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Challenges to energy transitioning in commercial buildings in the Nigerian built environment – from generator to RETs economy

Maria Unuigbe (School of Engineering, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)
Sambo Lyson Zulu (School of the Built Environment, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)
David Johnston (School of the Built Environment and Engineering, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)

Built Environment Project and Asset Management

ISSN: 2044-124X

Article publication date: 31 August 2022

Issue publication date: 17 January 2023




Challenges to energy access in Nigeria have resulted in the widespread use of fossil fuel generating sets (generators) despite its renewable energy (RE) potential. Given the climate crisis, combined with the country's rapid population growth and expected rise in energy and building demand, transitioning to low-carbon electricity using REs like solar photovoltaic (PV) presents opportunities beyond securing its energy future. While PV use is growing in Nigeria, this is focused on the residential sector despite the identification of the commercial sector as a high energy consumer and a key platform for its integration. In line with this, this research aims to investigates the challenges to energy transitioning from generators to solar PV in commercial buildings.


A qualitative approach in line with grounded theory was adopted using in-depth face-to-face interviews with industry experts.


Two distinct but interrelated categories emerged: being held captive and being a saviour that represented a duality of systems, and/or processes formed the core category “Hostage Syndrome”. The core category (theory) was generated based on the explanations and expressions by participants about their concerns, interests, and the conditions under which they operate. The findings reveal the value attributed to generators beyond an operational role and the adjustments or mechanisms adopted by building professionals during their practice. It suggests a sphere of influence beyond the obvious financial and/or institutional aspects, as determining factors to what is viewed as sustainable which will be key to transitioning to REs.


This paper provides new and in-depth insight into understanding the conditions under which building professionals operate associated with their interpretations of “being sustainable”. The study highlights the need to consider psychological and cultural factors in the development of interventions, strategies and/or policies to support RE transition, particularly towards achieving a sustainable construction industry.



Unuigbe, M., Zulu, S.L. and Johnston, D. (2023), "Challenges to energy transitioning in commercial buildings in the Nigerian built environment – from generator to RETs economy", Built Environment Project and Asset Management, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 157-171.



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