Alternative source of energy is the best solution to our power challenge
The challenge of meeting the energy consumption demand in Nigeria has been a major thorn in the flesh of successive governments for the past three decades. Solar Energy Advanced Power Systems Limited, a wholly indigenous company is totally committed to providing technologically advanced and environment sensitive power back-up solutions. The organisation has over the years helped many companies to switch from the use of fuel or diesel generators to solar panels and inverters. Chief Vincent Ajede, the Managing Director/CEO of the organization spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo and John Sylvester.
What informed your choice of business?
I had the opportunity of travelling abroad after completing my education and I saw solar panels being used to generate power. I got interested because there was a need to do same in Nigeria considering the perennial power challenge we have in the country. With the recommendation of the Indian High Commissioner in Nigeria, I was introduced to many Indian companies that manufacture inverters, so I registered Solar Energy Advanced Power Systems Limited (SEAPS) with a mission to carry on the business of renewable energy systems and components, solar modules (panels) manufacture, kits, controllers, inverters, general D.C. and A.C. supply, seminars, installation, exhibitions, importers, exporters, manufacturer’s representative, general merchants, solar electricity in all its ramifications. Our products are truly a futuristic concept, a result of internationally acclaimed high technology, which incorporate the fuzzy logic control for error free functioning.
The cost of solar panels is on the high side, what is responsible for this?
SEAPS uses the photovoltaic technology to convert sunlight into electricity and over the years has proven to be one of the most reliable efforts at bringing electricity to even the most remote regions of Nigeria and other parts of the world. Unfortunately, the cost of the battery which is the heart of the system is very expensive because of the high import duty paid for batteries. We ask government to reduce the import duty of battery to encourage more people to afford the solar panels.
If they are interested in seeking for alternative sources of energy, they should reduce the import duty paid for batteries. This will enable most people to resort to the use of solar panels. The batteries are the major component used to store the energy as the sun is the basis for all life on earth and the main source of energy. This continuous energy flow from the sun to the earth exceeds 15,000 times the energy need of mankind and yet, more than 2 billion people in less developed countries, in most of which solar energy is plentiful, have a severally limited access to any form of energy.
I pioneered alternative source of energy and we’ve been in this business for the past 26 years. There would’ve been a Silicon Valley here in Nigeria, but government bureaucracy made it fail. We intended to bring inverter production plant in Nigeria but the effort failed because of government bureaucracy. We’ve concluded with our partners on how to transfer the technology in line with the change agenda of the present administration but we need government support to be able to succeed. Solar Energy Advanced Power Systems Limited in partnership with our foreign partners has also resolved to maintain the trust of our customers by providing them with reliable product. Since these systems are multifunctional in character, they also prove to be highly utilitarian. Not only do they provide extra long back-up for the IT equipment such as computers, printers, servers and others, they also function as inverters for homes in times of power failure.
It is basically a feed and forget system, unlike the dams where you have engineers working day and night thereby incurring bills. It is just the initial investment and after, the solar panels are guaranteed for thirty years and we have done jobs that attracted thunderous recommendation. What I recommend is electrical backup system with solar panel as this is what is feasible in Nigeria because of the cost implications.
What is the cost implication of its maintenance?
Initial investment is high but operative cost over the system is low. It is basically a feed and forget system, unlike the dams where you have engineers working day and night thereby incurring bills. It is just the initial investment and after, the solar panels are guaranteed for thirty years. We have done jobs that attracted thunderous recommendation. What I recommend is electrical backup system with solar as this is what is feasible in Nigeria because of the cost implications. But even at that, majority of Nigerians still cannot afford it. Eighty percent of Nigerians are poor. But with N80, 000-N85, 000 you can power your fans, lights and television set, and as soon as PHCN comes you leave it to recharge instead of putting up with generators that are too costly to run in terms of fueling, repairs and maintenance.
What stands your orgnisation out of the competition?
The vision of Solar Energy Advanced Power Systems Limited is to be the best of the best. We are customer driven with quality services and products that conform to mutually agreed-upon requirements. Our goal is to perform our function right the first time. We will strive to become the role models in the solar and alternative energy industry. We are working hard to better value and nurture both individual and team performance.
It is a big ambition and it is vital that we provide a work environment where employees can make it happen. We aim for every employee to understand their influence on our overall success by linking individual work objectives directly to business goals. By communicating our compelling vision, and providing a framework for developing appropriate skills and competencies, we want to engage people for the long term. Between us, we want to deliver the energy and inspiration to regularly exceed and extend our goals, not just meet them.
What has been the greatest leadership lesson you’ve learnt over the years?
Leadership is about service. The CEO is the Chief Servant of the organization. You must know how to allocate resources and know how to motivate your staff to earn their loyalty. Vision is very important because as a leader, you must have a vision in terms of knowing what you want to achieve today, in five, ten and fifteen years and actions have to be applied. You must be unstoppable because there must be obstacles, so you must develop strategy to overcome challenges. You need to continuously brainstorm and network. These will bring solution to diverse challenges. Focus is very important, doing things better, adding and creating unique values as the greater value you create, the greater the profit.
How do you attract and retain the best talent in the industry?
The survival of any enterprise depends on the quality of human resource at its disposal. You have to depend on your people to deliver on the vision of the organization. We have respect for our people and motivation is our greatest advantage. We retain the best in the industry and when the opportunity comes, we send them abroad for training. We believe that attracting and retaining talented employees ensure long-term business sustainability.
Great careers do not just happen by accident – they need to be nurtured and carefully supported. We give people the time to learn and we give them the right exposure to ensure their career growth, adopting a flexible approach to each person’s skills and personal situations, wherever we can. Underpinning all of this is our commitment to building fair and equal opportunity for all. Our leadership is built on a rich heritage and we employ the best talent in the industry.
What drives you?
I am passionate about what I do, it is not the money. Over the years, I’ve taken it upon myself to advice government on the way forward but we have leaders that are not listening to their people. Nigeria is like a huge joke. Don’t our leaders see the burnt out street lights, is that what is obtainable in cities they visit abroad?