Breaking the chain: The crucial need for local manufacturing in Nigeria’s renewable energy revolution

©Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

As the sun sets on Nigeria’s potential for renewable energy, a touching human story emerges, reflecting the hopes and challenges tied to the quest for a sustainable future. In the pursuit of utilising abundant sunlight, wind, and water, Nigeria stands at a crossroads, holding the promise of economic progress through renewable energy. Yet, the shadow of missed opportunities and lessons unlearned from the oil and gas sector looms large, reminding us of the need for local manufacturing.

Decades of exporting crude oil without adding value locally have left scars on Nigeria’s economy. Importing refined petroleum products, technology, and equipment for oil exploration and production highlight the historical reliance on external sources. Despite commitments to transform the oil and gas sector, a similar story unfolds in renewable energy, risking the export of jobs to nations that have the necessary capacity.

Amidst the push for renewable energy adoption, the heart of the matter lies in the delicate balance between technological progress and economic empowerment. The local content act of 2010, aimed at boosting Nigerian participation in the oil and gas industry, finds parallels in renewable energy. The need to build a local ecosystem for solar panels, photovoltaic batteries, and related essentials becomes evident, lest the country repeat the same story of failed local production in the oil and gas sector.

The missing link lies in the absence of large economies of scale that could drive local manufacturing and usher in price reductions.

The journey towards a thriving local manufacturing industry for renewable energy components reveals dependencies on ancillary sectors—glass making, aluminium manufacturing, and access to rare earth elements. The current scenario, with most of Nigeria’s domestic demand for glass being imported, portrays a stark picture of the negligible local ecosystem supporting solar panel production. The urgent need for value addition through local technology application and equipment manufacturing becomes the key to a sustainable renewable market.

Despite the global decline in the cost of solar power, Nigeria grapples with a refusal of installation costs to follow suit. The missing link lies in the absence of large economies of scale that could drive local manufacturing and usher in price reductions. The Federal Government’s ambitious plan under the Economic Sustainability Plan to install solar home systems in five million homes holds promise but also underscores the critical reliance on imports due to the absence of local manufacturing capacity.

In the midst of government claims of job creation through the solar home systems initiative, a stark reality emerges—more jobs exported abroad than created locally. China’s dominance in solar PV equipment production and job creation dwarfs the figures seen in the United States, underscoring the numbers and volumes at play. The narrative unfolds across the upstream, mid-stream, and downstream sectors, with the realisation that Nigeria’s current mid-stream player, Auxano Solar Nigeria Limited, alone cannot sustain upstream businesses.

As the sun sets on today’s challenges, it also casts a warm glow on tomorrow’s possibilities. Imagine a Nigeria bathed in the light of not just abundant resources, but of locally manufactured solar panels, gleaming wind turbines spinning with the force of innovation, and a thriving ecosystem of green jobs woven into the fabric of the nation. This is not a utopia, but a future within reach, waiting to be birthed from the seeds of local manufacturing.

Let us break the chains, sow these seeds with conviction, and nurture them with the collective will of a nation ready to claim its rightful place as a leader in the renewable energy revolution.

The sun may set today, but tomorrow, it will rise on a Nigeria powered by its own light, and the stories woven in its radiance will be tales of triumph, of self-determination, and of a future forever written in the sun.