Nigeria is endowed with water resources but still experiencing a water supply deficit. Water interventions need to be sustainable and eco-friendly. The article analysed renewable energy options for rural water supply in Nigeria and used the following evaluation criteria: sustainability, financial cost, availability of renewable energy source, technical know-how or labour, management, and maintenance capability, environmental impact, design parameters, and functionality. Hydro energy has the highest score, 705 largely as a result of being a good renewable energy option for rural water supply as a whole (Nigeria) and likely not good across states and local settings. The article recommends multi-criteria to evaluate renewable energy options and employ the best renewable energy options that best fit a location.
Key Words: Rural water supply, renewable energy options, and evaluation.
According to UNICEF, poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five (UNICEF, 2018). Available potable water is very essential for livelihood and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 by 2030. The provision of drinkable water has been a longstanding problem in Nigeria, with reliance in many regions on water pumped from boreholes that are privately owned, or sponsored, or developed by the government (Newsom, 2012). Renewable energy is eco-friendly and is cleaner energy. Water interventions need to be sustainable and eco-friendly. This article analyses renewable energy options for rural water supply in Nigeria.
Sources of Water Supply in Nigeria
In Nigeria, water sources are ground and surface water as well as rainwater. Groundwater source is the water below the ground. They include well water, borehole, etc. Surface water is the water body situated on the top of the earth’s surface. They include streams, rivers, sea, etc. Surface water is usually flowing on the earth’s surface. Surface water is easy to access unlike groundwater that needs a process to access. Most of the times, water is purchased from a shop or vendor, water trucking. A hand pump is mostly a common rural water supply in Nigeria which includes pumping through human power. However, in rural areas, well water access is the common water source followed by a hand pump. To make water supply effective, there is an improvement of a hand pump to the motorised borehole or solar borehole. Governments, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charities are exploring the potential of using renewable technologies to power water pumps (Cloutier & Rowley, 2011).
Renewable Energy Options Available
Generally, the energy source for the rural water supply is through the use of petrol or diesel engine for pumping rural water. This source is non-renewable and involves the use of fossil fuel. Renewable energy has considerable potential in Nigeria and could bridge the major energy gaps in rural areas, particularly northern Nigeria. The scale of opportunities is only just becoming apparent as new grid technologies such as concentrated solar power are emerging as in competitors with conventional power generation (Newsom, 2012).
In all of these cases, there has been perpetual instability because of the cost of operating boreholes when grid electricity is either unreliable or entirely absent. Boreholes in rural areas are normally reliant on generators, which are expensive to maintain and operate (Newsom, 2012).
Nigeria is blessed will abundant sunshine which serves as a great opportunity for solar energy generation. Meanwhile, sunshine is varied across locations. States in northern Nigeria tend to experience higher sunshine duration in a day compared to southern states. For example, Minna, Niger State has an average of 2672 hours of sunlight per year (of a possible 4383) with an average of 7:18 hours of sunlight per day compared to Lagos, with an average of 1885 hours of sunlight per year (of a possible 4383) with an average of 5:09 of sunlight per day, and Rivers, Port Harcourt average sunlight is 5.5 hrs (Solynta Energy Limited, n.d.). Figure 1 shows Nigeria’s solar energy potential.
Figure 1: Nigeria photovoltaic power potential
Source: Global Solar Atlas (2020)
Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), “Draft National Energy Master Plan ” showed that solar radiation in Nigeria is 3.5-7.0 kW h/m2/day (Energypedia, 2020).
Table 1: Renewable energy potential in Nigeria
Small Hydropower (<30 MW)
11 million hectares of forest and woodland
30 million tonnes/year
245 million assorted animals in 2001
Energy Crops and Agricultural Residue
72 million hectares of agricultural land
3.5-7.0 kW h/m2/day
2-4 m/s at 10 m height
Wind speeds in Nigeria range from a low 1.4 to 3.0m/s in the Southern areas, except for coastal line and 4.0 to 5.1m/s in the North. The Plateau area pa
Source: Energypedia (2020)
The wind is used to produce electricity using the kinetic energy created by air in motion. This is transformed into electrical energy using wind turbines or wind energy conversion systems. Offshore or open space tend to have the advantage of installing wind farm (International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA], 2020) According to IRENA’s latest data, the production of wind electricity doubled between 2009 and 2013, and in 2016 wind energy accounted for 16% of the electricity generated by renewables. Many parts of the world have strong wind speeds, but the best locations for generating wind power are sometimes remote ones, where offshore wind power offers tremendous potential (IRENA, 2020).
The wind is strongest in hilly regions of the Northern Nigeria, while mountainous terrains of the middle belt and northern fringes have a high potential for great wind energy harvest. However, due to the varying topography and roughness of the country, large differences may exist within the same locality. Mean wind regimes in the north and south were also found to lie between 4.0 − 7.5 m/s and 3.0 − 3.5 m/s respectively at 10m above the ground (Ajayi, 2010).
Wind energy is available at annual average speeds of about 2.0 m/s at the coastal region and 4.0 m/s at the far northern region of the country. With an air density of 1.1 kg/m3, the wind energy intensity perpendicular to the wind direction ranges between 4.4 W/ m2 at the coastal areas and 35.2 W/ m2 at the far northern region (Vincent-Akpu, 2020 cited in Sambo, 2009).
At present, the share of wind energy in the national energy consumption has remained on the lower end with no commercial wind power plants connected to the national grid, Only a few number of stand-alone wind power plants were installed in the early 1960s in 5 northern states mainly to power water pumps and a 5 kW wind electricity conversion system for village electrification installed at Sayyan Gidan Gada, in Sokoto State (Vincent-Akpu, 2020 cited in Uzoma et al., 2011).
Hydro energy is the energy sourced from moving water bodies to generate electricity. This is the most common source of energy. Nigeria is bestowed with large rivers and natural falls. The main water resources that provide rich hydropower potential are the Niger and Benue rivers as well as the Lake Chad Basin. With an estimated 1,800 m3 per capita per year of renewable water resources available, this is not a water-poor country, yet it is ranked as an economically water-scarce country due to a lack of investment and management to meet demand (International Hydropower Association, 2020).
The total installed capacity is 12,522 MW, not including off-grid generation, of which 2,062 MW is hydropower. The total exploitable potential of hydropower is estimated at over 14,120 MW, amounting to more than 50,800 GWh of electricity annually. The roughly 85 percent of hydropower yet to be developed therefore offers solutions to address existing power shortages (International Hydropower Association, 2020).
Evaluation of Renewable energy options
Table 2: Renewable Energy Options Evaluations
Availability of renewable energy source
Technical know-how or labour
Management and maintenance capability
Design parametres and functionality
The renewable energy options evaluations framework was adapted from a Caledon Concrete Mixers’ case study “supplier evaluations” in Purchasing and Supply chain management by Johnson (2020).
The renewable energy options evaluation framework was ranked in seven (7) areas:
Sustainability is the ability to meet the current needs without compromising the future generations’ need. Sustainability consideration is important to ensure that the renewable energy option is not a detriment to the environment either by contributing to the increasing in the greenhouse gases or compromising the future generations’ need.
Availability of funds and sources is required to install renewable energy for rural water supply, and the financial cost of renewable energy sources is varied. The ability to provide finance from start, until the completion of a project is essential. For example, the scale of the rural water project is also important. A small-scale water supply may be financially right to consider solar energy because it is cheap and can be built at a low amount compared with a hydro energy project that requires large funds at a small scale.
Availability of renewable energy source
Availability of renewable energy source is more essential for rural water supply. For example, without the proximity of a river in a location, it would be impossible to consider installing a hydro energy source. In this case, other available renewable energy sources will be more preferred.
Technical know-how or labour
Technical know-how or labour is the ability to have experts that are skilled in installing and maintaining renewable energy infrastructures. This can be coupled with locally trained experts. It is a best practice to consider the availability of technical know-how or labour for installing renewable energy options for rural water supply.
Management and maintenance capability
Also, it is important to install a renewable energy option that is resilient and involving the participation of local communities. This will ensure build back better. That is the ability of local communities to be proactive in the management and maintenance of renewable energy infrastructures after experts have finished their job and left the community.
Activities that will affect the environment were considered in the evaluation. Some activities in the process of installing a renewable energy infrastructure will be directly or indirectly detrimental to the environment. All these are considered and will ensure their impact on the environment is minimized in the case without any option. For example, hydro energy may sometimes need fossil fuel to power the plant to pump water. Also, it may disrupt waterways which can negatively trigger biodiversity loss and other ecosystems that live in them.
Design parameters and functionality
The design parameter is about the functionality of the project and the technology employed. How many persons will this project serve? The capacity of the project to meet the current and future needs of the users. The geological structures, for example, availability of water in quantity and quality, and the geopolitical parameter, the cultural parameter, and the population and the population in years to come.
Renewable Energy Options Selection Decision
The evaluated renewable energy options were done on a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (excellent). Also, values were assigned to the criteria from scale 1 (low) to 20 (high) based on the triple bottom line and objectives and goals of the rural water supply project. However, the rating and value assigned were done objectively at the researcher’s discretion.
The calculation process:
Hydro energy – sustainability considerations = 6, value = 10, 10 x 6 = 60. Then add up the scores of hydro energy criteria which aggregate gives 705.
Benefits and Limitations of Renewable Energy Options Evaluations
Table 1 above shows the renewable energy options evaluations. Hydro energy got the highest scores, 705; followed by solar energy, 660, and wind, 475. Making hydro energy source a good renewable energy option for rural water supply at the country level, particularly Nigeria. However, the renewable energy options evaluations will be more efficient and optimal when applied to a specific location instead of whole Nigeria. This is because resources vary across locations. For example, in the northern states of Nigeria, Sokoto in particular has an abundant and long duration of sun radiation compared to the southern part of the country like Bayelsa which is endowed will waters and rivers and have a less abundant and short duration of sun radiation. In this case, location-specific tends to fit the renewable energy options evaluations framework. For example, the availability of renewable energy source criteria is more location-specific. Geographically, renewable energy sources vary across Nigeria. Also, design parameters and functionality vary across the country. For example, the number of persons water supply will serve in Lagos State cannot be compared with the number of people the same water will serve in Ekiti State. All these will be factored in, in the design parameter. This is to ensure that the project meets the current needs of the people and in years to come as well as the expectation of the donors or governments. It is hard to generalize design parameters and functionality as well as the availability of renewable energy sources for the whole country. This framework will be best if used to evaluate renewable energy options for a specific location instead of the whole country due to the widespread uneven availability of renewable energy sources and design parameter criteria.
- Conduct evaluation of renewable energy options at the preparedness plan of water supply interventions
- Employ multi-criteria to evaluate renewable energy options
- Adopt the best renewable energy option that best fits a location.
Nigeria has renewable energy potentials but yet to be utilized even when these potentials vary across locations. States in northern Nigeria tend to experience higher sunshine duration in a day and wind is stronger compared to southern states making them suitable sites for solar energy. Nigeria has huge renewable water resources and yet is still experiencing water scarcity. Employing the best renewable energy options that best fit a location and making wise investment decisions will pave the way for sustainable water resource management.
Further Research questions
How can eco-friendly projects be promoted and how can environmental policy and law be implemented to ensure water supply interventions have a renewable energy plan?
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