Thursday, July 30, 2015

Energy Efficiency and Nigeria's Power Puzzle

NIGERIA’s intractable electricity crisis is legendary and is quite indicative of our low performing economy. It is a well known fact that Africa’s biggest democracy runs an economy that has been on “life support” for the greater part of the last three decades even as smaller and poorer countries around the world refer to it as a “Diesel Generator Economy”. 

This Nigerian economy on life support is ironically being fed with millions of tones of the oxides of carbon daily with huge consequences for the health of the citizens. Our land has become a destination of choice for all manner of micro and macro electricity generators and the smart Chinese guys are all smiling to the bank while the average Nigerian bears the burden of running his own Independent Power Project (IPP).  The reality of Nigeria of today is that every individual, organization, institution, church, mosque etc maintains an IPP.  This is where renewable energy and energy efficiency come to the rescue for several reasons!  

First and foremost, renewable energy and energy efficiency represent important tools if we truly really want to expand access to electricity services nationwide which is consistent with the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) benchmarks aimed at stimulating rural economic empowerment, employment creation and poverty reduction.

The second reason is that rural electricity access in Nigeria oscillates between 10-15% which makes renewable energy a veritable alternative to plug the gap because by their nature, renewable electricity technologies are generally modular and are ideal options for improving rural electricity access in the country.  Grid power extensions over long distances to serve low load densities amount to monumental economic waste because of the financial implications involved in procuring and installing transmission/distribution equipment that cover thousands of kilometres.  

I make bold to ask this one question: who bears the costs of power losses incurred in getting people in Calabar to enjoy electricity generated at Kainji Dam in Niger State? Decentralized and localized grids are quite compatible with renewable electricity.     

Third reason is that renewable electricity provides the much needed flexibility and diversity for improving the reliability of electricity supply – potentially important in ensuring the stability of grid electricity supply, especially in times of localized disruption of sources of power supply as a result of vandalization or natural disasters. For renewable electricity to be part of the national power planning process, policy guidelines must provide a robust framework to integrate non-fossil fuel based electricity into the energy technology mix in meeting national electricity generation and supply needs.  

The Electric Sector Reform Master plan (ESRM) recently launched by President Goodluck Jonathan should provide veritable and unique opportunities to scale up access to electricity services nationwide if it is deepened and vigorously pursued in a way that would enable Nigeria and Nigerians to align and mainstream renewable energy development in the country with broader national development aspirations.


However, in the pursuit of these objectives, the implementation of the policy on renewable electricity should be in collaboration with other levels of government and the private sector in a way that encourages citizen and community ownership of the whole value chain. Reducing the amount of energy consumed by households in Nigeria is a key missing link in our effort to solve the power puzzle. 

Interestingly, the present administration seems to be catching on with the trend globally with the setting up of a national committee on Demand Side Energy Management headed by Engr. Chidi Ike, a dynamic, experienced and proactive professional who understands the terrain. Engr. Ike and members of his committee have so far demonstrated exceptional commitment and patriotism in pursuit of the task at hand. Credit must also be given to Prof. Barth Nnaji, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo and other members of the Presidential Task Force on Power for their doggedness and determination to creatively tackle the hydra headed electricity problem with some out-of-the-box measures – the DSM is one of such.


For a population of over 150 million people in Nigeria, the Power Holding Company of Nigerian (PHCN) like other utility companies in Africa is facing difficulties to match the ever increasing quantum of electricity demand. While PHCN expects to augment its productive capacity by more than 1,000 MW per year, this increase is expected to barely keep up with the growth in demand from households and businesses. Within this context, the promotion of large scale, concrete, national energy efficiency programme through a critical demand side management initiative to reduce the energy consumption of selected major end-use appliances especially lighting.

With Nigeria accounting for about 25% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, the proposed Demand Side Management and Energy Conservation initiative will have a significant impact on addressing the inevitable growth of electricity consumption in the region while contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Electricity Stakeholders believe that the expected energy efficiency policy and legislation framework will set in motion a target specific process of strong public-private partnership among local manufacturers, importers and consumers of end-use equipment by creating the appropriate market mechanism with the right incentives to improve energy efficiency at the national, regional and local levels. It is critical that the government does not lose sight of the bigger picture of citizen participation and ownership of this all important DSM initiative.

Quick-win initiatives are good as long as they create opportunities for more meaningful citizens’ engagement with the issue in order to avoid the danger of people unwittingly cranking up the energy in other areas of their lives. Previously well-intended initiatives had failed due to the simple reason of not carrying the citizens along by way of massive education and enlightenment of the citizens. People can be nudged into making a specific change, but to adopt a low-carbon, low energy lifestyle, they need to think about it for themselves if they know what they are to benefit from the scheme in Naira and Kobo terms, hence the need to engage extraordinary and multi-disciplinary platforms to educate and enlighten the Nigerian citizens on the imperatives of Demand Side Management, Energy Efficiency and Conservation. 


The success of innovative initiatives like the DSM rests to a large extent on citizen education and enlightenment especially in making a business case for corporations, companies and individuals to adopt and embrace such.  People appreciate novel initiatives like the DSM if they are able to see real economic gains derivable from such programmes of government. Opportunities for reducing energy demand are numerous in all sectors and many are low-cost habits that most corporate entities and individuals could adopt in the short term while measures would be introduced to influence behavioural changes in favour of energy efficiency in the long term.  

 The experience of the University of Zambia is quite instructive. Faced with over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills owed the Zambian Electric Service Corporation (ZESCO), the University recently decided to undertake an energy audit aimed at reducing their use of energy while opening up cost saving channels. $1 million is a colossal sum of money, which the financial status of the university cannot sustain such high consumption of electricity.

The advantages of energy efficiency to the university were indeed very significant as the financial savings could be channeled to more needy sections in the university. Also, at the turn of the millennium in the United States, 459 large electricity utilities implemented DSM programmes that saved them about 50.6 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy generation.  According to the best conservative estimates, the city of New York alone has the potential to reduce demand by 1,300 MW (2002) through DSM.

Indeed, most African countries that have succeeded with the DSM had adopted strategies to educate their citizens to see real economic gains in monetary terms at the individual, corporate and national levels. Several African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Libya, Ghana and South Africa who have used the DSEM had tapped into the huge resource base of the private sector in their countries as a vehicle to reach out to their citizens in a bid to cover all aspects of the problem and come out with solutions that are holistic, participatory and demand-driven in approach; bestowing on the communities direct control of their lives and environment by largely driving the initiative along with  in-built incentivized mechanism that guarantees its success. 

A good example is South Africa that saved 31.09 MW in 2004 by implementing two separate lighting projects using energy efficient lighting technologies.

From the foregoing, it is clear that DSM has a major role to play in deferring high investments in generation, transmission and distribution networks thereby providing significant economic, social and environmental benefits. This represents triumph of the triple bottom lines for all stakeholders by “generating” electricity from the consumer (demand side) instead of PHCN (supply side)!


Stanley Igwebuike Ijeoma is Africa’s foremost Enviropreneur and freelance climate change communicator. This article was first published by the Guardian Newspapers Nigeria in June 2011.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Nigeria: Counting Costs of Climate Change

Climate change has finally come home; yes our lives have been invaded by floods of fury and other freak weather events that we currently grapple with.  From Lokoja to Onitsha, down to Yenogoa and moving north of the Niger to Makurdi, Adamawa and Taraba; it has been tales of woe, sorrow, anger and disappointment.  

Confusion and utter bewilderment were clearly written on the faces of the governors of these states but if you ask Governors Wada, Obi, Suswan, Dickson, Nyako and Uduaghan if they have ever considered climate change as a game changer and greatest impediment to our collective development and survival, you would be lucky to get an answer in the affirmative. Evidence –I do not know of any state governor or minister in Nigeria today, including the Federal Capital Territory, that has appointed a cabinet level Adviser or Special Assistant on Climate Change –strictly climate change!   Climate change deserves to be unbundled from the environment portfolio –at least at advisory levels -because of its cross cutting nature that requires specialized multi-sectoral knowledge.

Nevertheless, our lives will not remain the same, yes our individual and national lives are changing with the climate. Politicians say it is a global phenomenon but global and local scientists as well as climate change policy specialists have been warning about the need for governments at the federal, state and local levels to take proactive measures to mitigate the impacts as well as adapt the citizens to this new unwelcome reality.  It is high time Nigeria focused on the reality of adapting to climate change by finding ways to live with overflowing sea levels, scarcer drinking water, higher peak temperatures, depleting species and agriculture altering weather patterns. Proactive governments are beginning to realize that, in the long term, climate change adaptation needs to be supported by an integrated, cross cutting policy approach. 

Climate change mitigation and adaptation experts have been forthcoming with innovative mitigation strategies and creative adaptation routines that could be implemented by our decision makers but the business-as-usual scenario continues to dominate the minds and hearts of people who take decisions on our behalf –for good or bad- a direct fall out of the fact that the Crown, Gown and Town have stubbornly refused to find a meeting point with each bloc working at cross purposes.                          

The “Crown” via Nigerian Meteorological Agency [NIMET] and National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] said they warned the citizens of the imminent catastrophe but the “Town” refused to heed doomsday admonitions while the “Gown” has been accusing both “Crown and Town” of neglecting well researched papers and other empirical body of evidence of the dangerous times ahead heaped on their doorsteps but the “Town” was too busy trying to make ends meet. 

The blame game continues at costs of Himalayan proportions!  Yes, I remember the press releases of NIMET/NEMA but that was Communication Failure 101. We are talking of press releases when we should be engaging thousands of town criers with gongs and songs in local dialect to drive the message home to the local people in need of critical information that would save their lives and properties. We are talking of press conferences when we should be talking of National Orientation Agency [NOA] invading every nook and cranny of the red-flagged states to engage the locals in their market places, worship centres and village squares.  

We must retool our mechanisms of intervention. We must rethink our approach and strategies. We must embrace “proactivity” and shun “reactivity” as a way of our national life.   Yes, we must because climate change is already contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year worldwide and costing the world more than 1.2 trillion USD, wiping 1.6% annually from global GDP, according to a new independent report written by more than 50 climate scientists, economists and policy experts, and commissioned by 20 governments in 2012.  The recently released report warns that these figures could triple in the next decade if nothing urgent is done to stem the imminent drift into the bottomless pit!   

In Nigeria, we can only extrapolate the figures and count the losses in our imagination because of our legendary record keeping and bean counting deficits that made Professor Chukwuma Soludo to ask in his newly commissioned column in Thisday Newspapers: Do You Believe Nigeria’s Statistics?  Soludo was the immediate past Central Bank of Nigeria helmsman and he does not seem to get a handle on our statistics sadly ever after!  Now you understand why I have been asking the question: Who is counting Nigeria’s climate change induced economic losses?

In the light of the collateral damage inflicted on the people and resources of these flood ravaged States, some of which house the best agricultural resources of Africa’s most populous country; perhaps the most powerful response to climate change would be the development of a resilient, robust local economy across the length and breadth of Nigeria.  This is particularly true because most of the projected future global economic growth is set to take place in developing countries where Nigeria is well positioned to participate in that growth if we do not allow climate change impacts to wash away our potential gains.  

Being part of the “business as usual”, currently distressed, global economy that divorces the environment from the economy poses a risk of devolving into social, economic and environmental crisis such as the one currently ravaging Nigeria!  We seriously need to look inwards and apply some out-of- the-box adaptation initiatives that have multi-dimensional positive implications for our economy as well as the health of our citizens in particular and global environment in general.

Like I opined in my June 2012 article titled Nigeria and Climate Change Adaptation that was published by the Oregon, United States based International Society of Sustainability Professionals [ISSP]: “The dangerously uncertain effects of a changing climate on Nigeria’s economy pose significant setbacks for meeting development targets like Nigeria’s aspiration to be among the twenty best performing economies of the world by the year 2020 [Vision 20:20:20] and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs]”.   President Goodluck Jonathan, while presenting the 2013 budget to the national assembly few days back, acknowledged this fact when he informed Nigerians the GDP growth estimate for 2013 budget has been corrosively eroded by the floods of fury ravaging more than 20 states of the Nigerian federation. 

Climate change is already affecting the political, social and economic context within which government decisions are made even as climate change economic and business impact assessment continues to be an area of increasing necessity for government economic gate keepers and corporate captains for obvious reasons.  But we must quickly move from lamentations to wise actions by acting decisively to address the issues at hand.  

Again my ISSP article shines some light on the best way forward: “Pursuing sustainable development, just like implementing climate change adaptation, requires political will at the highest level…... the way out is a central oversight body that will coordinate research and policy response, harmonize roles for sister agencies, and aggressively pursue implementation master plans in a seamless collaborative partnership with the Annex 1 countries and the UN climate change response organizations….. good news is that the out gone sixth national assembly of the country’s parliament courageously passed the Nigerian Climate Change Commission [NCCC] Bill which currently awaits President Jonathan’s ink to transform it from a mere paper to a “toothful bulldog” in the fight against our greatest impediment to development -climate change. Nigeria’s Climate Change Commission, when fully operational, would be the very first in Africa and the country must be commended for this bold stride”.
  
Indeed with an operational NCCC, it would be easy for NIMET, NEMA, NOA, Ministry of Environment [MOE], Ministry of Water Resources [MOWR], etc to work in unison to respond to climate change induced emergencies. While still on an independent, privately sponsored assessment tour of the affected states, it was easy for me to publicly disclose that key climate change impacts and vulnerabilities arising from the flash floods gravitate around water as being of the highest priority for adaptation in terms of urgency, certainty and severity of impact.                                  
Why water?  Well, human health and agriculture derive their meaning or lack of it from water! Flooding threatens human health through spread of diseases, followed by agriculture where declines in yield, damaged farm lands as well as compromised storage facilities would lead to breach of food security and by extension, national security. Even the United States of America’s Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] has consistently been warning their governments about the threat to their national security posed by climate change -starting with water resources.

Truth be told, we cannot run away from extreme weather conditions occasioned by climate change.  Massive floods and other freak weather events would become more common because of the warming of the earth but government institutions that have hitherto limited their operational jurisdiction to mere weather forecasting should invest in technologies to enable more accurate predictions and advance warning systems. There is also need for accurate environmental data, particularly from sensors located in the soil, ocean, atmosphere, flood zones and arid, drought-stricken lands. It will be important to track the changes in order to have timely and quality information that will assist disaster aversion/emergency management strategies to minimize losses.   

For starters, financial resources from the Ecological Funds Office would need to be deployed towards acquiring these innovative weather monitoring technologies, at least in the short to medium term.   Also there is an urgent need for President Goodluck Jonathan to begin mainstreaming climate change adaptation into Nigeria’s economic blueprints and development master plans as an important strategic action at this stage of our development by signing the Climate Change Commission into law now to enable and activate the mechanism for articulating a national framework that would leverage the critical line ministries, agencies and parastatals of government like the National Emergency Management Authority [NEMA], Ministry of Health, Nigerian Metrological Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Housing/Urban Development, National Insurance Commission, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs,  etc to build capacity in conflict management, work through coordinated, robust national mechanisms to address climate induced security challenges as well as ensure transparent management and allocation of interventionist resources.

 The task at hand requires the participation of even the private sector, especially the Insurance companies who do not seem to understand they face the risk of extinction if they do nothing now to align their business with the reality of climate change.  The insurance industry is already saddled with the biggest responsibility as the costs of climate change often accrue directly to them but there is an opportunity for them to leverage their position to help spread the risk of extreme weather events by encouraging adaptation behaviors through the construction of new policy clauses. 

These measures would come at a cost to insurance buyers, but taking action today could stave off greater losses that would otherwise incur from infrastructure and asset damage in the future. For instance, insurance companies covering property development in coastal areas could see the need to assess the potential for sea-level rise, increased storm severity, flooding, and other climate change impacts on their clients and incorporate appropriate measures in their policy document.  The National Insurance commission [NAICOM] will need to understand these issues before they can reach out to other stakeholders in the industry.  NAICOM and other stakeholders in the insurance industry must be made to understand that it is in their best interest to be more proactive and see how they can protect the entire insurance industry from the envisaged shocks of the impacts of climate change.

More importantly, climate change adaptation in Nigeria must be approached from the standpoint of necessity in the context of sustainable development with greater emphasis on the generally accepted principle that economic empowerment, social development and poverty eradication constitute the first and overriding priorities of a developing country like Nigeria.  For maximum effect, resources should be invested and concentrated on allowing our Climate Change Commission to develop specific adaptation measures that are peculiar to Nigeria as a country, with focus on the ones that correspond to our most urgent and immediate needs while aligning and leveraging numerous international initiatives and financing mechanisms aimed at assisting African countries like Nigeria with climate change adaptation.


My patriotic instinct would not allow me conclude this exercise without offering my services on honorary basis to states governments and organizations that are willing to frontally engage climate change as a sustainable development priority with a matrix of well conceived mitigation and adaptation strategies.  Finally, it appears to me that much of the adaptation work that needs to be done would concentrate on “reforming” the psyche of our people to be able to accept and embrace new ways of life in tune with the emerging realities of our changing climate! Nigeria, as the undisputed giant of Africa, needs to set shining examples for other developing countries in the tropics to emulate.

Stanley Ijeoma, a Corporate Climate Change Consultant, writes from schrodinger.limited@gmail.com                                                                                  Follow on Twitter @schrodingerr                                                                                             Skype ID: schrodingerr


Note: This article was originally published by the Guardian Newspapers Nigeria in the last quarter of 2012 immediately after the 2012 flooding that ravaged parts of Nigeria.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sustaining African Businesses in a Changing Climate!

Climate change adaptation is an area of growing concern for many developing countries as a result of the uncertain effects of a changing climate that pose significant barriers for development, especially as it affects achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Therefore the challenge for Enviropreneurs like Schrodinger Limited -Abuja, Nigeria based Corporate Climate Change Consultants -is to develop specific adaptation and mitigation measures, with focus on the ones that meet Africa’s most urgent and immediate needs because of the realization that, in the long term, climate change adaptation needs to be supported by an integrated, cross-cutting policy approach.
The “Inconvenient Truth” is that climate change is already radically transforming the global socio-economic landscape, spraying threats and opportunities along its pathway as each and every organization/business is bound to lose or gain some value from climate change impacts that confront us daily.
Even though the global trend has seen an emerging coalition of interest groups including consumers, shareholders, stakeholders, investors and regulatory agencies piling on the pressure of making the task of climate change risk assessment an increasingly important component of modern day strategic business planning  elsewhere, this is yet to become a recurring fixture in the schedules of African corporate executives of public and private companies as we transit towards  low carbon global economy.
I am of the opinion that African businesses that previously have not considered the types of business risks associated with the threats of climate change might need to be encouraged to do so to determine whether their businesses are susceptible to any such risks and, if so, whether those risks are of a sufficient magnitude to require compulsory regulatory disclosures.
Integrating environmental responsibility into the “DNA” of African businesses is essential if we are to continue to grow the African economy and create limitless opportunities for achieving profitability in a fast emerging low carbon global economy characterized by a changing global climate that will require massive investments in low-carbon programmes and technologies.
Unfortunately, not many African businesses already recognize these emerging challenges and are very far from incorporating them into their overall corporate planning so as to strategically position their businesses to maximally reap from emerging “green” opportunities.
Therefore it has become imperative that “climate risks” be assessed by African businesses during strategic planning because climate change is already affecting the political, social and economic context within which commercial decisions are made and this is what I want to highlight here so that experts in business sustainability elsewhere who feel a sense of urgency and passion for Africa can contribute their knowledge to help a continent with low capacity to deal with the consequences of climate in all its ramification.
Africa should be carried along this global trend and must not be left behind because most of the projected future global economic growth is set to take place in developing countries of which Africa is very strategic and allowing climate change/global warming wash away these potential gains would be dangerous to the economic empowerment of millions of Africans who are already enduring climate change induced food crisis.  The current famine in parts of Africa has already been declared a global emergency by the United Nations and other multilateral organizations!!
The United States of America’s Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] has already taken a bold step in the direction of environmental responsibility with a clarification of existing regulatory requirements that may affect how companies track and report climate change business impacts, by issuing “Interpretive Guidance on Climate Risk to Business” on February 2, 2010.
While this initiative is not technically a change in law, the Interpretive Guidance [IG] is widely seen as the future of the global business environment because it is expected to push the case for those seeking greater transparency in companies’ quarterly and annual reports on climate change impacts analyses as well as ecological footprint of businesses-some kind of environmental accounting!
This means that in the coming years, the parameters used in judging a successful business or organization will not be restricted to “financials” alone but also “Environmentals”. But we need to build capacity of African regulatory authorities to be in tune with these emerging scenarios because the US SEC “interpretive guidance” represents the direction to be threaded by a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape primarily affecting companies with significant carbon footprints.
The extent of success here will depend on how African Enviropreneurs are supported by their colleagues elsewhere to discharge their very strategic obligations as we transit to a global low carbon economy. The time for action is now and change agents all over the world are invited to join me in this crusade of helping African businesses to respond to the demanding challenges of our time, indeed the greatest challenge to development and prosperity for all Africans-climate change!

Friday, March 23, 2012

An Enviropreneur’s Encounter with President Barack Obama on The Future We Want- A Renewable Dream!


In the beginning….
In preparation to the upcoming United Nations conference on sustainable development tagged RIO+20, I had gone to honour an invitation to deliver a lead paper at an international seminar jointly organized by the World Council for Renewable Energy [WCRE] and EUROSOLAR in the central business district of the city of Bonn, where both organizations are headquartered. The WCRE, founded in 2001 as an independent, non-government, non-profit organization determined to push the global paradigm shift in favour of a resource sustainable, just, equal, diverse and fully renewable energy based world, free of poverty and injustice; has grown to be the leading voice of reason in our chaotic climate change-threatened world that has been trapped in the poisonous web of nuclear and fossil fuel addiction.

The lead paper was thematic on how to use African Youths to rescue Africa and her economy from the stranglehold of fossil fuel addiction and move the continent irreversibly on the path of sustainable development. I lamented the under-utilization of the energy, knowledge, resourcefulness and innovative instincts of the Youths which would be the essential ingredients towards cooking The Future We Want to see as we transit towards a low carbon, resource constrained post petroleum economy that meets our social, economic and environmental needs. I had also emphasized that African youths cannot afford to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach towards meeting climate change challenges for development because the economy is highly dependent of healthy youths living in vibrant communities and environment.

More importantly, If African Youths were the future of Africa, then they must be primed to understand the interdependency between the Economic, Social and Environmental realms in order to guide and help our governments avoid making poor decisions which could even compromise the ability of the present and future generations to meet their basic needs. African youths must seize emerging opportunities to assert our energetic influence in the shaping of the type of sustainable development that guarantees a complete circumvention of the “Tragedy of the Commons” once and for all while making ourselves veritable fuel to drive The Future We Want!!

I had also enumerated how renewable energy, energy efficiency, environmental responsibility and sustainability could turn out to be Africa’s “holy grail” if we applied them creatively to our embarrassingly intractable electricity crisis, because more than any other continent, Africa needs the energy revolution and independence which renewable energy offers -when properly deployed, to improve quality of life on national and continental scales as long as stronger consensus building is promoted by all stakeholders who wish to invest in commercial renewable power generations capable of making Africa the global hub for renewable energy development and diffusion. The Desertec Industrial Initiative, Lake Turkana Wind power project and the geothermal energy project in the rift valleys of Kenya are practical testimonies to the feasibility, viability and practicality of the numerous benefits of renewable energy. Africa does not have any reasons not to be a renewable energy continent because the continent is so blessed with abundant sunlight, free flowing rivers, millions of tonnes of agricultural and municipal waste as well as sufficient wind current along our littoral and front line corridors.

And the Presidents step in
Midway into my paper, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the President of Nigeria stepped in and quietly took his seat on the VIP table. When I was done with my lecture and made for my seat, I was congratulated by the VIPs who shook my hand for a job well done. “Stanley, that was a good one” President Jonathan said to me as we shook hands. “Thank you Sir” was my response to him. “By the way, where have you been all these while? I have not set my eyes on you since the day of my inauguration as Chairman of Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] just after our election” he said as he adjusted his pair of glasses.

I smiled and shook my head as I narrated to him how difficult it has been getting across to him once he won his election. He held my hand and looked straight into my eyes and said “Stanley, maybe you are making up excuses for bolting away since I became President”. He continued as we sat down “If you couldn’t access me, how come you didn’t get in touch with the Ministers of Power and Environment because they all know how to take you to me”.

I tried to explain to him that I actually got in touch with them but they kept coming up with reasons and narratives on how busy they have been. They even swore that they have not set their eyes on Your Excellency since you …. At this point, President Jonathan interjected and said “Okay, now that I’ve gotten hold of you, I guess we have a long way to go today because you’ll be joining me to attend to my other engagements in Germany today”. He later mounted the podium to apologize for coming late as he explained that his official schedules almost made it impossible for him to honour the invitation of the organizers but for the importance he attached to the event and the need to move Nigeria and the rest of Africa away from addictive fossil energy.

As we exited the venue, he insisted I rode with him in his official vehicle to his next destination which turned out to be an event being hosted by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German State House was indeed a beehive of activities as staff and visitors alike were “hustling” around every inch of the sprawling edifice. Immediately some of the people sighted President Jonathan, they came rushing towards us trying to outdo one another in greeting him in their own special way - some shook hands with him with both hands while others joined both hands and their heads simultaneously even as others were almost on bended knees crawling just to better the record of the previous person who greeted the Nigerian President! I was enjoying the whole drama and while observing the young, not-too-old and old visitors who were milling around the space. “Mr. President!! Thank you for coming here again so soon after your state visit few months back”; Angela Merkel’s soft voice interrupted the drama I was enjoying. “Oh Madam Chancellor, I couldn’t help but come to share in your vision of leadership by example of dismantling the nuclear energy infrastructure that has been providing a large chunk of your country’s electricity needs” the Nigerian President said as he turned in the direction of the German Chancellor.

The German Chancellor was hosting some world leaders to a round table event meant to acquaint them with the effort Germany has been making towards replacing their nuclear energy stacks with wind turbines and solar farms. In attendance was President Barack Obama, President of the United States of America.  It was easy to tell that President Obama just finished a mini session with some groups from the G-77 countries as well as the Association of Small Island States [AOSIS] because banters and backslapping were freely flowing and one could feel their “polluter-must-pay” swagger as they all filed out behind the United States President whose attention was concentrated in our direction.

By this time, Obama and Jonathan were exchanging banters as they walked towards me and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister. “Good evening Mr. President” was all we chorused as they approached us. Mr. Obama answered and jokingly said: “This one I know –referring to Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister; but this other tall one I don’t know. It is rare to see someone this tall outside the United States”. 

Mr. Jonathan laughed and quickly said: “No way! He is not from your country. He is my run away friend who I ran into in an event where we were both invited as special guests. Well, he said he is an Enviropreneur-whatever that means; but he delivered a good lecture on the imperatives of Youth driven environmental responsibility, renewable energy and energy efficiency for a Sustainable African Society at the well attended event and I “adult-napped” him afterwards. Mr. Obama looked very interested in me as he sought to know more about what Enviropreneurs like me do. I told him that “Enviropreneur promote policies, products, services and regulatory initiatives that are climate-resilient and that Enviropreneurs act as catalysts of the fast emerging global low carbon economy”

The Long Green Sermon 
At this point, the U.S President became sober and relapsed into a pensive mood as he went into a long sermon: “Talking about environmental responsibility, you know that I am almost as old as the environmental problems of the Niger Delta region in your country-one of the world’s most degraded ecological hotspots; having been born around the same time that oil was first discovered in commercial quantities there. Environmental problems exist all over the world and all hands must be on deck to fight the abuse of our much cherished common denominator, therefore I understand what a degraded environment means to the overall under-development of our civilization and I am keen to remain a key stakeholder in the efforts to bequeath a greener planet to our children and generations yet unborn by pushing the global market economy that depends solely on dangerous fossil fuel into a sustainable, green economy powered by clean, dependable, reliable and sustainable “green energy’’. 

I am already working on expanding the development of the Cleantech Industry in my country and I have gone ahead to re-assure all the producers, brokers, distributors, and retailers of bio-fuel, solar, wind and hydro energy resources as well as the firms providing ancilliary services to the green energy users and other stakeholders of a conducive environment for the growth and development of the Cleantech sector in God’s own country because we all have a stake in securing The Future We Want for our children and generations yet unborn- a future we can all be proud of. 

In fact, I continue to be motivated and inspired by what one of my predecessors, the very amiable Clinton said some time ago that “we are linked intrinsically by the physical and biological webs that sustain life on our planet-and, increasingly, by the unraveling. Indeed, unless we reach across borders and face this threat together, the next century may dawn on an earth in ecological crises, with half of all species gone, and our grandchildren enduring deadly floods, draught and diseases brought on by global warming”. 

Now that I am in the race to be re- elected to serve as President of the United States, I will be challenging our country to commit to producing 100% of our electricity from renewable energy and other carbon free sources within next two decades by leveraging on the difference in the energy economics of finite and infinite sources which makes the cost of one go up with increased demand while cost of the other goes down because it is free for ever. Also when we send money to foreign countries to buy about 70% of the energy we consume, they build skyscrapers with them and diversify their economies to rely on competitive industries funded by the US tax payers”.

He scratched his head as he continued: “This goal is achievable for us to stay eminently at the fore front of the battle to wrestle the global economy from fossil fuel addiction and guide same on a more sustainable green, low carbon pathway just the way Enviropreneurs and Environmental activists like you have been advocating by irreversibly committing to exploring alternative, renewable sources of power generation such as wind, Solar, Bio-energy”.

Looking at him straight in the eyes while re-adjusting my posture, I told him: “Mr. President, the impression of billions of people around the world is a picture of the United States being a clog in the wheels of progress to reach a global deal to check greenhouse gas emissions and reverse the trend of climate change-remember that your country and Australia were missing in action on the Kyoto signature page and just last December in Durban, Canada must have drawn misguided inspiration from that unpopular action in Kyoto”. He smiled and tapped President Jonathan on his shoulders as he concurred that his country has not done very well enough, using the many platforms presented by several United Nations climate change summits; to in his own words “incentivize action, create social capital around being part of a sustainable future in ways that engrave the subject of environmental responsibility, resource efficiency as well as general sustainability into the hearts and minds of billions of people worldwide”

President Obama did not disappoint as someone who captures your “mind and soul” with his gift of the garb as he continued: “I believe that already lessons drawn from about two decades of multilateral environmental negotiations are beginning to manifest, albeit at snail speed; considering the commendable efforts of Enviropreneurs who have succeeded in leveraging on the numerous benefits presented by energy efficiency and environmental responsibility to create the massively innovative cleantech industry”.

 At this point, everyone was listening with rapt attention as President Obama fires on: “As the number one citizen of the world’s biggest economy, I understand and appreciate the important place of the United States in energizing and diversifying the global economy. I understand that almost four million Americans and several millions others elsewhere live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise occasioned by global warming and yes, I know that one of the most vulnerable states is in my country-Florida with roughly half of that state’s population living near the coast on the porous, low-lying continental shelf that borders much of the sunshine state even as New York, New Jersey Louisiana and California hang precariously on the precipice of being swallowed by rising sea level. 

At the very least, this unprecedented quantum of risk is enough to make us lubricate the wheels of future UN Climate summits and trust me, “RIO+20” offers a test ground to display our new found resolve to make the needed difference as we return to that great city where world leaders first constructed a new sustainable development paradigm that promised to enhance environmentally sound economic and social development at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. How time flies!!! 

He took a quick look at his wrist watch and looked around the place we stood, took a deep breath and continued: “Please permit me to share and update you on some of my ambitious plans for my dear country which would serve to galvanize global action in favour of sustainable development. Oh, oh I forgot the U.S presidential campaign is in top gear now and divulging some of these my green omnibus plans now might not be politically correct but just know that these my green plans are guaranteed game changers at the crust of which will be a robust policy of deliberate, conscious and conspicuous incentives to increase take up of renewable energy technologies via feed-in tariffs which will create investments further down the line even in smart grid and metering technologies”.


I did not plan to attend the event hosted by the German Chancellor on that day and I was not even invited but I can guess that even President Jonathan did not bargain for what the U.S President was serving us and he was far from done. He was calm, honest and composed as he continued from where he stopped: “I honestly believe that the implementation of my green omnibus projects mentioned earlier will create more than 1 billion jobs in direct and ancillary industries worldwide. I understand the fact that social unrest globally would be best fought using the double barreled weapons of employment generation and economic empowerment.

In addition, plans are under way to unleash a unique, novel Green Education Campaign [GEC] that will penetrate every home in America in such a way that would make our citizens understand the place of renewable energy, energy efficiency and environmental responsibility in revitalizing our economy that is just smarting from the recession of the most recent past. Immediately after the inauguration of my second tenure, I will liaise with Enviropreneurs worldwide to work out modalities on how to keep this Green Education Campaign in the public domain using both the print and electronic media with the popular rap musicians driving the process-imagine the positive impacts on youths worldwide when we get R.Kelly,   Beyonce,   Shakira   and Eminem to sing about the benefits of environmental responsibility and sustainable development! 

My government would work with professionals like you to achieve the exploration of the framework of sustainability potentials of our world in solving our nagging and embarrassing social distortions and ultimately drive the global economy towards a low carbon pathway consistent with the main stream science of climate change. Through these efforts and ambitious projects outlined earlier, we aim to give our economy the needed tonic to make it more robust and competitive.

Finally, I pledge that my next Presidency would usher us irreversibly into the low carbon economic pathway which billions of people globally have been yearning for all these years and I want to count on your support and partnership to turn these low carbon blueprints into reality. The future is indeed Green for all of us as members of one global community!”

I was speechless at this point and President Jonathan was wiping his glasses with his handkerchief. “Gentlemen, I must take my leave of you now as I am due for another emergency meeting” and with a broad smile, President Obama shook our hands again as he made his way back into the banquet hall where Chancellor Merkel was about addressing her guests on her vision to get Europe’s biggest economy to undertake a decommissioning of its dangerous nuclear as well as fossil fuel infrastructures by building wind farms and other renewable energy infrastructures that will cost around 200 billion Euros, nearly 8 percent of Germany’s gross domestic product in 2011 according to the best estimates of cleantech industry experts, which they hope will replace some 17 nuclear reactors that supplied about a quarter of their electricity needs.

Sudden but Painful flight back to reality:
A thunderous ovation greeted this announcement by the German Chancellor and suddenly, I felt something like an insect making an uncomfortable humming sound in my ears and when I turned to see what it was, I found myself rolling on my bed and sweating profusely. Oh no, these ubiquitous mosquitoes have woken me up from a wonderful dream and when I got up and peeped through the window, the whole neighbourhood was in total darkness as everyone had either ran out of diesel or hedging them against the usual darkness generated by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria - that monopoly that Nigerians love to hate with good reasons.

Nigeria’s electricity crisis is legendary and seems to defy every conventional solution but the bigger problem is that past governments had ignored the massive renewable energy potential of Nigeria and naively refused to harness these resources. So it was a dream after all, a “Renewable Dream” but who knows, President Barack Obama might turn out to be an Enviropreneur at heart and it remains to be seen if Americans would give him the power and authority to turn this beautiful renewable dream into reality. Indeed, Rio+20 presents a veritable platform for all stakeholders to Walk The Talk by doing the needful since we cannot negotiate with poor planet earth that has been subjected to unprecedented pressure by all of us!

Stanley Ijeoma is Africa’s foremost Enviropreneur and Country Representative for Nigeria on the board of World Council for Renewable Energy [WCRE]
*** This Article, re-purposed for the “Rio Blogger Prize”, is an adaptation of “An Enviropreneurs Encounter with Mr. President-A Renewable Dream!” first published 27th July, 2011 by the Green World Society-A voice for Nigerian Environment & Development. http://news.greenworldsociety.com/?p=268