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News, 10/25/2016

Nigeria Alternative Energy Expo 2016 – Waste to Energy and Circular Economy highlighted by Finland

The 2016 edition of the Nigeria Alternative Energy Expo kicked off in Abuja at the Shehu Musa  Yar' Adua Centre on Wednesday 19 October. The theme of this year's event was 'Embracing Sustainable Energy for Sustainable Growth'. Among the speakers was Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury, Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria. In her intervention, she stressed the importance of promoting alternative energy, and focused on issues such as waste to energy and circular economy.

Below is her speech in full:

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this event. I commend the organizers for putting together once again the Alternative Energy Expo. It is hard to find a more topical issue in Nigeria right now than energy – and hard to find anything, with more potential impact on the economy and on development. We are also talking about a very global question. The current decade is about worldwide efforts to curb climate change. Energy plays a crucial role here.

At the heart of global climate efforts are the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as of course, the Paris Agreement. For progress in mitigation efforts, it is crucial for all countries to start implementing the Agreement, and their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). I congratulate Nigeria on its ambitious NDCs. They aim at promoting sustainable development and growth, poverty alleviation, social welfare and inclusion. Ambitious mitigation action, apart from producing climate benefits, is economically efficient and socially desirable.

All efforts in Nigeria to promote the use of alternative energy should be commended. There is a lot of potential for international cooperation, too. In my own country, for instance, there is much know-how and innovative cutting edge technology in this area – and we are certainly interested in working together to share it. Just a couple a weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Finland, with a group of African journalists, visiting many different companies and organizations that focus on energy - from large multinationals, to smaller players, and the academia.  I certainly pretend to be no energy expert, but did seem to come out of the experience with a few interesting take home messages:

Firstly: In energy, too, there is a need to diversify – no single form of energy will solve all problems, or take care of all energy needs. Solar power for instance is a great thing. As far in the future as we can see, the sun will always be there. It is a wonderful opportunity especially in Africa. It needs to be developed, and we need to make much better use of it than is currently the case. Even in Finland, where sunlight is sometimes very scarce, it provides significant potential. At the same time, sun alone, or wind alone, or anything else alone, will not be enough. Different ways of producing energy will be needed.

Secondly: Waste to energy - what a great discovery that was! We had the opportunity to visit some pretty impressive shiny plants that take in rubbish and turn it into energy. In Finland, of course, because of effective recycling, there is much less household or landfill rubbish these days, but still enough to work on. Again – waste alone will not solve the world's (or even Finland's) energy issues, but it does solve a lot of the waste problem, and some of the energy problem, and it can be a profitable business.

Thirdly: The future might be off-grid. For different reasons, small might be beautiful, and sometimes it might be a better idea to rely on limited scope arrangements – rather than large national grids.

Fourthly – and perhaps most importantly: It seems that what we really need is a new mindset. It is not all about technology.  We have to look at the ways we consume. We have to see waste as a resource. We have to focus on energy efficiency. We have to ask ourselves whether we are ready to move from a linear economy to a circular economy, where everything is recycled. Sometimes, we might even have to ask ourselves how committed we really are to our planet, and to a long-term relationship with it. I suspect in this room we all would like to think that we do have that commitment.

Wishing us all a great Alternative Energy Expo 2016, I thank you for your kind attention.

Alternative energy

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Updated 1/4/2017

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