First inspired to study engineering by his parent’s constant struggle with patchy electricity provision during his childhood in Nigeria, Nwangele Godwin (Emeka) Chukwuemeka is now studying the MSc in Energy Systems at the University of Oxford.
Emeka is passionate about energy transitions for Africa's economic advancement. In the final year of his degree in electrical engineering at the University of Nigeria, he co-founded Greenage Technologies, a renewable energy company that works to solve Nigeria’s energy problems. The organisation started making inverters themselves, with the aim of moving into solar panel energy and reducing the cost of renewable energy deployment by 30%. They later expanded into supplying energy products using their inverters to rural customers, hospitals and schools. He says, “Having my brainchild come to life, especially when it addresses real-life challenges like the lack of energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, is fulfilling. Realizing that our solution to the energy crisis lies within by harnessing our vast solar resources is satisfying”.
Emeka’s MSc research at the Department of Engineering Science focuses on designing a smart grid-enabled peer-to-peer energy sharing framework to help improve the utilization of growing renewable energy resources like solar PV. The framework, which should begin trials by the end of 2021, comprises an intelligent circuit for energy sharing, which automatically distributes power from renewable resources with excessive generation to dispatchable loads or potential consumers with energy demand. He adds, “The MSc program was instrumental to my multi-perspective understanding of the global energy and climate crisis. In addition, insights from the course stimulated my interest in the future of energy transitions”.
Aside from his work, Emeka engages in social development projects. He serves as the Vice President of the University of Oxford Africa Society /, and was part of the team that organised the 2021 Oxford Africa Conference. He also co-founded the Coal City Fellowship with the Ganglion Initiative and the Oxford Africa Society to provide academic and professional mentorship to African youths and build the next generation of scholars and leaders.
He is optimistic about how engineering can impact on issues such as sustainable energy: “I am hopeful that we can make more impact by looking into problems one at a time and deriving relevant solutions. With concerted efforts and a united front in research and implementation of actionable solutions, the world can address pertinent challenges like global warming, the migrant crisis, and the economic imbalance that threatens our collective existence.” He says of his time at Oxford, “Studying [here] has improved my understanding of problem-solving for societal development, a skill that I intend to explore for the rest of my life”.
Emeka’s next ambition is to do a DPhil in Engineering Science: “My proposed DPhil study focuses on utilizing renewable fuels with flexible power plants to provide a reliable power supply that can power developing economies, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa”, he says. “These flexible power plants will address renewable intermittency and give concentrated power to energize developing economies effectively.” The ability to ramp up and down power generation can enable the operation of these thermal plants with intermittent renewable resources like solar, which is abundant in Africa. The ultimate goal would be to provide access and availability of power while utilizing clean energy resources and supporting the global 2050 net-zero target.
Securing Africa’s sustainable future will take a combined approach, he adds: “We can find solutions to our problems within our societal roots through directed research in energy, economics, and leadership. By harnessing the concepts of community sharing and love for effective service delivery and our abundant renewables like vast solar resources for energy, [Africa] can be a future global economic centre”.
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