October 1 is regarded as our national independence day although I’m not so sure if we are really free. The British may have gone but PHCN is still around, in some transformed way.
I was reading about the latest upset planned by Elon Musk and I had a good smile. Today, my day is made. Could I end up having a total energy independence? That is, if I could afford it. Before then, a little story.
One of the few luxuries I have been able to enjoy in this country is constant electricity. I know it sounds crazier than your cousin having a bubble bath right in the middle of Sahara Desert.
So where do I live? In some random part of Lagos! I live in a little enclave that happens to have a very bad electricity problem. Apart from the madness induced electricity given by the local utility, the estate itself has perennial problem of poor utility management that ensures that darkness is a constant factor.
But I’m in one of the rapidly expanding Nigerian club that discovered energy storage, popularly called inverters. I bet someone around you has it and it’s getting so popular that I expect it to supplant “I better pass my neighbor” soon. For a few friends that I have gotten on this bus, their greatest regret has always been getting inverters too late. Inverter has gone from nerdish to mainstream.
However, there is a catch, you still need to have some bits of electricity from the utilities or your generator to have this going. It doesn’t eliminate most of your cost or sometimes of your inconveniences but boy, it does a good job of hypertension alleviation!
What if I could invest some cash into solar panels and pair that with my inverter, could it be possible that I could snip of my wires?
The cost of solar panels is rapidly going down although the Naira exchange rate is making a mess of everything. But let’s say solar gets to a decent price point, going independent might be worth it. The biggest cost savings wouldn’t come from utilities bill but from cost of buying, fueling and maintaining generators. Lord have mercy!
So back to Elon Musk. His SolarCity wants to install up to 1GW of panels along with batteries over the next few months. Is my hope on Mr. Musk? Hell no. Actually I’m hoping that this will spur copycats with price war, all the way to the bottom. Currently at today’s Naira, I need to shell out as much as N1.5M for a 5KW solar panels which isn’t a priority now. What happens if competition, innovation and business drives this down to N100K?
Think about it.