To start paying less for electricity, do this.

In a true story that happened in Nigeria, a house owner installed a prepaid power meter which informs him the amount of electricity units he consumes instantly in his house. He later installed these wall sockets pictured below, that come with ‘fancy’ red lights. When you switch the socket on, the light on the socket comes on. He had so many of them in his house. He kept on enjoying the tiny red lights on all his sockets anytime power comes on or he switches an appliance on. After some time of observation of his power consumption, he quickly uninstalled all the sockets and replaced them with ones without lights. He realized just the lights on the sockets consume power on their own, unnecessarily. They were simply not needed. In fact, they are a source of visual pollution if you switch the lights off to go to bed. Most at times, that’s when you plug in your phone to charge. The light from the socket, if in your eyesight, will disturb you before eventually sleeping off.

Reducing your electricity unit consumption starts with removing unnecessary power consuming appliances like this socket
Fancy power consuming socket

 

A lot of people now are trying to make more energy-efficient choices, amidst increased electricity tariff in Nigeria. On February the 1st of this year, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission increased the tariff of electricity in Nigeria.  I want to first,commiserate with Nigerians living in the country and living on the grid over the increased electricity tariffs and then go ahead and give a suggestion how you can reduce your electricity consumption and start paying less. But first,  what do the new figures mean to those using prepaid and post-paid meters.

Prepaid Billing System

If you live in Kaduna and on a three-phase system, you will be paying 26.41 NGN per kWh according to the new regulation. If you use prepaid meters and you buy say 100 units, that is 100 kWh (kilowatt-hours). And if for instance you buy those 100 watts bulbs I used to purchase before, say you get 3 of them. It will take about 333.33 hours (100 kWh divide by 300 watts) of use to consume the 100 units you purchased (assuming the bulbs didn’t blow up before then). 333.33 hours is about 14 days. But you don’t have a single bulb and it will not be on for the entire 14 days straight. However, you have other appliances drawing more than a 100 watts per hour, and they will be on for virtually the whole time, eg. your refrigerator. The more appliances you use, the more the units get consumed.

Postpaid Billing System

If you have a post-billing system, this is what 100 kWh means. If you work in a shop with 3 light bulbs with a wattage of 100 watts. And you turn on those bulbs for about 10 hours daily. The amount of power they will consume is 100 watts multiplied by the 3 light bulbs multiplied by 10 hours, which equals 3000 watt-hour or simply 3 kWh (kilo stands for a 1000). The electricity provider says you have to pay 26.41 Naira / kWh. It will cost you 26.41 Naira / kWh multiplied by 3 kWh i.e. 79.23 Naira to light your shop for 10 hours. Do that for 30 days, that is 2, 376.9 Naira of power bill.

So it means the higher the power rating the electrical appliance you buy and the longer it keeps operating, the higher your electricity bill and the faster the units will finish. This is why the change is a good deal for low consumers and a terrible deal for high consumers who normally have many electrical appliances like ACs, refrigerators, freezers, many light bulbs, electric kettles etc. Chances are that you are already frowning at the new regulation.

Why the change in charges?

The distributors removed the fixed charges and increased the variable charges. The former is normally around 700 to 800 NGN and you all pay monthly, whether you consume electricity or not, whether you locked your house and traveled to another continent and stayed in a tent without power for a long time, you will come back to pay the fixed charges (plus reconnection fee).  

SWITCH OFF

For you to see significant changes, there is a mindset you have to adopt. Be more conscious of how you use your electric appliances. Whenever you are not using any electric appliance, switch it off, and I mean switch off the socket on the wall. Do not leave a room with the lights on. Switch off always before going out. If you happen to be among those people still using those super bright 100 watts bulbs in all your light fittings, please be sure to switch them off when you do not them. It is best to replace these light bulbs with more energy-efficient bulbs like LEDs or CFLs that consume less than 50 watts, even though they will cost more. I will familiarize you with how to check power rating of electrical appliances in my subsequent posts. In order not to miss it, be sure to subscribe to my blog and get an email straight to your inbox with a link to the post.

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It is not always that you need the light bulbs. When the sun is up, you can draw your curtains and let the sun rays or daylight to illuminate your indoor spaces. Using daylight enables you to cut a lot of power usage. The sun rays will be bright enough and you do not have to switch on the lights for the better part of the day. It turns out there is a particular way buildings can be designed to let in maximum daylight for advantages like this, it is called bio-climatic design. More on that some time. Be sure to subscribe to my blog if you do not want to miss them. Especially if you have an intention of building a house soon, you have to go for a bio-climatic or energy-efficient design. It will save you a lot of money from paying power bills. Be sure to subscribe to my blog to learn of other ways of reducing your house or office power consumption.

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  If I may ask you, how much units of electricity do you use monthly? Does it upset you that you pay a lot? Do you want to know other great ways of reducing how much electricity you consume?

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What is Ides of March?

15th March is known as the Ides of March in the Roman calendar, and of course my birthday. It is the 75th day of the year 2016. As I googled, I discovered quite a few interesting historical things that occurred on the Ides of March over the years. The most historic and cited is the assassination of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar in 44 BC, by some of the senators during a sitting, sadly. In 1493, Christopher Columbus, the man who is said to have discovered America returned to Spain from his first journey to the Americas. Liverpool FC, the second most successful English soccer club in history was founded in 1892. It was also the first day an official cricket match was played in the world, Australia vs England in 1877.

Birth wise, John Snow, American epidemiologist was given birth on that day in 1813, Will I Am (Black Eyed Peas) 1975, Paul Pogba (Juventus FC soccer player) 1993 and Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives in 1975. Good for them.

But why did the romans refer to it as the Ides is because of their counting system, which they do backwards. There were only 3 reference dates in a month as opposed to 30 or 31 on a Gregorian calendar. The Nones (5th or 7th), the Ides (13th or 15th) and the Kalends (the 1st of the following month) depending on the length of the month. So we have the Ides of May, July and October to have their Ides on the 15th. And yes, the Romans have a number of religious celeberations leading to the Ides of March.

It’s also history now in Nigeria as yesterday, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria rejected the gender equality bill seeking to enforce women to have the same marital rights with men. Help me ask, what is with senators and the Ides of March?

Birthday wish

Yesterday to me had been a wonderful day filled with kind wishes I received via SMS, calls, Facebook messages and posts and emails from my caring following. I honourably and humbly acknowledge all those who took the time to send me their wishes. I wish you better things. I remember just like last year, I was flying from Abuja to Kebbi (my state of origin), after having been away for up to 14 months, got a lot of warm birthday messages. And the year before that, I celebrated it Kenya, unceremoniously, with the same aura of caring breeze of messages from friends and family. The way and manner I receive those messages is overwhelming and it made me silently wish that every day should be my birthday. The good wishes are just heartfelt, hopeful and I guess no one will deny not wanting to receive them daily.

But for this year, my birthday caught up with me in a small beautiful German city called Weimar. The European Cultural City, with a population of about 65, 000 people, was home to literary icons like Goethe and Schiller, a number of UNESCO Heritage Sites and a lot of other interesting things. I will write more on Weimer in my subsequent posts. So what am I here for?

Research.

Last year, as part of the Science Forum I attended, courtesy of the Green Talents International Forum for High Potentials in Sustainable Development, I was in Weimar for an individual expert appointment with Professor Dr. Engineer Conrad Voelker, the Chair of the Department of Building Physics in the Faculty of Civil Engineering at Bauhaus University Weimar. I had the privileged opportunity to be introduced to the research work at the department and what he is doing with his research team. I saw the climate laboratory and met Feelix (plastic man), a thermal manikin used in experiments to simulate environmental conditions just like a human being will. It was interesting and I decided to return as a Visiting researcher (Gastwissenschaftler in German) to learn more.

web article
Web article on the Bauhaus University Website welcoming my stay

Most of what I will be doing is investigating how coupling a number of different ventilation systems can be used to improve indoor air quality and thermal comfort. You know, like the split air conditioning (displaced ventilation) you have and the standing fans (personalized ventilation) you also keep near you to cool off, are some of the systems we will be using in our experiments in the climate lab, but disguised differently though. It turns out that there is an optimum combination of all these systems to help in achieving better thermal comfort.

Problem with central heating and cooling

For some of us that have been in airplanes or sat in cars with the vents just near you, you are able to manually adjust the cooling air that comes out or shut the vents entirely or change the direction of flow. That is great, but part of the problem lies when you find yourself in big rooms and situations where you don’t have an option of personalizing your heating or cooling system, what will you do?  If the ambient air is too cold for you, you wish you had a warmer cloth to keep you warm. And when it is too hot for you, you will wish the temperature of the cooling air coming out of the system to be increased, but you can’t do that since there a number of people present and each one will wonder if the system was made for you only.

Thermal comfort and what you breathe matters

That’s why we need advances in making personalized ventilation much better, performance-wise and economically. This will also have to be done in an energy efficient manner. Why? One, according to a study, people consume about 1kg of food, 2kg of water and 10kg of air daily. Hence, the major reason why particular attention has to be made on the indoor air quality as it affects our wellbeing and productivity. Two, most of our energy bills goes toward payment for either heating or cooling, so when you have personalized energy efficient ventilation systems in place, you will enjoy paying lower energy bills than before. And if you truly want to optimize all the energy consumption in your building, to make it more energy efficient, then you need a more thorough analysis and design by an expert. If you intend to build a new house, don’t erect it without an energy-efficient designer on the sideline. Energy tariffs are rising and it will be great if right from the design of your house, it can be made to consume less.

I will be working under his supervision at the lab together with Hayder and Thomas.

My broad objective is to gain more insight in the simulation of airflow, heat and energy around buildings. I intend to transfer the new skills in designing and understanding how to increase the energy efficiency of buildings and cities. This is imperative as the building sector is responsible for up to a third of the total electricity produced in the world. Improving their energy efficiency will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as make our environments greener.

Until then, I will be here for some time. Tschüss!

How Green is the City of Abuja?

“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.” -Fred Kent

Some weeks ago, the Ministers of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Environment of Nigeria expressed their desire in making Abuja a green city and a city of the future.  The Minister of Environment also reiterated to me on Twitter of a plan to make Abuja a green city but that needs to be reviewed, in conjunction with the ministry of the FCT.

 

How green is Abuja? The minister of environment mentions that there are existing plans of making Abuja a green city but that will need to be reviewed.
My twitter chat with the Minister just before the UN-Habitat 3 Africa Regional Meeting that recently held in Abuja.

This comes timely as global calls for sustainable cities continue to grow amidst negative impacts of urbanization. Many cities in developed countries have set timely visions of achieving the status of a ‘green’ city. In light of this, I intend to offer a superficial assessment of how green Abuja is based on my green engineering background, academic research, green and urban enthusiasm, attendance at green summits, tours and conferences and experience living in Abuja and traveling to many green conscious cities like Berlin.

To be clear, there is no one single definition of a green city. However, certain indicators are looked at and measured on a scale in order to have an idea of how environment friendly a city is.  What has so far been achieved in many different cities in pursuance of becoming green include but are not limited to, integrated waste management (recycling, composting, etc.), renewable power source, efficient public transportation, dedicated bicycle and bus lanes, neighbourhood connectivity, good air quality, more green areas, etc.

A city like Copenhagen in Denmark, already referred to as the European Green capital due to the environmental actions it has taken, aims to be carbon neutral by 2025. Being carbon neutral means removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they put into it. Stockholm (Sweden) intends to be fossil-fuel free by the year 2050, with the vision being set and pursued since in the 70s. Vancouver in Canada mentioned in 2012 its desire to be the greenest city in the world by 2020.

For a city like Abuja, a superficial assessment of the environmental performance reveals substantial work needs to done to curb air pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution, poor neighbourhood connectivity, urban heat island phenomenon, inefficient public transportation, poor waste management strategies and the list goes on.

Air pollution in the city

I remember vividly, a few weeks ago, while driving through the central business district, I had to stop right in the middle of the road to allow a vehicle driving ahead of me, whose exhaust malfunctions. The fumes were so heavy and big that I could not even see what lies ahead of me. There are many instances of this from heavy trucks and other vehicles. The health risks of air pollution are numerous. People nearby are forced to inhale these fumes at their own health and medical expense. Research has shown that inhaling car fumes could increase the risk of getting cancer, difficulty in breathing thereby increasing respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis, and even reduced work productivity. Many workers who commute daily, passing places like Berger Roundabout, Wuse Markets and bus stops experience this worst. At what expense is the general public allowed to inhale these harmful particulate substances? Cars in Berlin are assessed based on their exhaust emissions and given a certification of safety upon meeting certain agreed level of emission. Cars who pass this test display stickers expressing such accreditation.

Noise pollution

Noise pollution in Abuja in hard to bear. People who experience occasional noise (unpleasant sounds) develop hearing problems earlier in their life stage. It impedes normal hearing, causes stress, heightens risks of headaches, blood pressure, damage to eardrums, with children more susceptible. Especially for people who live in block of flats, they cannot but absorb the noise coming from the generators and homes turned party or worship centres. Lagos State has made efforts in curtailing this pollution by instituting laws and fining offenders. Perhaps a simple regulation can be passed to reduce noise coming from generators and other noise generating activities.

Waste Management

In the face of current crisis of Lassa fever, it has been established that proper waste management and ensuring good sanitation around our environs will ensure its eradication. Green cities practice integrated waste management where waste is not commingled; paper, plastics, glasses, perishables like food are all put differently etc.  Recycling facilities will benefit much from the separated disposal of waste. At the moment, a gentleman runs a business of recycling plastics in Dakibiyu for 25 years. Perhaps, if this is to be encouraged across the board, more recyclers and waste haulers need to be in place to absorb the Abuja urban waste sprawl. This directly creates greener jobs for the people.

Screenshot (31)

Other vital sectors like the terrible transportation infrastructure needs to be carried along as well. The great road network of Abuja in the presence of a broken public transportation system makes it seems like it is a city built to accommodate more cars than people.

Starting to put the above issues in order will improve the living conditions of Abuja residents and position it to become a green city, especially when a clear goal of say 50% reduction in GHG emissions is set.

The capital of Nigeria, one of few purposely built cities in the world is remarkable in its way and its efforts to make it a truly model city should be pursued.

 

Sadiq Abubakar Gulma is of Green Habitat, a nonprofit promoting the adoption and implementation of sustainable policies and frameworks in agricultural, building and construction sectors.

 

A single first step in getting (more) creative in your life.

“If you accustom yourself to creativity in small things, creativity on a large scale will follow.” Sheikh Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai

How do you become creative? Can we learn to be innovative? Is it only geniuses like Einstein who are creative? These are the questions asked by Professor Hideyuki Horii during a session of the University of Tokyo Innovation Summer Programme I attended in 2014. These are the same questions I ask participants of the innovation education workshops I facilitate. Can we? Can you? Being creative basically means ability to do things in a different way.

My accountability bud last week started one of her bi-weekly blog posts narrating how she asked a friend on what topic should she write for that week. The person replied “chicken”. Hilarious indeed. She didn’t write 1000 words about chickens though. She was creative about it. She took the inspiration from it and wrote on a general topic around it. If you want to read it, please follow this link here. Why the story? If you realize, for those moments, she was looking for new ideas. She used “ask a friend” as a way to come up new blogging ideas and it totally worked for her.

Aside that, there are a lot other ways of how to come up with new ideas. But that is not what I want to share, how to come up with new ideas, not today. This post is aimed at suggesting a strategy of how to become generally (more) creative in doing your every day things.

innovative-business-ideas3

My first suggestion is what the ruler of Dubai HRH Sheikh Maktoum suggested in his book Flashes of Thought, “I was asked how to become creative. I replied that we should get accustomed to not getting accustomed.”

Yes. Absolutely right. What does he mean by that? Many at times, we approach life with the same principle every now and then. A good way of beginning to be creative is to ask yourself, how can I accomplish this task differently? What other way can this task be done? This one single question will challenge you to start thinking (creatively, yes.). If you make friends by extending a handshake, try offering a cupcake next time. If you start solving problems by asking what went wrong, try asking how to totally avoid the problem from happening again. If you dress corporately to work, try dressing casually (try dishing the idea to your boss to allow employees dress casually for a single day and you will realize they will say they feel a lot freer in their head). Why?

The idea is that when you accustom yourself to constantly changing how you do stuff, it will build your mind to be more flexible and open. Flexibility conjures creativity. Being creative means accepting to do things a new different way. And that is exactly what people who are not open to change resist. They are rigid in all approaches and do not accept new ideas.

The more you try making creativity an everyday part of your life, the more excellence we will achieve in our lives said the Ruler of Dubai.

If you find this single tip useful, please do share it with your firends. If you need more ways of becoming creative, then subscribe to my blog to receive more posts on how to get creative in the future.

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Sadiq is the Lead Facilitator at Innovation Lounge, an organization fostering creativity and innovation culture in schools and universities.

How to avoid a hit-and-run situation on Abuja roads

Motorists, especially in Abuja are almost always in an unnecessary haste to get to their destinations. In slow moving traffic, you will notice the little millimeters of distance between cars left by drivers. Any sudden break or over-stepping of the throttle pedal will have you ram into someone’s car easily because the distance between your cars is so narrow as to allow even two people walking side by side to pass through. And that is exactly the point. Any little space will give someone driving by your side to easily get in front of you when she or he notices the queue they are on is momentarily struck and yours is moving. And in those moments, you might just get hit. Some when they hit you, either through the rear or side, unfortunately try to run away or IGNORE it till you decide to complain.

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Image credits:Peter Mesich

Almost every day, I see people getting into such minor accidents. A few weeks ago, I was driving through Area 10 to Area 11. The traffic was much then. At a point on the road, motorists from two lanes have to merge into one. And suddenly a car trying to merge into the single moving line bruised my rear side bumper. I felt it as I throttled forward slowly with the moving traffic. I kept looking at my rear view mirror to see the reaction of the driver that bruised me. I was also thinking I should halt the car right in the middle of the road and get out of the car to check the extent of the damage and demand for repair, thereby causing a longer queue.

But that faithful afternoon, the sunshine was intense. I neither had experience of settling a dispute on the road nor did I want to worsen the traffic jam in the scorching heat. I didn’t stop till at the office when I got out. Thankfully, the damage wasn’t much, but it can be overtly seen by someone looking at the car from a close distance. A friend told me with ₦500 (about $2.5), it can be fixed by applying some fluid to obscure the bruise. I haven’t done that till today, like so many other car owners. Just keep observing cars and you will notice they have minor damages here and there caused by others. The damage to my car didn’t bother me at all.  Neither did it bother the culprit who I am 100% sure is aware of his wrong-doing but chose to ignore.

However, this past weekend was different. Some guy driving a 6 wheel canter truck was in a rush to overtake me just before a roundabout. He got past me quickly in a dangerous manner and smashing off my driver’s side mirror. The mirror crashed onto the hot ashphaltic road. At that instant, he was in front of me and was stationary as the cars in front of him had stopped for the cars in the roundabout to pass through.  I unashamedly quickly drove past him and slant my car in front of his, just as the car in front of him moved. We were 3 in the car and all got out and approached him.

On getting to him, he was silent and kept on staring at us, allowing us to be on the prosecution side. We lamented how rough his driving was and his negligence of the damage he has done. Still looking dumbfounded, we agreed we move to the mechanic workshop just across the road to settle the dispute. In those roughly two minutes that all these happened, we didn’t cause any traffic hold up thankfully.

Off the road, he dropped out of his and started to apologize profusely. What I just said was wherever you were going, the hurry has all become futile as you have gotten yourself into a silly accident. He had no defense. It was his fault and he admitted. He bought a “zero gravity” adhesive and together with the seller, my friend tried to fix the side mirror back. Thankfully, it didn’t damage to pieces. It was all put back together and we left after about 20 minutes.

Running into situations like these is highly probable if you drive or get driven. How you approach to prosecute the defendant is key. If you do not react or block him or her almost immediately, he or she (Nigerians) can easily drive off abandoning you to tell the sorry story of how a driver hit your car, damaged it and drove away. If you are a quick one, once it happens, you have to quickly get out of the car and make the culprit get out of his or hers.

The impeding traffic hold up you will cause will propel you to move to the side of the road to settle the case amicably or not, in the presence of a police (when you hit an oyimbo or muzungu (how a white person is referred to in Pigeon English (Nigerian English) and Swahili respectively), they will call the police sharply) or not. Once you get out, try to see if drivers (jury) nearby have seen what happened so they may be on your side. The defendant won’t have guts to say it wasn’t his fault. And there, it is up to you to strike a deal, report to the nearest police station, locate the nearest mechanic or forgive and keep telling the story to your friends and family at home.

I did love to hear if you have been involved in any hit-and-run accident before.