Solving Business Electricity Safety Problems in Nigeria: High Stakes, Higher Rewards

As an energy company with significant operational experience in Nigeria, Wärtsilä is well aware of the key energy issues that keep many Nigerian business leaders awake at night. But contrary to popular belief, their main concerns are not high or volatile energy prices. It’s about energy security, or rather the lack thereof. Fortunately, this problem is not without a solution.

Energy-intensive businesses across Nigeria are in dire need of a stable electricity supply, yet numerous threats undermine their energy security. The country’s energy infrastructure is outdated or underdeveloped, a situation that hinders the effective distribution of energy to businesses. Other challenges further complicate matters, such as the risk of power plant equipment failures or fuel supply disruptions. The implications of these problems are far-reaching, with power availability issues becoming increasingly common in business operations in the country.

The implications for business are diverse and profound. Interruptions in power supply translate into production interruptions and delays in product delivery to the end customer, leading to lost sales. Companies are also sometimes forced to resort to diesel generators to maintain operations, an expensive and polluting solution that does not solve the core problem. Another crucial aspect is the impact on competitiveness with counterparts that have better access to reliable energy sources. Furthermore, persistent power issues may deter investors from devoting resources to ventures in regions where power issues pose a real risk.

This is the feedback from the field. These challenges underscore the urgent need for the most exposed companies to address their power supply challenges head-on. It’s a complex task, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Take matters into your own hands

It is understandable that companies in Nigeria’s key industrial sectors, such as cement, steel, textiles and food processing, among others, want to secure their own energy supplies. To do this well, companies can only rely on the kind of energy generation technologies that guarantee the continued availability of electricity. This need depends on two crucial criteria that the selected power solution must meet.

Firstly, the power plant must be able to supply electricity around the clock even under Nigeria’s challenging conditions. Secondly, the energy solution must have a high degree of resilience. This includes not only the ability to withstand or quickly recover from short-term shocks, but also the flexibility of operations to absorb such disruptions.

Multi-fuel capacity and operational flexibility are key components of this resilience. Power plants designed with multi-fuel technology can switch from one fuel to another, significantly reducing risks to fuel supply. Power plants with a modular design, such as those based on piston engine technology, also have an advantage. They are composed of a series of independent units and can ensure that operations continue even if one unit fails. This is a critical step toward increasing power system resilience and redundancy and providing immediate resolution of system failures to ensure continued operation.

Paving the way for sustainable energy

Last but not least, short-term needs should never get in the way of long-term sustainability requirements. Selecting an energy solution is an important commitment that spans decades. Looking ahead, the chosen solution must be adaptable to changing market trends, such as the rapid rise of intermittent renewable energy sources and the eventual transition to sustainable fuels instead of heavy fuel oil or natural gas to run power plants.

That is why piston engine power plants have emerged as a technology of choice for energy-intensive businesses. Not only does it have the ability to be converted to run on green fuels as they become available, but the technology also has the inherent operational flexibility to manage the integration of intermittent renewable energies. This system flexibility is critical to ensuring the long-term reliability of system operation while securing the integration of low-cost renewable energy in the future.

Adaptability to sustainable energy technologies is paramount. It will ensure that companies can maximize energy security by deploying superior energy solutions that not only meet the needs of today, but also anticipate those of tomorrow.

Wale Yusuff, Nigeria Managing Director, Wärtsilä Energy.