The partner of the month is a major player in the clean cookstoves sector in Nigeria. Dr. Omotayo Dairo, Founder/CEO of Quintas Renewable Energy Solutions Ltd shares the company’s vision and strategy on the Nigerian market with partners. Here are the excerpts.
• Give us a brief introduction about Quintas Renewable Energy Solution. What motivated you to start your business?
Quintas Renewable Energy Solutions Ltd is a private limited liability company incorporated in Nigeria in 2009, with a goal to provide adequate and affordable energy for Nigerians where they live, work and play. The name Quintas takes its origin from the Latin word “quinta”, meaning excellent and our focus is in the development of biomass and solar energy technologies for the rural poor in Nigeria.
I am a physician by training and my interest in renewable energy stems from two experiences.
I. In 1986, my petro-engine generator was stolen at night in my hospital during an emergency surgery. A friend of mine later brought an IBM desktop computer from the United States of America that year. I observed that his computer came with an uninterrupted power backup system (UPS), which I later discovered works on an inverter technology principle. I felt that if computer manufacturers could provide UPS to preserve data in computers, my hospital should have an automatic power backup system during emergencies. I assembled a team to explore the possibility of producing an inverter for my hospital’s power backup. By 1990, my hospital and residence were running on inverters as power backups.
II. My visit to rural communities in Nigeria exposed me to the torture and drudgery that processors of food (who are mostly women) are subjected to in the course of their daily business activities. It was clear to me that lack of access to energy and inappropriate technologies were at the root of their problems. I had been reading about gasification technologies for upwards of one decade and was particularly fascinated by the works of Drs Reeds and Anderson on “Toplit Updraft Gasification” (TLUD) technology. I engaged a welder to continually work with me for years, experimenting on gasifier production. The results I got in my efforts to develop institutional TLUD gasifiers stoves were amazing.
• What does your company seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
Quintas is striving to pioneer the application of institutional gasifier stoves at the farm gate levels in Nigeria, as the primary energy source for agro-industrial processing. Rural communities in Nigeria conduct their food processing activities using biomass as the main energy source, but the traditional “3 stone” biomass combustion technology adopted by our people as the main biomass energy extraction technique has between 3-12% energy extraction efficiency as against over 65% energy extraction efficiency of the simple gasifier stoves.
Nigeria has the potentials to generate168.49million tonnes of agricultural residue and wastes in a year, which has an energy equivalent of 2.01 EJ (47.97 Mtoe) (Simonya and Fasanya, 2013). This yearly untapped biomass energy potential is equivalent to 0.34% of total energy consumed in the whole world in 2011. Jonathan Fishman convincingly proved in his article “An Inquiry into the Wealth of Renewable Energy, Part I” that only 13.18% of total global energy consumption comes in form of electricity. The corollary to this is that you require only 13% of your energy source in form of electricity to run a successful industry at any given location.
Empirical reports show that post harvest wastage is about 40% of total annual production in agriculture in Nigeria. This translates to about N9.2T (Nine trillion, two hundred billion Naira or $46B USD).
Quintas is determined to stem post harvest loses through provision of institutional gasifier stoves and other energy sources for farm gate industrial processing and electricity generation.
• What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your business over the years?
We won the Bank of Industry/UNDP Energy Challenge completion in 2012. We also won the Power Africa Energy Challenge competition in 2014. These awards gave us $120,000 in grants. These grants, in addition to capital injection into our business from our company‘s promoters have helped us to develop prototype of simple and efficient biomass energy powered agro-processing machineries and tools. We deployed some of these machineries for agro-processing at the farm gate levels. Proceeds from our experimental industrial processing activities have helped to keep us in business. We manufactured and deployed some of these machineries to meet the conditions attached to the grants we received, and also produce some machinery for clients who are aware of our business activities. Some of the machineries we now manufacture are:
I. Institutional TLUD Gasifier stoves from 4inches to 20inches burner size for biomass heat generation
II. Biomass Hot Air Generator to dry grains, beans, tubers, fruits and vegetables. The heat generation capacity of our products range from 40kWe to 500kWe.
III. Biomass fired Water in tube boilers with capacity to produce 1-5tonnes of wet or superheated steam per hour, or as may be required by our clients; and
IV. Multistage pressure and velocity compounded steam turbines for use as prime movers for electricity generation, water pumping and execution of set mechanical works.
We believe that the focus of Governments in Nigeria on agriculture, potable water supply and off grid electricity generation will have a significant effect on the growth of our company.
• How are your customers reacting to your products in the market – benefits of using your product?
Our products are targeted at the rural poor but unfortunately, the average subsistent farmer in Nigeria of today cannot afford to buy these products. We then evolved the strategy of selling to cooperative groups, donor agencies and setting up of industrial clusters at the farm gate levels to process agro-products for rural farmers for a fee. We also allow the farmers to pay the equivalent of fees charged in finished products if they cannot afford to pay in cash. We have started to take our products to agric-shows to popularize them with processors and big time farmers.
End users are very happy with the result they are getting from the use of our products, the fact that agro and forest residue are the fuel for our machines and that processing are done at the farm gate level give great satisfaction to our clients. For example, 74% of cassava is water and peels. Transporting unprocessed cassava from the farm for processing means transporting 74% wastes load.
• Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How can your company help drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
Agriculture intervention policies to promote employment and food sufficiency have been promoted by successive Governments in Nigeria for decades. From the operation feed the nation policy of Obasanjo as military Head of State, Green revolution of Shagari, DFFRI and better life for rural Women by Babangida are all geared towards job creation and food security, through the promotion of agriculture. Increase in agricultural production from these intervention programmes brought increase in post harvest loses due to poor food preservation and processing techniques and the farmers had to abandon the farm because their efforts were not rewarded from the income they generated.
Over 75% of traditional agro industrial food processors are women, who get involved in rigorous and energy sapping work, laden with the disease burdens following smoke inhalation from their energy generation methods. Our products are energy efficient, emitting minimal smoke, remove drudgery from operators and are users friendly.
Entrepreneurial research show that an investment of N100,000 will generate one job. If our product is able to stem 0.001% of annual post harvest wastage in agriculture in Nigeria, we shall be creating 920 direct jobs every year, of which at least 70% will be women.
• If you are asked to advise the Federal government of Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the market?
If I were asked to advise Government on policy matter;
a. Government should discourage importation of cookstoves into the country and encourage domestic energy efficient cookstove manufacturers to scale up their production;
b. Diversification of the economy through agricultural production will not produce desired impact if local food processing and packaging activities do not go with it. Efficient Farm gate milling and processing centres should be promoted; and
c. Government should involve reputable Non Governmental Organisations in the monitoring of their programmes to reduce corruption and pilferage of scarce funds by the present executors of these programmes.
• If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
If enabling environment is not created by Government, the risk envisaged will be in two folds:
a. The growth of businesses of entrepreneurs and business promoters will be stunted and may be forced to close down; and
b. For the government and the people, deforestation and its environmental degradation consequences, heavy disease burden, food insecurity and hunger, civil unrest and nationwide security challenges are some of the risks to be expected.
• Where do you envisage being in the next 5 years in terms of production?
At the moment, our business office and factory exists only in Ondo State. In five years from now, we hope to have presence in all States of the federation and establish a renewable energy village in each of the six geo-political zones in Nigeria.
• What risk does your business face and what is your biggest challenge?
The integrity of renewable energy projects in Nigeria (most especially solar projects) are in doubt due to high failure rate of the projects. These failures result from poor designs of some of the projects and lack of post installation maintenance activities. As a renewable energy company, we run a risk of inheriting some of the negative prejudices associated with the failures in solar technology projects.
The major challenges we face are:
i. Lack of access to funds to grow our business; and
ii. Poorly developed manpower in the renewable energy industry in Nigeria
• What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
a. Nigerian Government should pay more attention to local manufacturers and operators in the cooking energy business;
b. Government should discourage importation of cooking energy products;
c. Indiscriminate felling of trees for use as wood-fuel and bush burning should be discouraged; and
d. Our tertiary institutions should carry out research on the development of indigenous, cheap and adaptable energy efficient technologies for the use Nigerians.
• Is there any other thing you would like to share?
We consider it necessary to share some of the information at our disposal on the potentials of the renewable energy industry in Nigeria with our readers, with a view to attract more people into the industry. We believe that the current economic burst in the Nigerian ICT industry will be a child’s play compared to what the renewable energy industry will offer to our nation in a decade from now. Our hope is that the industry will not be dominated by foreigners as we see today in the nation’s ICT market.