Amid health and environmental hazards, Nigeria spends $2.4bn on generators in 2 decades

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Though emissions from electric generators contribute major health and environmental hazards in Nigeria, the country spends huge foreign exchange importing the alternative power sources. According to data from the United Nations International Trade Statistics Database, UN Comtrade,  Nigeria has spent not less than 2.4 billion dollars on importation of generating sets in the last 24 years. 

UN Comtrade, the largest depository of international trade statistics, captures Nigeria’s generator imports between 1996 and 2019.

In 2013, the country imported 262.5 million dollars worth of generators, the highest in two decades.
The importation of generators has been on the rise since 1996 and reached the zenith in 2013.

This is not surprising as the average cumulative power supply received per day by Nigerian households between 2013 and 2015 was below 6 hours per day, according to a survey by NOI Polls.

In fact, the average operational capacity of power infrastructure in the country is estimated at 3,879 (MW).

The poor power supply in the country has, therefore, forced Nigerians to seek alternative power sources. Between 2015 and 2019, Nigerians have spent nearly 500 million dollars on importation of generators.

It is worth noting, however, that only 37 percent of the amount expended on generators in 2018 was spent in the subsequent year. This necessarily does not mean that there was an improvement in the power supply.

In fact, the average daily supply of 3,800 megawatts (MW) in 2018 dropped to 3,775MW in 2019.

President of the Nigerian Association of Energy Economics, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, once described the energy sector in Nigeria as ‘a dismal failure.’

A direct effect of the poor power supply is attributed to the 77.5 percent Nigerians who have resorted to purchasing and using alternative sources of power such as generators and others, according to NOI Polls.

Nigeria is among the top six countries generating energy by back-up generators. Others are India, Iraq, Pakistan, Venezuela, and Bangladesh.

These six countries account for over 50 percent of the electricity generated (and fuel burned) by back-up generators in the 167 countries modeled by International Finance Corporation, IFC.

The World Bank group estimates that Nigeria spends three times as much on back-up generator power as compared to the grid.

Generators contribute significantly to health, environmental hazard

Despite the huge amount spent on alternative energy, exhaust from generator contributes significantly to the emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrous oxides (NOx ), carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants that compromise human health and contribute to climate change.

A research conducted by IFC shows that the CO2 emitted from generators in Sub-Saharan Africa is equal to about 20 percent of the total emissions from vehicles—the environmental equivalent to adding about 22 million passenger vehicles onto the road.

“Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)emissions are associated with combustion, usually from burning of fossil fuel in vehicles or for energy generation. Exposure to NOx has been associated with increased risk of numerous respiratory illnesses.

NOx can also form other pollutants that impact health (i.e. ozone, particles) and the environment (i.e. particles, acid rain). Our results suggest that generators account for 5 percent of NOx emissions across all modelled countries and 15 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

There is also evidence associating excess noise with health challenges such as high blood pressure and hearing loss.
Assessment in Nigeria from 2013-2015 showed noise levels of most common generators are beyond WHO limits (greater than 90db).


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