Nigeria unplugs from dirty generators in sudden solar gamble

by Oladosu Adebayo

Generators are everywhere in Lagos, used by almost everyone in the Nigerian megacity to counteract crippling power outages.

Nigeria unplugs from dirty generators in sudden solar gamble

Those living in upscale gated communities or working at big companies turn to massive, soundproof diesel generators when the electricity grid inevitably fails. There are the smaller, noisier petrol versions for those who can’t afford to maintain a diesel rig. And at the bottom of the generator hierarchy, found in countless shops and homes, are legions of less capable machines known in Nigerian Pidgin as “I-pass-my-neighbor generators.” The derisive name mocks those who can’t afford even a generator that puts out just enough juice to run fans, turn on lights and charge phones.

The lowest-end generators make up for their deafening roar and abundant fumes with the distinct advantage of portability, allowing users to plug in at home and work. These are the machines Femi Adeyemo has spent years trying to displace with equally flexible and affordable solar technology.


On a summer day when a package arrived from China, the staff at Adeyemo’s decade-old company, Arnergy, huddled around his desk to examine the latest prototypes. The portable power station resembles an old-school boombox and can be plugged into solar panels. A screen shows how much power it has left, and outlets connect electronics.

Arnergy has already had success offering solar technology to high-income earners, and this is meant to be its first mass-market product. The company raced to get the prototype ready as quickly as possible after Nigeria’s approach to energy suddenly changed. Bola Tinubu, the country’s new President, stood at a podium in May, dressed in his white agbada robe and a cap embroidered in green-and-white national colors, and veered far off script. “The fuel subsidy is gone,” Tinubu declared in the middle of his 30-minute inauguration speech.

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