Solar Energy consumers lament high cost of installation of equipment

SOME solar energy consumers on Wednesday, attributed the slow pace at embracing the technology to the high cost of installation materials.

They told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, that the rising cost of PhotoVoltaic (PV) panels, inverters and batteries was a major challenge to the installation of the technology.

According to them, despite the abundance of sun in Nigeria, and the ability of solar power to end energy deficit, support growth of small businesses, many Nigerians have remained indifferent to adopting the technology.

They were reacting to Federal Government’s call to Nigerians to embrace solar energy and other renewable sources, given the limited nature of the national grid to provide electricity to all Nigerians.
The Federal Government had repeatedly emphasised that it was diversifying electricity generation, distribution and transmission with other renewable energy solutions like solar.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, had at a book launch advised Nigerians to embrace solar energy to reduce pressure on the national grid.

“We are committed to incremental power and policies that will drive the power sector. Solar is one of the renewable energy,” the minister said.

NAN reports that installing a solar electricity system is first made possible with the provision of a solar panel itself, although there are various kinds of solar panels used for generating electricity.A single solar module or PV can produce only a limited amount of power and most installations contain multiple PVs.

For an installer to generate the required energy, he or she must have to buy the required number of PVs.

A PV system typically includes a panel or an array of solar modules made up of a solar inverter and batteries.

Also, a market survey by NAN on the prices of PV panels revealed that a solar PV panel of 150Watts and 300Watts is being sold for between N40,000 and N70,000 respectively, depending on the kind of panel.

To this end, a bank executive, Mr Charles Ugoma,  told NAN that he installed the solar technology in his four-bedroom apartment in 2015, having spent so much money to purchase the panels and batteries.

He said the panels became bad after two years of installation because the panels sold to him was not designed for the climate in Nigeria.

“The panels were not manufactured to suit the tropics in Africa, the one they installed for me is not sustainable.’’

According to him, it has become difficult for him to replace the panels because of the present high cost of PV panels in the market. Ugoma said it was important for the government through its relevant energy agencies to work toward implementing right policies that would make solar energy technology affordable to Nigerians.

This, he explained would help rekindle the interest of many Nigerians to deploy the technology to solve their energy issues.

Dr Charles Odeh, a solar energy developer, also disclosed that it was cheering that policymakers at the Federal and State levels were formulating policies on renewable like solar power to address energy poverty.

Odeh, however, said it was unfortunate that government policies on renewable energy had not actually reduced the cost of providing solar energy.

He said some of the policies were actually designed to ultimately transfer part of the cost of importing solar energy equipment to ordinary Nigerians buying the technology.

“The actual cost of having a solar power is actually high than most people think because it comes with other unseen costs like infrastructure and environmental impact issues.

“You should not expect a developer, investor to spend so much on importing solar equipment to record a loss while deploying the technology to people.

“Government must find a way to ensure that it is less expensive to deploy.

“Engineers need to develop more efficient production techniques, mass production of panels inefficient factories will help bring down production costs and make them cheaper for consumers to buy.”

Mrs Anita Okonkwo, a salon operator in Nyanya, told NAN that she had deployed solar energy solution in her shop to complement electricity supply from the national grid.

This, according to her is to ensure constant electricity to power her hair dryers and ultimately record high patronage from customers.

She, however, said the solar technology could not be sustained as she spends much money to maintain the facility.

Meanwhile, the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) had recently kicked against the new import duty on solar panels, stating that the measure may lead to the further hike in costs of the panels.

REAN had in a statement alleged that its members who were solar energy investors and developers were being asked to pay between five per cent to 10 per cent import duty on panels imported.