Firms rescue Nigerians from darkness with biomass power pallets
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
It sounds too good to be true, but a United states-based company, All Power Labs (APL), in partnership with Bioenergy and Envirocycles Nigeria Ltd, last weekend demonstrated a pioneering technology for making renewable energy from biomass (waste), which left hundreds of participants awed at how simple solutions could end decades of power failure and unfulfilled promises in the country.
The presentation held to a select audience in Lagos demonstrated the new, commercially available source of energy generation based on biomass gasification. Like the often quoted saying that good things come in small packages, this wonder machines called Power Pallets, looks like medium-sized generating sets and are available in 10kW/25KVA and 20kW/38 KVA sizes.
This power generation converts woody biomass to electricity and heat. The Power Pallet is distinguished by its ease of use, compact size and affordability. Unlike regular alternative energy sources like solar, which is complex to install and use, and generating sets, which require considerable use of gasoline like petro or diesel to function, the Power Pallets makes on demand energy anywhere there is available biomass, such as nut shells, wood chips, coconut husks, corn cobs, sawdust, poultry litter, sugarcane bagasse, straw and rice husks.
According to the founder and president, Bioenergy and Envirocycles Ltd, Mr. Ernest Onyenze, “this initiative is the key that will unlock a robust transformational change in the social economic landscape of Nigeria. The value chain will impact positively on the poor and the unemployed youths.
“Our mission is to move this country forward via small-scale electricity generation at very low cost. It is possible to get electricity to the rural areas and to all artisans since so many people’s livelihood depend on power daily. It is a shame that artisans sleep or play away productive man-hours as they wait in vain on the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). This will definitely reduce their income,” he said.
Just last week, in a move akin to asking Nigerians to pay more for darkness, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) announced an increase in fixed electricity charges (Multi Year Tariff Order) for 2012 to 2016. According to the chairman of NERC, regardless of the services rendered, energy cost will continue to go up every year till 2016.
This, Onyenze said would be worsened by government’s proposed bid to sell the power plants to private investors. “Once the power plants are sold off in their privatization of the sector, power tariff would go up further. Our intention is to work with electricity vendors who would purchase the power pallets and service residential estates, markets, villages and cooperatives with 24 hours electricity at a minimal cost to running generators.
“We want to take this technology to our campuses and colleges of technology, so that in the nearest future, we can have graduates who would be self-reliant working on the equipments by distributing and installing the device. A lot of rural electrification projects are moribund because they need to be connected to the national grid, but with the power pallets, it is a straight generation to homes and settlements.”
The programme is tailor-made for cooperative institutions, hospitals, SMEs, organized artisans, and individuals, who not only require power, but cheap and competitive power that will bring cost of production low. The initial cost of the power pallet is high, but its running cost is very low.
Presently, aside installation and after-sales services, the landing cost of the 38KVA power pallet to Nigeria is N5 million, while the 25KVA machine is N3.5 million. However, Bioenergy and Envirocycles is offering some marketing options such as getting banks to issue bank guarantee for private individuals to pay their electricity bill monthly using the pallet.
“How this works is that once we have your bank guarantee, we sell kilowatts to individuals for private usage at N16 per watt and we send you an invoice of your power usage at the end of the month. You can regulate your power usage and as well be guaranteed 24 hours electricity. PHCN’s current charges is N20 per watt and cannot be relied on for your power needs, while maintaining a generating set has its added costs.”
On his part, the director of Strategic Initiatives, APL, Tom Price, said there is an extraordinary opportunity of a waste-to-wealth campaign converting easily available biomass into affordable, renewable, reliable energy in the country. He added that the use of biomass for energy production is a key component of the new ‘Power Africa’ initiative announced by US President, Barack Obama, early this month.
“The initiative will invest up to $7 billion in US aid and resources to help African nations gain more access to electricity. The demonstrations in Nigeria follow on the heels of a very successful similar event in Monrovia, Liberia, sponsored by Winrock International and USAID. The Power Africa programme aims to double power access in the sub-Saharan part of the continent, which would not only help residents, but also convince private sector companies to increase in new economic ventures in the region,” he said.