In Nigeria recently, there has been an upsurge of unreliable alternative source of power as a result of failure in Nigerian government to provide citizens with a stable, reliable and affordable source of power for her citizens. In an exclusive interview with the Co-Managing Director of a Nigerian-based German Power Company, Daystar Energy Solution, Mr. Christian Wessels with Century Newsfront Newspapers led by its Editor-in-Chief, Saviour Ekpe. Mr. Wessels spoke on various ways he is tackling power through solar acquired from major manufacturers in the world. He also talked of difference empowerment strategies designed by his company to put Nigerian Entrepreneurs on the world of power business. He bared his mind on his plans to extend their services beyond the three African countries they currently operating. The MD acknowledged and applauded the spirit of industry and commitment of Nigerians, with regards to those working for him whom he refers to as ‘my colleagues’. EXCERPTS:
Daystar Power Energy Solution
Many times when people ask me where I see the future of our company, I answered them that I see the future of our company in Nigeria with our hearts, minds and both feet on the ground, not only in Lagos but we also have operations across the country particularly in Cross River State and the regions.
Scope of Operation
Thank you so much, but let me say that I have spent a lot of time in south-south we have already a number of systems down there. As a matter of fact, as I was speaking these colleagues who apparently will make a group down there in Port Harcourt so we have our presence already as of today in 25 different states in south-south and south-east is actually one of our focus areas. So we do a lot in Lagos, yes but we need to work across the country.
Concentration of Investments
The majority of our investments are in Nigeria, where we have over 120 systems are in Nigeria. So Nigeria indeed is our main market. We do want to grow also regionally and beyond Nigeria. This is why we have opened an office in Ghana and office in Ivory Coast, and we do this by way of sending our colleagues from Nigeria into those markets so our head office is in Nigeria and our coordinating office for the rest of our activities in Africa.
Equipment acquisition and funding
We brought essentially three things. The first is to really understand our technology and has our focus on solar as an additional source of power and also batteries that provide energy storage and where required also a right size diesel generator. And we bring our technical know-how and the equipment that we brought from some of the leading manufacturers globally together with our ability to raise funding from the German Development Bank (GDB). This is one of our earlier investors at the beginning of 2019 we raised additional funding and with these hands, we are buying the equipment, we are deploying at the clients’ sites. So, therefore, we are really able to offer cost savings right from the beginning without asking our clients for investing in the technology themselves.
Difference between Daystar Power Energy Solution and others
I think the big difference is that we are only working with the leading global manufacturers and therefore we avoid the mistakes that other companies have done in the past by bringing into Nigeria unreliable equipment. Now, a lot of my friends in Nigeria and a lot of companies in Nigeria have had a bad experience because they were buying the cheapest equipment without long term guarantees, without having the service. Now, we are new to the extent that we provide only leading equipment and most properly provide the service. So when you make a reference to south-south, it doesn’t matter whether we are in Edo, Akwa Ibom and Cross River, in Rivers, in Abia where I just spoke with my colleague so irrespective of what, we have people on the ground that service the equipment. But most importantly, with our control room in Lagos, we monitor the performance of each service. So, if you will mind to ask me now, how are we doing with our system in Port Harcourt where we have some systems then, I could call on my colleague and ask him to come to the office and quickly tell me how the system is doing today because we are all monitoring 24/7 the system. So there is a huge difference, we are not dumping any second-tier equipment and hoping that somebody buys it but we are not selling it because we are not using it and therefore, it’s our own interest to work on top-quality equipment. The other thing I believe is that people in the past may not have made the same effort as we do in explaining the technology. Therefore, when we go to somebody with a large factory and he said that solar is not able to power his factory then I say I am from Germany, solar power is parts of our country so we have a bit of the factory. We create a solution there; we bring service as we are in Nigeria. So meaning if I find a contract today, I try and look at the schedule and we send a team to the place within weeks and we are quick to actually implement the solution.
Cost implication/Duration of Daily power consumption
It depends, let me give you a simple example, let’s look at a gas station, for instance, this gas station needs power for three things, the lighting early morning, evening and in the night for security, if it is a gas station that opens for longer hours or even at the metropolitan cities, they will need the lighting also for signaling. Secondly, they need the electricity to run the retail operation, maybe there will be a shop, air conditioners, workshop and thirdly, electricity is required for the pumps. Now, when you go to that gas station, our engineers take records on how much energy is required so we have all energy consumers and that may end up knowing that the average load for such a gas station maybe 20 Kilowatt. So that 20 kilowatt now is the demanding electricity that the gas station will have from 8am to 6pm. Afterwards, this demand will go down to any couple of kilowatt, the reason why is because there is no pumping station that runs without lighting so that is the starting point. The second question is how do we now meet this energy demand? The solar itself depends on the radiation level or in simple terms, the sunshine and we observe as the sun comes out, the solar gets stronger over and over at noon and at some points everywhere will be dark again. It means that we always need to combine solar with second energy source or energy storage. Let’s say is a gas station; the gas station has a big roof. On this roof, we can put a lot of solar panels and these many solar panels produce a lot of electricity, then we also have what to store the excess energy which will then discharge in the evening and in the night hours when light expels. So, we cannot answer the question of how long it last because we will always combine the different energy storage with it.
Home solar system
No, we only do commercial and industrial so we only do for corporate. We have not started home solar system and we also feel that other companies may be more qualified to do that. Absolutely there is a lot to achieve. Nigeria is an amazing country to be. Of course, there are many entrepreneurs and many opportunities for solar energy including the home solar system. We as a company, we recognize this, but let say this that one line is not enough to recognize opportunities in a commercial and industrial State. You know what I mean, I’m not ten years in Nigeria and I intend to stay another 20 years, like in the second and third trimester of my stay in Nigeria I feel I have enough to do just to provide the hopefully growing and diversifying industry in Nigeria with power including the home solar system. This would be possible in the future as we empower young engineers and entrepreneurs and send them forth to do their own business by giving them training.
Power solutions in Akwa Ibom State
Are you from Akwa Ibom? I’ve been there, we just hired somebody in our company, you know what we have in mind? We keep them until the growing number of people of that nature to have them work in our company and allow him to have his own company so that he can actually expand them also into points and home solar system for instance, providing power solution to smaller companies and also not forgetting other companies operating in open market that are running petrol generators in an unbelievably high cost. Those things we feel should be addressed by many micro-entrepreneurs that will be eagerly supportive.
Areas of concentration/Lifespan of Installed Solar System
We provide systems to schools and hospitals. One thing I am personally very proud of is the systems we provided in Kaduna to the only West African hospital with intensive care for wounded soldiers who return from engagement against insurgency in the North-east for the Nigerian Army and others, so they can provide their medical help, we provide solar. 20 years is the lifespan of the equipment that is the solar panel.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Let me say this, when you asked me of CSR, it sounds very much like what we do in our mainstream business, we don’t need any CSR issue but the core of our responsibility is like any other. But the core of duty is actually to employ many young Nigerian technicians and engineers. Let me also say that we make a huge effort in hiring female engineers to balance, we don’t only hire the male, young female technicians and engineers, we hire from Nigeria universities, on our training programme, train them for the business to make them probably the best team in the country. You are very right in asking me this question; there is one young man from Delta State. Actually, they were about 1994, they were working in Nigeria with bigger ambitions, our colleagues that are working in Nigeria as Managing Director who grow up in the East, and we send them to Germany for training. Therefore, our commitment to CSR is also embedded and it is part of our business. In other words, we don’t have all that time, so we hire somebody to train and we do this every day. It is part of my day-to-day job to bring those people on the ground. Everybody working to help each other achieve our goal, so it requires a commitment to work for us. So I expect my colleges to work as I work, even most of them are definitely working harder than I do; you know how your fellow Nigerians are working extremely hard. There is nobody in my company I couldn’t call. I give an example, one night, I had already slept, I got a message from New York, one of my partners said I am meeting some officials from other African countries who are interested in my company. In the middle of the night, I called two of my colleagues, around mid-night of course, from home shared a statement from New York. We are so amazed by the people we employed and they make us proud.
We have our web page, email address, we have an address and you have to apply. We have a well-structured application process, everybody has to go through test and we take it seriously and after they apply, everybody gets an answer. Our contact links are: https://www.daystar-power.com/careers, https://www.daystar-power.com/team
Prospect of Daystar Power Solution in ten years time
Let me answer like this, credible sources believe that Nigeria is spending at least14billion dollar every year on diesel and diesel equipment. And if that is true 14 billion dollars, then that number is so big that we have a long way to go of replacing those diesel generators with solar or other highly efficient systems. Therefore, when I think about this, that Nigeria spends every year of the budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to solve power challenge, then our future is to systematically replacing this, and we haven’t discussed one important point, not only do we want to replace it, but lower the systematic power cost because our power comes below this rate. So, when you are in Lagos, Port Harcourt or any of these big cities, you will see that sometimes we expose our children and everybody around us to pollution that World Health Organization will never find acceptable and health impact on people that are working so hard including myself, every day I sit in traffic and the exposure that my colleagues and I have on the back of everybody producing electricity with diesel. So, there is a long way to go replacing diesel, being in the lower solar energy system, lowing the cost, saving the environment and making the country more competitive. So, we have a long way to go in the next five years and I want to believe that in the next five years a significant amount is injected into power generation effort in Nigeria.