Nigeria: Time to Switch Nigerian Telecoms Sector to Clean, Sustainable Energy

In the face of global energy challenges and the critical need for sustainable practices, it is important that Nigeria explores innovative solutions to enhance energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint.

This is crucial because data from Climate Scorecard shows that Nigeria emitted 104.27 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2018.

Out of Nigeria’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2016 (481.02 MtCO2e), the majority of its composition is comprised of carbon dioxide at 61.74%, followed by methane at 27.82%, nitrous oxide at 7.77%, and fluorinated gas at 2.66%.

In addition to the negative effects of GHG emissions on the environment and health, the vice president of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria, Damilola Asaleye, averred that fossil fuel is becoming more expensive than clean energy.

For instance, 9mobile’s energy cost and associated maintenance account for 86% of the network Operational Expenditure (OPEX). To reduce the high cost of energy, the operator recently engaged independent energy providers in a Capital Expenditure (CAPEX)-free model for solar hybrid solutions and gas-flared generator (CNG generator) deployment, to help reduce OPEX and CAPEX replacement costs, as well as reduce environmental impact.

With this in place, Asaleye assured that 9mobile’s decision to switch to clean energy would benefit the company in the long run, while urging other companies to follow suit.

“Telecommunication has become the backbone of today’s environment. Powering telecommunication with clean, reliable, and dependable energy is crucial to the growth of the economy. The benefits of switching to clean energy outweigh the cost in that it helps to lower operational costs; reduce carbon footprints, and there will always be the availability of power in off-grid regions,” she further highlighted.”

With these benefits in mind, the telecommunications sector, being an essential pillar of modern society, recently brought together academia and other critical stakeholders to deliberate on how the sector can adopt cleaner, greener energy sources to mitigate the paucity of energy and contribute to a sustainable future.

According to the executive vice chairman/CEO of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, “We are confronted by the urgent need to address the challenges posed by climate change and the increasing demand for energy. The telecom sector, like many other industries, has a significant role to play in transitioning to a sustainable energy future. It is our responsibility to ensure that the growth of the telecom sector is achieved in a manner that is environmentally friendly and in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Danbatta averred that the Commission recognizes the importance of clean energy usage in the telecommunications sector, even as he assured that, “We are committed to promoting regulatory initiatives that encourage the adoption of renewable and ethical energy sources. Our goal is to safeguard the environment for consumers and other users of telecom services while also contributing to the achievement of net-zero emissions.

“Studies have shown that renewables and energy efficiency, coupled with electrification, can provide over 90% of the necessary reductions in energy-related carbon emissions. This presents a significant opportunity for the telecommunications sector to contribute to the world’s energy transformation. By increasing the use of electricity sourced from renewables, we can accelerate the transition to a sustainable energy future.”

To make this a reality, the CEO disclosed that NCC is in the process of introducing a policy that will encourage the adoption of clean energy in the telecommunications sector.

“This policy will serve as a framework for telecom service providers to adopt clean and sustainable energy sources, reducing their carbon footprint and contributing to a greener future. We believe that this policy will not only benefit the environment but also drive innovation and create new business opportunities within the industry,” he posited.

The CEO, however, called for collaboration and partnership with Academia and other stakeholders, adding that, “The Academia plays a crucial role in advancing research and innovation that can transform industries. We need your expertise, knowledge, and insights to guide us in developing feasible alternative sources of clean energy that the telecommunications industry can leverage for a sustainable energy supply.”

Themed: “Refocusing academic research towards alternative clean energy: panacea for the paucity of energy in the Nigeria telecom sector,” Danbatta averred that the aim of the engagement is to refocus future academic research towards feasible alternative sources of clean energy that can be harnessed by the telecom industry.

“It is essential to identify and explore new technologies, such as solar, wind, and biomass, that can power our communication infrastructure efficiently and sustainably. We need your research to help us understand the potential of these alternative energy sources, address their challenges, and develop strategies for their implementation in the telecom sector,” the CEO said.

He disclosed that in the 2021 Request for Proposal (RFP), the Commission specifically sought submissions on innovative clean energy, adding that three universities were selected to receive research grants, with their projects focusing on geothermal energy, hydrogen, and fuel cells for telecommunications equipment.

“Also, we seek to promote research in Academia that leverages digital technology to improve the livelihoods of Nigerians. The telecom sector is at the forefront of digital transformation, and we must harness its potential to enhance the lives of our citizens. Research in areas such as smart grids, energy storage, and energy management systems can pave the way for innovative solutions that optimize energy consumption, reduce costs, and increase access to reliable communication services.

“We believe that by aligning research efforts towards alternative clean energy sources and leveraging digital technology, we can revolutionize the telecom sector in Nigeria. This, in turn, will have a profound impact on various aspects of our society, including education, healthcare, agriculture, and e-commerce,” he added.