is a low hanging fruit that we can pick instead of waiting endlessly for the energy that comes from the grid or other forms of energy mix.
Because Nigeria lies in the tropical region where sun is easily accessible to us every day, if we get deeply involved and develop the sector, jobs will be created thereby stopping the rural-urban migration. Inevitably, people will no longer have that excessive appetite that they must live in the city.
Even the restiveness can be checked, because a lot of people will find something useful to do. For instance, the barber in the village will no longer insist that he must come to the town to barb, same with the hairdresser. All these are the people who can survive significantly when they have energy in their surroundings and local areas.
It a well-known that the agency through the EVC has contributed significantly in the drafting of the Order-5, which fortunately has been endorsed and so we are pushing a lot of other things through that Order to say that people are supposed to be aware that whenever you have a facility with capability or capacity to deliver on any part of any service or product that can be delivered locally you must patronized that local outfit, so that is one of the ways that we are pursuing awareness and we are also pursuing patronage.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian market is large and the country is a centroid for not just West Africa but for the African region and so if we look at what we are generating at the moment it cannot even feed the big industries even as there are small and medium industries to also cater for.
QTN: Can Solar energy be adopted to power all these aforementioned subsectors?
ANS: Yes, there is this one that is called the: Captive Solar Power. For instance, you run a tea processing factory or Yogurt factory, you run a water factory just to mention but a few. You can get solar power to power everything and your cost is recoverable within a short while.
This is possible because you are going to have consistency in power and un-interrupt-ability in supply. With this your clients and customers will have that assurance of dealing with you, thereby translating in multiplier effects for the country’s economic development. Additionally, direct and indirect jobs will be created.
In 2015 for example you can move from Karsi to Nyanyan and Federal Secretariat and hardly see one or two solar panels but now you see solar panels by your right and left supporting business ventures.
For instance, the man who sells Suya along the street only needs one bulb and because of that he gets ‘I better pass my neighbour’ generator set, thereby polluting the environment, endangers his own health and spends money on fossil fuels and by that impacts on the cost of production of his Suya and that makes it difficult for more to patronize him and that makes it only for the elite to patronize him.
But if he were to have a cheaper source of energy like the one in the small box that we showed you here, we took it to the market, gave it to the man free and he started generating interest in it.
If we were to take on the gauntlet and say no, what we want is solar energy because of our advantage position we want solar energy to stay in homes SMEs in offices, we want cost to come down and then we invest on it, solar energy on the long run is going to be better than any other form of energy from the mix. Solar energy is so far the easiest form of energy to deplore.
QTN: As an expert and practitioner what percentage of Nigerians can solar meet their needs?
ANS: Solar energy when and if properly harnessed can meet 100% energy needs of Nigerians. President Muhammadu Buhari, in one of the conferences has promised that by 2030 thirty percent (30%) of the energy mix must come from renewable energy and a greater part of that will have to come from Solar. As we speak Nigeria is presently estimated to be 200 million people and this people live in about 80 million houses and the schools and if you were to put 0.8% or 1Kilowatts of power in their residences, it will have an impact on health and the quality of life, on job creation and wealth creation. On the other hand, you are also providing opportunity for them to engage themselves, Solar energy is already having impact on agriculture/irrigation.
If you get involved in another collaborative project that NASENI is partnering with the space agency (NASRDA) to do now, it is anticipated that farmers should be able to do 3 cycles of farming in a year and because you are deploying solar now it will have an impact on food security and impact on education because people need to read.
QTN: How can this sector contribute to resolving Nigeria’s security challenges?
First, I mentioned that when you improve visibility, crime is low and secondly when you develop it, if anybody knows that he is on record at the point or scene of committing a crime and is detectable and is reachable because he would have been seen and recorded by a real time transmitters in a particular database the person will think twice before committing such a crime.
So, what we are developing will be security-enabled, we want it to be all in one and we want it to be able to have the lumens/sufficient to cover certain areas so that visibility is enhanced, detection and security issues are taken care of.
QTN: Is the Company nursing any partnership with the Office of the National Security Adviser or even the telecoms industry on security?
ANS: In NASENI, we don’t just go into research or come out with things that we are not sure of that is scientifically proven. Like I mentioned, we have a project that took us to Spain to defend and that conference is the biggest in engineering education in the world. It was organized by the World Engineering Education Forum (WEEEF) and the Global Engineering Education Council (GEEC) physically because of the COVID that conference attracted 100 participants and online it was 400 participants.
So, for us to take that kind of project there and survive it, it shows that we have put in some efforts and so that is why you see us taking our time and in even in patent office you don’t just go there and dump on them, the local patent as we are talking now is still ongoing and if there are questions it is queried until you are able to scientifically satisfy certain conditions.
So, we are factoring those things into it for our preliminary testing as we are meeting the stakeholders, but before deployment we will get to such a stage and part of it is this design. We have discussed with the DSS so we are not leaving any stone unturned because we are people who want a design, a product or a device that is scientifically proven and the engineering content is sufficient. On collaborators, yes there are private investors that are coming up and the state governments in one of the projects that we have collaborators there is a state government that is ready to be an off-taker, that after we have done all the design and development they are waiting to take with assured payment and give to their citizens who are ready to make use of it.
As we speak, we are aware that there are some health facilities that have closed offices because there is no light. Some use phone or candle light to do operations, some candle lights and lantern and health challenges sometimes does not give notice.
QTN: What are some of the challenges contending with the implementation?
ANS: We have and that is why we are still doing part-production and if we have the patronage, we would have been doing continuous production because we would no longer be doing target production.
QTN: What are NSEL’s competitive advantages?
When you want to buy a very strong vehicle you cannot say that, here we are talking about quality.
So, when you want to buy tear rubber you don’t talk of cost. We can beat our chest in this industry and say that our products are the best across the country.
…still on challenges: The first is patronage and secondly is more facilities and three is relevant and cognate manpower, 4 is operational finances and the 5is waivers for the procurement of solar related raw materials. All these 5 can be collapsed to number one.
Because if there is patronage, we can gradually develop and if there is patronage, we can take care of ourselves and for people to say that ours is relatively expensive it is so because it is because of economies of scale, but however, we can guarantee the quality is guaranteed and there are no hidden fact on the processes, it is about reality. And if there is any problem with imported one’s money has to be used to transport them abroad and return when they have fault.
With NASENI products there is after sales service depending on the agreement and depending on the agreement.