The problem of power in Nigeria has being an issue for successive governments in the country with billions of dollars spent for the ailing sector. Experts in the energy sector have advocated for alternative means to nip the lingering issue in the bud so as to solve it amicably. Renewable initiative is seen to put an end to this issue.
There are 621 million people in Africa who do not have access to electricity and $89 billion worth of crude oil was exported by Nigeria in 2013, yet 93 million Nigerians have no access to power. The attendant cost of using kerosene and wood by rural dwellers have killed about 600 000 people in a year.
Addressing journalists recently in a media training, organized by POWER-FOR-ALL in collaboration with ALL ON which is supported by Shell, Ifeoma Malo, explained the role of the organization to assist the country especially in rural areas to have access to electricity.
Ifeoma who is the Country Director of POWER-FOR-ALL initiative said, the organization is focusing on market development because it is not a problem for government to solve alone including developers and distributors. Others are media and communities of practice which include civil societies, donor communities and trade organizations that are going to work together to get electricity access to everyone.
POWER-FOR-ALL is in five focal countries with twelve partner countries as well. In these countries there are staff and offices while the organization work with other partners in collaboration with companies that are involved in what it does to achieve the same objectives.
It works with NGOs, consumers, policy makers, utility companies, Distribution Companies (DisCos) among others in order to ensure that electricity is being accessed. The POWER-FOR-ALL initiative gives attention to women since electricity impacts more on them. They are usually involved in Small Medium Enterprises. Taking electricity to communities and rural areas, those who feel the impact have to be carried along in the process.
As part of its yearning for electricity in Nigeria, the organization embarks on specific projects; it sets up the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) in 2016. It gave strategic support and governance including working processes of REAN. Ifeoma disclosed that Nigeria Renewable Energy Round Table (NAIRA) was also launched in 2017, by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. She said there is need for a round table to define what the private developers in the sector that need specific market data should do. NAIRA will be economic and market focused for the sector.
To ensure that power gets to all, POWER-FOR-ALL embarked on faith-based initiative. “Electricity cannot be taken to rural areas without the involvement of religious institutions across the country. To have access into a community, this can be done easily through a church or a mosque because adherents have respect and regard for the clergy than government, Ifeoma added.” Access was made easy to communities through this process. This helped communities in terms of knowing what energy access means including a productive life.
Astoundingly, on access to energy across the globe, sub-Saharan Africa is the darkest. According to Ifeoma, “In the energy access map, Nigeria is darkest.” The Country Director of POWER-FOR-ALL initiative said, however, there is a part in Nigeria where electricity blinks for twenty-four hours in a day. The American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Adamawa state. It is affiliated with American institutions in Nigeria. The University neither depends on national grid or generator but a private developer known as Protegea took the school off-grid. Power is enhanced through solar distribution panels. Through solar backed-up power source, AUN gets twenty-four hours electricity. This is the vision for POWER-FOR-ALL.
Ifeoma noted that Nigeria is the biggest market for off-grid. Multinationals have seen the potentials in the country and are willing to invest and “There is a third wave of rush for off-grid technology business which has a semblance of the oil and gas industry.”
Therefore, local investors should brace up to the challenge. Eighty-five percent of investment flow in terms of off-grid in Nigeria is from foreign investors.
Nigerian investors are not seeing the potentials in renewable sector which might be too late in the next three years owing to the wave of investments and solutions it proffers. In-country investments will lead to capacity building and creation of job opportunities. Renewables creates avenue for financial enhancement if the potentials are tapped and fully utilized by local investors.
Africa progress report shows that if Nigeria continues with grid-based power, it will take the country up to 2080 to achieve universal access to electricity. For instance, the Nigeria Independent Power Plants (NIPP) project that commenced during Obasanjo’s administration all through to Jonathans, it took the country years after three administrations to launch 11 NIPP plants that were gas powered. At present, not all the NIPPs are working due to shortage of gas. Definitely, grid will not solve the country’s electricity challenges. Depending on the grid, research shows that it will take sub-Saharan Africa up to 2080 to attain power.
Also speaking about the ugly development of non-availability of power, Mark Amaza, Lead Strategic Communication of POWER-FOR-ALL, noted that Nigeria is un-electrified in terms of power across the country with almost two third of the population out of power in rural areas. Even those that are connected to the grid have not experienced regular power supply while only twenty five percent have access to power daily. Some are connected to the grid without power while population rate is high as well.
Recently, World Bank and Rural Electrification Agency (REA) organized a Mini-Grid Summit which is being held biannually by the World Bank. Global stakeholders and investors attended the event in December 2017 and $2.3 billion of which $150 million was set aside specifically for off-grid investment. This fund will be disbursed through the Rural Electrification Fund (REF) for the project. The objective of REA is to target 10 000 mini grid by 2023 which will be private sector driven. The idea behind the fund is to support the Electricity Reform Act which provides subsidy for rural consumers. The Nigerian mini grid is acclaimed to be one of the best in the world because it takes into cognizance where there is no existence of grid.
Mini grid gives strong protection to rural communities since they are involved in the process of a willing-buyer, winning seller approach. There are three off grid solution: mini grid, solar home systems and pico solars.
Amaze pointed out clearly that financial and lending institutions in Nigeria have not yet come to terms with the country’s electricity system hence there is poor lending structure. Developers are using mix-up fund for the project.