The Business Year

Doye Ogionwo Chief Commercial Officer

NIGERIA - Energy & Mining

Doye Ogionwo

Chief Commercial Officer, ZOLA Electric

Bio

Doye Ogionwo is an accomplished senior executive with a strong track record of improving companies and building enterprise value. He joined ZOLA Electric in 2019 and currently serves as Chief Commercial Officer, where he oversees all of ZOLA’s commercial efforts including sales, business development, and geographic expansion. Prior to ZOLA Electric, Ogionwo served as chief commercial officer at Helios Towers. As a partner at Newe Partners, he served as a senior advisor to several African investment firms and their portfolio companies. He has also held roles at Charles Schwab & Co. and ExxonMobil. Ogionwo has an MBA from Carnegie Mellon and a BSc (honors) in computer science from the University of Lagos.

As a renewable energy company, ZOLA looks to reduce Nigeria's reliance on diesel as a fuel source and drive mass adoption of renewable energy solutions.

Can you tell us about your operations in Nigeria and the importance of Nigeria to ZOLA’s global portfolio of countries?

Nigeria is a key country within our global distribution strategy. We chose Nigeria as the first target market for our Infinity power system due to its significant electricity challenges. The default alternative power source in Nigeria is diesel generators, which about 100 million people rely on and costs Nigerian businesses NGN14 billion every year. Furthermore, fuel subsidies for small petrol generators cost the government about NGN1.6-2.2 billion annually. At ZOLA, we spent a significant amount of time and capital developing our flagship product Infinity, an intelligent battery that delivers primary power and energy management and managed remotely through our Vision software. It is infinitely scalable, i.e., multiple Infinity boxes can be easily and safely installed together to address any size of access-to-energy problem, be it residential, commercial, or mini-grid. Additionally, Infinity can integrate with different power sources and load size seamlessly—i.e., power from solar, the grid, or a generator. For us, making a difference is crucial, which is why we designed the technology with Nigeria as our test case. The learnings from solving the energy challenges in Nigeria will be transferable to other emerging market countries. We have invested heavily to build a team in Nigeria and have deployed local technology and human resources.

How has Infinity been received so far, and how would you assess the adoption of green energy?

Having launched Infinity in 2021, following a soft launch the previous year in Nigeria, the reception from the market has been great. Our distribution partners are using Infinity to solve a variety of residential and commercial challenges. We are currently in discussions with multiple distribution partners, including fossil fuel distribution companies looking to transition to renewables. As the government recently removed fuel subsidies, fuel costs for generator users have also increased, stimulating further demand. In addition, several downstream companies are transitioning to powering their filling stations with solar to reduce their operating costs. Healthcare is another sector where the attributes of Infinity are well received.

What is the main challenge of green energy adoption in Nigeria, and how are you overcoming it?

Adoption of green energy technology in Nigeria is not as widespread as we would like, due to the significant upfront costs of larger renewable energy systems especially for residential and SME customers. In more developed markets, consumer financing for green energy technology is affordable and easily accessible. However, in general consumer financing in Nigeria is still not easily accessible. As such, the upfront cost of larger renewable energy systems will continue to be a barrier to the adoption of green energy technology. How we address this is a challenge not just for ZOLA but the renewable energy industry in Nigeria as a whole. The solar home system market in Africa has been successful because we can offer these customers smaller systems on a lease-to-own basis, which they typically pay over a three-year period. When we can offer a financing product with attractive terms for larger systems, then we will see significant adoption of green energy technology. ZOLA is currently working with financial partners to find a financing solution, as it is an important piece of the equation to drive mass adoption of renewable energy solutions, especially in the residential and SME segments.

Can government policies impact and enhance the adoption of renewables in Nigeria?

Government policies can certainly impact and enhance the adoption of renewables. Through the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria, the government has been supportive, though more can be done both in terms of policy and how it can create an enabling environment to fast-track consumer financing. There has to be a concerted effort between the renewable energy industry, the government, and capital sources to drive the adoption of renewables in Nigeria, especially around providing consumer financing.

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