Electricity supply in Nigeria has recently worsened than ever before, leaving Nigerians scrambling for alternative ways of powering their homes and businesses.
The government has repeatedly blamed sabotage of power installation as well as attacks on gas facilities for the constant outages
A lot of businesses have closed down following the irregular power while millions of citizens unable to afford generators now live in darkness.
Even powering the fuel and diesel generators are no longer easy, what with the increase in the pump price of petrol from N97 per litre to N145 in May.
Also, many households running on generators constitute environmental and noise pollution hazards to themselves and their neighbours due to the noise and smoke fumes that emanate from generators.
These are reasons citizens need to consider cheaper alternative energy sources that are noiseless and require neither petrol nor diesel.
PREMIUM TIMES met with a cross section of residents in Abuja and Owerri, the Imo State capital, to understand how the alternative energy sources they chose are working for them. We also interview vendors of those of equipment needed to install alternative power sources.
Below are what we came back with.
The materials needed for using alternative energy are:
Inverters: These store power that can be used when public power supply is unavailable. The cost depends on the number of light points and home appliances the user wants to power at a time. Gabriel Enemaku, an Abuja-based vendor says locally built inverters are cheaper than imported ones. He however did not say which is more durable.
Batteries: These are used as conduits to charge inverters. When there is public power supply, the batteries are used to charge the inverter. When the DISCOs cut off supply, the inverter provides power with the aid of the batteries.
Photovoltaic Solar Panels: These are just like the inverters but instead of being charged with electricity, they are charged with solar energy from the sun through the batteries. Which is why they are placed outdoors, especially on the roof, to access direct sunlight.
Solar Charge Controllers: These acts as a stabilizer between solar panels and the batteries. They are used to prevent the intensity of the sunlight rays from damaging the batteries.
Option 1 – For as low as N80,000, a user can purchase 120 watts solar panels and car batteries and an average inverter to power 1 bulb, LED 1 television set and a decoder. But this will only provide power for six hours at full charge. But during rainy season, where there is usually less sunshine, the user may not enjoy it to the maximum.
Option 2 – According to Solomon Ita, an Abuja-based vendor, with about N150,000, you can buy an an inverter and car batteries to power three energy bulbs, 1 television set and 1 ceiling fan. Without solar panels, the inverters will have to be charged with electricity whenever available. It will give you power for 12 hours, when fully charged.
Option 3 – Also, with N300,000, you can buy high quality inverter and luminous batteries to power 5 energy bulbs, 2 television sets and 2 standing fans (without solar panels) for a period of 12 hours, when fully charged.
Option 4 – However, according to Stanley Duruson, an Imo State-based alternative energy expert, if the user wants a perfect system, using both inverter and 600 watts solar panels, he or she has to pay more.
With N500,000, a user can purchase inverter, batteries, solar panels and solar charge controller, to power seven energy bulbs, two television sets, one air conditioner (which is best used during the day because of sunlight rays) and one standing fan. The materials will provide power for 24 hours. On the other hand, without solar panels, the cost will reduce to N380,000 for the same 24 hours.
Segun Odunaiya of Havenhill Synergy Abuja, told PREMIUM TIMES that each user will have to consider how many power points they want to power based on the voltage each point will consume, noting that some consume more than others.
“It is left for the vendor they choose to enlighten them on the best choice to make, it is not advisable to power a big refrigerator with alternative energy unless they are ready to pay for more energy capacity.
“Solar panels and solar charge controllers are optional for those who cannot afford the full package. The implication of using all four items is that power never goes out, the user gets to benefit both from recharging batteries with PHCN power and power harnessed from the sun,” he said.
Jessica Ure, a Lagos resident, told PREMIUM TIMES she welcomed the idea of using alternative energy after the vendor gave her a sustainable payment plan of N100,000 within a year. According to her, the installation powers her mini fridge, LED television and 2 energy bulbs when there is power outage.