In continuation of our Interview Series covering major players in the Renewable Energy Sector, Our Publisher, Adetayo Adegbemle had an EXCLUSIVE chat with Suleiman Yusuf, CEO Blue Carmel Energy, a leading Clean Energy Company based in here in Nigeria, who has also been championing #OffGrid Solutions for over a decade. Enjoy and leave you comments and feedback in the comment Section.

Can we meet you?
I want to first of all thank you for writing and reaching out to us, my name is Suleiman Yusuf, the founder and chief executive officer of Blue Camel Energy Limited, a Nigerian based renewable energy company with over 10 years experience in power generation and back-up solutions.

Tell us about your organization
Blue Camel Energy is an indigenous Renewable Energy (RE) and Power back-up solutions service provider operating majorly in Nigeria (and a few West African countries) since 2007. We design, integrate and deliver turn-key solutions at various levels of energy demand from small solar home systems to industrial power back-up and RE solutions. We have, in 2015, developed and commissioned the highly acclaimed First Totally Off-Grid Luxury Apartments located in Guzape hills, Abuja that has been running solely off RE resources (solar+wind) for about 3-years now. Currently, we have commissioned a factory located at the industrial layout at Kakuri in Kaduna State, which is also running off-grid, for the assembly of solar PV products (starting with state of the art solar integrated street lighting equipment as first line item with more queueing up), running side by side with the RE training academy for the acquisition of skills and creation of jobs so as to increase Nigeria’s participation in the RE value chain. We have just recently graduated our first set of trainees (27 in total), which was in partnership with a DFID funded programme called Mafita which seeks to provide marginalized Nigerian youths with skills and jobs in different trade areas. We have contributed to the development of their skills through the “Work Place Experience Learning” phase of their programme where we trained the 27 beneficiaries for free at our facility and also foot their transportation and feeding expenditures for 8 weeks during that period at our facility. Blue Camel Energy is a key player in the industry fronting and breaking frontiers in the RE space in Nigeria, among some of the projects we have executed in the C&I space are:

* Sterling Bank Headquarters Annex Illupeju, Lagos, 2016 – 24.0kW solar system
* Agro-Processing Plant in Adamawa State, 2016 – 43.2kW stand alone solar system
* Velocity Group Real Estate, 2018 – 22.5kW solar system servicing a block of 6 terrace buildings
* Halibiz shopping mall in Mararaba, Nasarawa State, 2015 – 32.0kW stand alone solar system amongst other all across the country servicing ICT firms, hospitals etc.

Over the years of operations, we have not only grown as a business (staff strength currently standing at about 50), but have also grown rich in knowledge, experience and data and we have also grown in our capacity & ability to understand the RE sector’s key challenges and develop & deliver viable systems & financial modeling’s tailored to fit our local market. Currently, we have developed and are still improving on a financial model for the real estate space and as a pilot, we have implemented our first site located at Maitama in Abuja with more sites in the pipeline.

What has been the impact of your organization so far in the power sector? What projects are you presently handling?
We have been at the forefront of pioneering the foremost renewable energy associations in the country haven identified part of the key challenge in the industry as lack of standardization and cooperation amongst industry players. Our impact in the industry is unprecedented haven bagged the African Entrepreneur of the year – West Africa by the AABLA awards in 2016 and the Global Quality Awards, 2017. Currently, we are have developed the Solar-Fi Hub, a smart solar kiosk intended to penetrate every rural area in the country and replace shanty structures in the city as well thereby giving it a smart city outlook. We are also developing a 2.0MW mini-grid system intended to provide power for neighbouring factories around our factory at the industrial layout in Kaduna State.

Starting out, what were the major challenges you encountered?
We have been at the forefront of pioneering the foremost renewable energy associations in the country haven identified part of the key challenge in the industry as lack of standardization and cooperation amongst industry players. Our impact in the industry is unprecedented haven bagged the African Entrepreneur of the year – West Africa by the AABLA awards in 2016 and the Global Quality Awards, 2017. Currently, we are have developed the Solar-Fi Hub, a smart solar kiosk intended to penetrate every rural area in the country and replace shanty structures in the city as well thereby giving it a smart city outlook. We are also developing a 2.0MW mini-grid system intended to provide power for neighbouring factories around our factory at the industrial layout in Kaduna State.

Starting out, what were the major challenges you encountered?
Challenges bedevilling the industry are of different phases and in different forms, our earlier challenges were tied around customer apathy which we discovered to be as a result of high level of renewable energy solutions failure resulting mostly from poor quality of products, lack of standards and qualified technicians however we overcame those challenges several years ago, presently the challenges have changed phase as we continued to grow, we are now challenged with governments’ lack of sufficient support and interest in the sector, lack of incentives, high taxation and import duties on RE products as well as very flawed procurement process for government projects.

What’s the motive behind setting up your organization?
To deliver a more affordable, efficient and environmentally friendly electricity to Nigerians with little or no access to electricity, while making a profitable business in providing the equipment, technical services and consultancy, yet creating an overall socioeconomic impact in employment generation and nation building.

To deliver electricity to people with little or no access to power across africa

How has Nigerian Government Policies, or lack of, affected the growth of the Renewable Energy sector?

Excessive duties have only helped to push up the cost of solar solutions thereby discouraging consumers especially when the other power sources such as diesel and grid electricity are subsidized by government, this results in making solar cost un competitive and unattractive.

Taxing emerging RE companies has not helped much in allowing growth and expansion of companies, a tax exemption for RE companies would make a difference.

Lack of effective standardization process and implementation has resulted to infiltration of sub standard products hence increased failure of solar solution across the country.

Governments direct involvement in procurement and execution of solar projects across the country has resulted in massive failure and over inflation of contracts hence more people are skeptical about the workability of solar, this has been a major hindrance to the growth of the industry.

What policies would you want the Government to focus on to aid the growth of to RE sector?

Importation tariffs on solar equipment should be reviewed downwards to serve as an incentive

Tax holidays should be granted to RE companies and there is a need to revisit our education curriculum and focus more on technical skills and knowledge acquisition.

Looking at the Off Grid sector of the power industry which you’ve ventured into:
i) How successful has it been?
Its been very successful I must say, the potentials are still very huge and yet to be tapped,

ii) Would you boldly say #OffGrid is the solution to Nigeria’s Electricity problem?
Off grid can solve 40% of Nigeria’s electricity problem by meeting up with critical demand from rural dwellers who constitute a majority of the population, the urban settlements as well as MSME’S and captive solution for light industries thereby freeing the available grid for industrial purposes, off Grid is therefore not an outright solution but a pre-requisite.

What figure can we put power generation via RE at? How much power on the aggregate is the present installation adding to consumption in Nigeria?

Cant say for sure as you know, there is lack of sufficient data on RE activities in the country since the advent of RE power solutions but I can tell you that as Blue Camel Energy, we’ve registered over 5mgw of solar power generation over the past 10 years in business however about 70% of that figure is only in the past 3 years. You will agree with me that there are several others adding even more to the grid on a daily basis.

Is there any RE project selling to the National Grid? What are the figures like?
At the moment, there is not a single grid connected project in the country, the ongoing PPA by 12 developers for 22oomgw is still undergoing some frustrations and its very unclear how soon this will come on stream.

It is very disheartening that we proceed to sign agreements with foreign investors on power purchase price and we turn around and decline at the last minute, we must also recognize that cost of doing business in Nigeria is quite high compared to other parts of the world hence we cant expect same power purchase price,

Whats your last words to the good citizens of Nigeria and the government?
We must wake up as a younger generation and stop waiting for the current crop of leaders and politicians to solve our problems as a country, we must stop being deceived that the solution to our problems lies with the traditional rulers, religious leaders or so called elders, we must see things from the side of entrepreneurship and private venture as a driver of our economy, we must learn to work together by ignoring religious and ethnic incitements, we must hold each others hands and grow our country, We must realize as a generation that we have a responsibility to make Nigeria Great again.

Thank You for joining us for this session, and we hope you have learned from the glimpse into wealth of knowledge Mr. Yusuf Suleiman brings to the industry.

You can reach the editor through editor@powerupng.com if there is something you will like us to cover.

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