In our quest to keep bringing you information from the front-runners of Renewable Energy within and beyond the shores of Nigeria, PowerUpNG Publisher, ADETAYO ADEGBEMLE had an exclusive interview with HavenHill Synergy Limited CEO, Olusegun Odunaiya where he spoke about the life and death situation that led him into starting up a renewable energy company, how he has sustained it’s running and what more needs to be done in the country to achieve clean energy for the society.
Havenhill Synergy Limited is a cleantech company that uses solar energy to generate clean, safe, cost effective and sustainable electricity in rural and urban Nigeria. We believe in the potential of the sun in powering Africa’s most populous nation.
They are on a mission to create and deploy world class efficient renewable energy solutions that guarantees our customer’s peace of mind – through operating practices that conform to international standard.
The organisation desires and believe that you can run a more profitable business, have more comfort and convenience at work or home, while also making the environment clean, safe and better to live in. Enjoy the interview below.

Can we meet you?
I am Olusegun Odunaiya, the CEO of Havenhill Synergy Limited, a leading renewable energy company in Nigeria. With over 8 years experience in this field, I lead a team of innovative, enthusiastic and committed young people who are enthusiastic about ending blackout in rural and urban Nigeria.

Tell us about your organization
Havenhill Synergy Limited is a cleantech company that generates clean and distributes, safe, cost effective and sustainable electricity in urban and rural areas in Nigeria. Our current activities span across both urban and rural areas.

We are on a mission to create and deploy world class efficient renewable energy solutions that guarantees our customer’s peace of mind – through operating practices that conform to international standard.

What has been the impact of your organization so far in the power sector? What projects are you presently handling?
In rural areas, we have successfully electrified two rural communities in Abuja. There has been drastic reduction of CO2 emission due to unsafe and hazardous energy sources (generators etc). We are consciously working towards addressing Sustainable Development Goals 6 & 7. Overall, in both rural and urban homes and businesses in Nigeria, we have improved energy access.

Currently, we have some mini-grid projects in the pipeline. We have done assessments in a number of communities across 3 states in the country, we are working to develop more mini-grids before the close of Q4 2018. In urban centres, we are also pushing our embedded generation projects and Solar Home Systems.

Starting out, what were the major challenges you encountered?
Like most small businesses in Nigeria, we faced challenges most especially in the area of funding. Access to capital (debt financing especially) remains either scarce or expensive to small businesses like ours. Customer orientation was also a major challenge for us during the early days. The public didn’t (and some still don’t) understand the cost saving benefits of going solar, so the setup of adopting solar energy discouraged many of them.

What’s the motive behind setting up your organization?
I had gone visiting a friend in a semi-rural community in Lagos State. As I walked the streets of that community, I ran into a young boy of school age but who was not in school. I was able to gather, having engaged him in a conversation that his parents could not afford to fund his education and promised to come back in two weeks and do something about his plight.

I returned to this same community about three weeks later – breaking my promise by the lapse of a week and found it inordinately difficult locating this young boy as everyone I enquired from were reluctant to discuss him. Fortunately or rather, unfortunately, I met someone who generously volunteered information about the boy. He said ‘the boy, his two siblings and parents are dead’.

I was dazed! Not necessarily by the concept of death but by the complete annihilation of an entire nuclear family in one fell swoop. Many questions began to pour: How can this be? What could have happened? Why did it happen? These and more questions I asked and I was able to gather that they died from toxic fumes from a neighbour’s generating set. Sadly, I have come to know that in a nation of almost two hundred million people, this is not an isolated incident even today.

Broken, this personal experience was the turning point in my life and career. I knew I had to do something and this was the major motivation and driving force that birthed Havenhill Synergy.”

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

The policies in place can be better to enable this sector thrive above where it currently is. The import tariffs on renewable energy components and equipment are not favourable for business. The poorly established standards and quality control of components and equipment locally manufactured or imported that are used in the RE energy has posed an issue as well.

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

To aid the growth of the Renewable Energy sector, there is need for a major platform where key players in this sector address the major issues plaguing the sector. Duty free importation of equipment and components in this sector will be a plus to the market. Overtime, the government could focus on developing or collaborating with foreign players to develop a manufacturing capacity for Renewable Energy components in the country. Taxes paid by renewable energy companies should be designed differently in a way that supports the business model of the sector. A National renewable energy fund could also be established that allows companies in this sector access the patient capital needed to develop this sector. This capital should also be structured in ways that support the business model of the renewable energy space. The Government could also implement efficient incentives for the adopting renewable energy. This will encourage more people to adopt clean energy. The benefits of this to the Government, the environment and the citizens cannot be overemphasized.Also we should have a one-stop shop where all issues relating to the RE sector can be domiciled. For example, we should have an office that brings all agencies that have one thing or the other to do with the RE sector under the same roof.

Looking at the Off Grid sector of the power industry which you’ve ventured into:
How successful has it been?

It is too early to judge the success of the off grid sector in Nigeria. However, with rural communities that have been in blackout for decades, the off grid sector is fast becoming the fastest means of energy access for these communities. As more capital and ideas start flowing in this direction, we can expect more impact to be made in this space. For the few thousands who now have access to clean energy, the off grid sector in Nigeria has definitely made some progress from what it was several years back. The industry has grown in terms of value and technology. We have moved from the dark days to actually showing and proving that off-grid energy is the means to increasing energy access in off-grid rural communities.

What have been the challenges so far to the organization and to the nation?
Operating within the off-grid sector comes with its own challenges. One is the general illiteracy level in the rural communities some of these projects are located. Sometimes, it is difficult for the key stakeholders within the community to understand the benefits of building a mini-grid in their community. These misunderstandings often lead to all kinds of unnecessary demands. Access to capital is another major issue faced by companies like ours in this space. As you’ll know, building mini-grids in an off grid community is not cheap. Unfortunately, most of the capital (debt and equity) available in the country today does not support the business model in this sector. Therefore, we are limited in the terms of the number of sites that could have been developed. This probably accounts for the slow pace of growth and development in the renewable energy sector.

Would you boldly say #OffGrid is the solution to Nigeria’s Electricity problem?

As you’ll agree with me, there are many issues with Nigeria’s power sector. So, I wouldn’t say off grid Energy is the silver bullet or the outright solution to Nigeria’s Electricity problem, rather it plays a significant role and is just a part of the solution. However, in a country with such a low generation capacity, weak grid extension plan and other millions with access to energy, it is very logical to see Renewable Energy as one of the major solutions to Nigeria’s Electricity problem in the off-grid communities. This is especially true for the thousands of off grid communities in the country.

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?
Currently, there’s a number of conflicting data with regards to power generation via renewable energy in Nigeria. There is need for accurate data sources.

Is there any RE project selling to the National Grid? what are the figures like?
Currently, I am not aware of renewable energy projects selling to the National Grid. I know there are a few projects under construction, we hope to see their addition to the grid soonest.

Any last words to the good citizens of Nigeria and the government?
Nigerians should continue to pay their electricity bills, avoid energy theft and both government and private sector electricity practitioners should ensure that Nigerians have value for money. Thank you for this opportunity.