Renewable energy is increasingly becoming the alternative source to address poor electricity support in Nigeria. In this interview with Ediri Ejoh, Chief Executive Officer of ZOLA Electric, Bill Lenihan, talks about the unique solution his company is bringing to Nigerians to ensure 24- hour power supply.
You are coming into Nigeria at a time when we have issues with energy access. What is ZOLA Electric bringing into the country. What are the implications of your coming into Nigeria at this time?
I think the problem in Nigeria is that there is not enough production and distribution of power for the population in Nigeria. I think Nigeria is a perfect example of a country where there is massive energy deficit. This is a fact that cannot be disputed. Everybody living in Nigeria has this issue; every business has this issue. So, the question is what happens when people are having problem with energy or what happen where that exists? It means people have to come up with their own energy. It means if you are a household, you are probably buying kerosene to light up a lantern or you get solar battery to attend to your power need, but if you are urban, you are either thinking of buying diesel generator or a lead acid inverter system. Unfortunately, this is not the case with developed markets where everything works. Take for instance, here in United States of America, I don’t produce my energy. For those living in Nigeria, what that means is that each one has to figure it out by itself. Overall, it shows there is a mess which ought to be addressed. Beside this mess, the energy crisis also forces you to change appliances constantly or sometimes force you to do an upgrade. Beyond that, you also have these alternative sources causing health hazard and noise pollution. In a nutshell, I would say that you have a system that is unreliable, expensive and hard on your life. So, for us, that is the problem we have come to solve. So, the question then is, how do we solve these problems? That is why we are offering products such as INFINITY and FLEX to address this problem. At ZOLA Electric, our mission is to deliver 24 hour power to anyone, anywhere. Our product offerings allow us to do that and these products are tied towards meeting that needs. If your energy needs are more limited, which means you just want to power bulbs in your house, or power your television and other small appliances, we have a system that is built for that purpose. This system has been designed to provide solar storage that looks like computer such that the computer allows you to optimize production and discharge system. With such solution which has something similar to a computer attached to it, you can actually pay over the phone or through refinancing. Let me also add that the product is more marginal. Whenever you need more energy, the product allows you to get more energy without affecting the existing system which is different from what you have in the market today. If you want to generate more power, the solution can help you. It is smart and comes at low cost. If your energy needs are more powerful, say you run a business or factory, even though you have small power needs but rely on the grid, there is a product designed for that purpose and it is called INFINITY which better serves that need.
Only recently, we announced that we would be bringing the product into the market. Now, think of INFINITY like a smart grid in the home. It is a product that is also connected to all other energy sources; it is connected to the grid, connected to e-solar. The first thing it does is that it optimizes the ecosystem to deliver 24 hour power at reliable low cost. How does it work? It does it in a subtle way. What it does is that it optimizes your accessories such that you get 24 hour power in an affordable way. Also, it is modular. As soon as you need more energy, you get it and it is done in a very seamless fashion that is cost effective. Here, existing system stay intact; you are not changing it. It is a system that allows you to manage power usage using your phone app. It allows you to manage your energy provision in a very simple way on your phone. You can make it smarter so that it optimizes better. You can pay for it using your phone and we would offer that service under a 5-year service agreement. Within the five years, if there are any issues, we would fix it for you. From Flex to Infinity in emerging markets like Nigeria, we are offering a primary power source, unlike what you have presently where everything you do to get power involves backs-up which is unreliable and expensive. Our products are more reliable, cheaper and easy to use. For us, we believe that is the best way to solve the problem of energy access in Nigeria.
Will your storage come with the product or do you look at some point in time where you sell it as an additional service to those who have solar system installed before now?
Let me clarify that this is not solar but a smart power solution. Solar is a component. The solution only has a smart battery for Solar. It is not Tesla Power wall because Tesla Power wall is a back-up solution or system. It backs up your home. Our product is different because it is a solution provided to manage your home. It manages all your energy sources and optimizes them such that you are able to get 24-hour power from any source in a reliable and affordable way. Tesla Power wall is built for United States of America and other western markets such as Europe and Australia but these products are built for Nigeria. Our smart battery will work with other solar panels. But I think the challenge with most batteries used with other panels is that it does not last long. I need to state that most of these batteries are not built for solar energy in the home but built for automobile and other uses. That is where the difference comes in. We have five year service agreement, and our panel is going to last at least 12 years. Our battery is durable for 7 to 9 years. We have an obligation to replace those components within that service agreement. We are offering a solution that has not been witnessed in this market before.
FROM ARTICLE PUBLISHED @ VANGUARD / APRIL 6, 2019 BY NWAFOR