NIGERIA’S COAL – TO – POWER PROJECT: Experts raises concerns over its health hazards.

The Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing has declared that the government is determined to diversify the country’s energy mix by increasing power generated from other sources to reduce its dependence on gas and hydro powered plants and has proposed to include renewable energy sources in this mix. It has also proposed to generate 30% of the nation’s energy needs from coal.

The Global Rights Nigeria, Country Office has called for a review of this decision in their report which reveals the inherent danger the Federal Government intends to unleash on the health and wellbeing of its population. The report noted that the quest is inconsistent with COP 22, INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) commitment and President Buhari’s pledge to make the country a reference point in emissions reduction in addition to a number of issues.

The report emphasised that coal accounts for some of the worst man-made ecological disasters globally. “For example, as at 2009, in the European Union alone, annually, coal energy generation accounted for 18, 200 premature deaths, 2.1 million days of medication, 4.1 million days of lost work, and 28.6 million cases of lower respiratory tract disorders. With Nigeria’s 30% coal power source utilization policy, it will unavoidably contend with similar issues.”

It also recalled that the country is also a signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury and cognizant of the fact that apart from being the largest single contributor to greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, coal power plants are responsible for 41% man-made mercury emissions, which can travel long distances before being deposited in soil or water and so will affect more communities than the coal plant host communities. It says that whether or not the Nigerian government will show commitment to international protocols it signed in these regards will be proven by its policies and actions with the 30% coal-to-power initiative.

The report stated that while coal is still one of the largest sources of energy globally, there has been a paradigm shift in its use as more countries are beginning to work towards phasing it out and are moving towards cleaner, and renewable sources such as solar, thermal, and wind sources, which are also proving to be less expensive. In the foreword written by Global Rights, country director, Ms Abiodun Baiyewu-Teru, she said “Our report on Maiganga community is to provide forensic anecdotal evidence and a realistic projection of the environmental and socio-economic effects of coal energy production in the short period coal mining commenced in the state; and to demonstrate the state of the communities that will inordinately bear the consequences of Nigeria’s coal utility policy”. “ It is our sincere hope that this report will provide fodder for policy makers to make informed decisions and ensure that they fulfil Section 17(1) of Nigeria’s constitution, which states that our ‘social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice and therefore that the ‘…exploitation of human or natural resources in any form whatsoever for reasons, other than the good of the community, shall be prevented.’

“Nigeria’s coal powered energy policy thrust on the surface appears reasonable. Its proponents often tout it as being ‘available’, ‘cheap’, and as ‘creating job opportunities’. Having assessed two coal mining host communities in Nigeria, their notion has so far been demonstrated to be false,” the report submitted. It rather noted that “In reality, coal has been proven time and again to be possibly one of the most expensive energy. Environmental degradation, host community health, and air pollution) are factored in.” And that “For these reasons there has been a global shift to phase out dirty energy sources – in particular coal and nuclear sources, and embrace cleaner and greener sources.”

An interesting fact about the coal currently mined in Nigeria is that none of the explored coal in the past 10 years has been used for power generation or shows a promise of being utilized for this purpose anytime soon. Coal energy is not the only source of energy the Nigerian government is contemplating within its energy master plan. It has rolled out a plan of generating 20 per cent of the nation’s energy needs from renewable energy in addition to the proposed 30 per cent coal energy to supplement hydro and gas energy sources. However, there hardly seem to be a strong push by the government to immediately implement the renewable energy plan or to ensure an increase in the proportion of these sources of energy over time.
A constant excuse has been the cost of renewable energy technology – a fear which in the early days of clean energy was tenable due to their prohibitive cost. But as the technologies for their implementation have developed in recent years, the costs of wind and solar energy have declined substantially and are on their way to becoming the cheapest sources of energy. Today, renewable technologies are the most economical solution for new capacity in a growing number of countries and regions. Their infrastructures are easy to set up, compared to fossil fuel energy power plants and are typically the most economical solution for new grid-connected capacity.

Another analysis in the same publication states that from an investor’s perspective, onshore wind, biomass, hydropower are currently competitive with coal and gas-fired power stations, and that the lower range of costs for utility-scale solar PV in Nigeria is also within the range of coal power generation costs. Nigeria, no doubt needs to develop a long-term view of its energy infrastructure and its industrial needs, considering that the country‘s population is expected to exponentially increase to 397 million persons –approximately the same population size with the United States – by 2050. It is clear that it needs more than a knee-jerk energy plan for its population and its industrialization needs. Its energy governance plans must be long term, and consider in- depth, a variety of factors, including its proposed sources of energy and their environmental and economic implications- in particular, creating resilience to combat climate change, the decentralization of its grid, and the challenges of its capacity upgrades.

The report has made it obvious that the Nigerian government needs to give deeper thought to its current energy sources. The study presents Nigeria’s government with a foundation for conducting further research on the cost effectiveness of coal as a source of energy, especially in tandem with the nation’s obligation to protect the health and environmental rights of its citizens; appropriately respond to climate change –especially its consequences on water bodies and agriculture, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the depletion of the ozone layer which as a consequence causes global warming.

The report further notes that “It has become imperative that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, and the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing need to review the environmental management systems they have adopted and find ways to reduce the pollution and environmental degradation caused by the activities of coal mining and coal energy production activities to their barest minimum.

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2018-01-23T17:28:27+00:00 January 23rd, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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