With recession biting hard, life has become so difficult and opposite of what it used to be. The Federal, State governments, corporate organizations, individuals, etc. are adopting several strategies to survive and overcome the situation. From the center, the Federal government is focusing more on agriculture to diversify the economy via various schemes. One of such schemes is rice farming revolution. Uche Usim’ in the Daily Sun Newspaper of November 15, 2016 stated:
“For years, Nigeria has been spending huge sums of money importing rice. Between January 2012 and June 2015, Nigeria spent $2.41 billion on rice importation, according to records from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The trend has resulted in huge stocks of unsold rice cultivated by Nigeria farmers, and low operating capacities of many integrated rice mills in Nigeria. Last year President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Rice Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (RABP) in Birnin Kebbi, the Kebbi State capital, to bridge the rice and wheat sufficiency gap. Since then, the CBN has opened a finance access window for States willing to embrace the RABP. So far 13 States have cumulatively enjoyed N23 billion under scheme in what the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said was the beginning of a rice revolution in the country. The target is to end rice importation by the end of 2017….”
Apart from this recent CBN initiative to help rice farmers through the States, corporate organizations are equally working in same direction to ensure self-sufficiency in rice production. Companies like Olam Nigeria Limited, Dangote, etc. are working towards achieving self-sufficiency. Olam Nigeria Limited has a rice farm located at Ondorie in Nasarawa State with a total farmland of 12,920 hectares. Already 4,450 hectares are under cultivation, with a further 3,000 hectares on target for 2017/2018. Even some known rice producing States like Ebonyi, Abia, and of recent Anambra have all increased their production capacity.
Albeit this spirited intention of the CBN towards agricultural/rice revolution, one challenge that may portend danger and hindrance to its success is power. Abhinav Bhaska in his report (Powering Agriculture with renewable energy) succinctly highlighted this challenge and the need to focus on Renewable Energy Power Projects to solve this problem;
“One of the challenges faced by the Agricultural sector is power, to power agricultural equipment. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization projects that by 2050 global food production will need to increase 70 percent over 2005–2007 levels to meet the demand of a growing world population expected to reach 9.6 billion people. Agri-food supply chain accounts for 30% of the world’s energy consumption as reported by the International Renewable Energy Agency. To achieving universal energy access, de-coupling from fossil fuels, producing and consuming energy more efficiently, minimizing costly waste, preserving natural resource base, more attention should be given to using agricultural waste to generate electricity”
Ebonyi State – one of the major producers of rice in Nigeria, resonated, this energy challenge as well as the inherent environmental challenge arising from rice production. According to the State, there are about 425 mills operating in Abakaliki, especially within 300 square-meter area. Less than 50% of the mills/industries are connected to the grid. Even those industries connected, receive only around 4 to 5 hours of electricity per day and so utilize diesel generators for the remaining period of time to meet their electricity needs. These inefficient diesel drives lead to excessive CO2 emission, environmental pollution at the local level and increased operating cost. Apart from the energy problem, the rice husk constitutes environmental hazard at the Abakaliki rice cluster as it has not been put to any meaningful use since the cluster started around 1963. The husk mountains catches fire during dry season and burn through months and people fall into it and get burnt. In a bid to address these challenges, the State government, initiated and has concluded the bidding process for the building of a 5.5 MW Biomass energy plant for her Agricultural-Industrial cluster. The action of the State is commendable and other States, private investors should take a cue from it. Good enough, the platform has been set. There is room for an embedded generating plant. As well, the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy 2015 set a target for Nigeria to achieve 16% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030, compares to only 0.8% renewable energy consumption in 2012.
No doubt, Biomass Renewable Energy is a veritable platform. Apart from seeing to the sustainability of the agricultural revolution, it will as well curb the problem of massive undersupply of power, currently being experienced, not only in Nigeria, but in most part of Africa. Even David Donnelly of Mazars LLP shares same opinion. According to him, “the prospects for renewable energy in Africa can only be understood in the context of the massive undersupply of power in most of the continent. Renewable energy investment is viable only when projects are implemented as part of a coherent plan to widen access to affordable electricity and improve the reliability of its supply”
The good news is that now in Africa, renewable energy sector has taken great strides. Clean Energy Africa Finance Guides in its 2016 edition rates South Africa, as the most advanced African renewables market, accounting for approximately 50% of all large-scale installed capacity across the continent. In April 2015, the South African government announced plans to procure an additional 6.3 GW through the highly successful Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programmme (REIPPPP). Around 13 GW of renewables power was to be procured through the programme. Even countries outside South Africa, where the power shortage is most acute are making strides in renewable energy. Egypt and Morocco established renewable energy programmes many years ago but many other countries have announced ambitious renewable energy targets. Since the beginning of 2013, 25 large scale renewable energy projects with an aggregate capacity of 2.1 GW have been brought online in Africa. 16 of these 25 large scale renewable plants are located in South Africa The majority of this capacity is located in South Africa, Morocco, Kenya and Egypt.
With the agricultural/rice revolution, the future is bright for biomass renewable energy. This is the time to take advantage of this current recession to increase our energy generation through an embedded biomass renewable energy from our agricultural revolution.
Biomass energy is electricity produces from biomass fuels. Biomass renewable energy plant converts abundant agricultural residue, such as maize cobs, rice husks, coffee husks, and cotton stalks; animal products and municipal solid waste into a clean fuel. It is electricity produced from biomass fuels.
“Biomass-based power systems are unique among non-hydro renewable power sources because of their wide range of applicability to a diverse set of needs. Biomass systems can be used for village-power applications in the 10–250 kW scale, for larger scale municipal electricity and heating applications, for industrial application such as hog-fuel boilers and black-liquor recovery boilers, in agricultural applications such as electricity and steam generation in the sugar cane industry, and for utility-scale electricity generation in the 100 MW scale. Biomass-based systems are the only non-hydro renewable source of electricity that can be used for base-load electricity generation” – Diji, C.J. PhD – International Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences, June 2013. Vol. 3, No. 4.
Biomass plants could be driven through gasification, pyrolysis or combustion technology. The choice of technology for biomass conversion should be based on demonstrated minimum efficiency of at least 35% or higher. Combustion based technologies are more profitable over their life cycle than gasification and pyrolysis, despite higher operating costs (Caputo et al, 2005). It provides overall efficiency of conversion of inputs to power by 85% and is a reliable technology that provides continuous operation and supply of power with minimal waste generation and meets environment standard. Apart from generation of electricity, other advantages of Combustion Biomass plants are:
 Environmental friendly and from the process clean drinking water is produced.
 No toxic byproducts generation, but beneficial products like fertilizer/soil additive.
 Thermal energy can be generated from the starchy water for as fuel for cooking and rice boiling.
 Low capital investment, low maintenance, low operating and low skilled manpower.
Most modular Biomass Plants have project implementation schedule of about 15 months. Straight line return on investment could be as low as 2.45 years with tariff of about $.8/kwhr.
There are so many Biomass rice husks to power plants in India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and other parts of the world. Though, no Biomass Renewable Energy Plants in Nigeria yet, but the awareness is growing by the day, as can be seen in Ebonyi State case. Biomass renewable energy is a veritable platform for the sustainability of the Federal government agricultural revolution programmes.

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