By Oke Peter
Nigeria has received a $359million support from the World Bank to fund the Nigeria Electrification project (NEP), the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), on Tuesday, disclosed.
Out of the sum, a total of $150million was allocated to the Mini grid project, while approval for the project is expected in April 2018, the agency’s Managing Director, Damilola Ogunbiyi, said.
She made the disclosure in Abuja, at the “4th Mini Grid Action Learning Event, themed: Upscaling Mini Grids for Low-Cost and Timely Access to Electricity”.
The Mini grid is described as any electricity supply system with its own power generation capacity, supplying elecyricity to more than one customer and which can operate in isolation from or be cinnected to a Distribution Licensee’s network with a generation capacity of between 100kW and 1kW.
The Federal Government had planned to make reliable electricity available to 75 percent of the population by 2020, hence the need for expansion of grid and off-grid.
Provision of mini-grid and stand alone off-grid solutions were said to be the best options to energizing rural communities across the country.
In her presentation on the “overview of off-grid opportunities and challenges in Nigeria”, Ogunbiyi stated that Mini grids developed under the NEP are expected to serve 200,000 households and 50,000 local enterprises.
Although the project will cover the entire country, she said the pioneer activities would commence in Nigeria, Plateau, Kaduna and Rivers States.
“We are hoping that this will serve 200,000 households and 50,000 local entrepreneurs. It is a private sector based programme. In terms of enabling environment, I am proud to say that the way the Mini grid regulations have been set up in Nigeria, it makes it the best regulatory sector in Africa,”she said.
She added that the Mini grid project is targeted at deploying 10000 mini grids to site with an estimated 3,000megawatts output by 2020.
“Our aim at REA is to rightly deploy 10,000 mini grid sites we feel that from this we can add 3000megawatss to serve underserved communities. The off-grid electrification forms part of the Power Sector recovery programme”.
The MD further maintained that the component will be implemented under a market based approach, stating that private firms are expected to develop mini grids, with subsidies from REA.
While noting the cost of generating power by individuals she said Nigeria being the largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, expends $14billion annually on inefficient generation that is expensive.
Earlier, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola in his welcome address, noted that the Mini grids are intended at energizing the unserved and underserved communities, businesses and markets.
“Any time people ask me of the challenges in my country, I ask them which challenges? Because there are too many opportunities for us to move forward, to create , to energize but very few markets like this and very few part of the world that have these even choose to see challenges, I see opportunities.
“ The returns are enormous the market is large and the communities are just waiting.when you see how much they pay to generate power in an inefficient in not very healthy manner contributing to the carbon footprint print we need to reduce,” he stated.
He explained that the grid is not expected to serve the entire country saying; “ I think we are at a good place people have argued incorrectly that the grid is not working I think they made that argument because the grid has not reached everybody and by comparison I don’t know any country that reaches every body on the grid.
“The grid has what it serves and at a point the grid becomes uneconomic to reach everybody. Therefore embedded solutions, hybrid solar becomes the most efficient, economic and effective way to really reach the underserved people.
“What we would be doing is by connecting investment with needs by providing the data, access and facilitating the transactions in most efficient ways. While we are building the capacity of the grid, we know clearly that grid extension is not the most efficient way to reach small communities who are 100 kilometers away from the nearest substation. It will become expensive to deliver that.
“ We have therefore developed policies, mini grid policies issued by our regulator to FastTrack the interest and opportunity for entrepreneurs to reach these people who clearly need energy. We proposed to intervene through many ways one of which is solar homes systems, another way is to create partnership that helps us energy business, communities markets places like Ariaria in Aba, Sabon Gari in Kano, Shomolu in Lagos and many hubs across the country.
“Beyond all of these, we expect to see individuals, corporate organisations begin to build their own solar systems at their Petrol filling stations, we like to see more of this because they provide a veritable opportunity for power to be sold at local and community levels and finally break the jinx of access to power.”
On his part, the Nigeria Country Director, World Bank, Rachid Benmessaoud said 80 million Nigerians are still without access to electricity while million others suffer from poor supply.
He stated that the REA Mini grids is expected to bridge the gap which would cover 8000 villages across the country.
His words: “We know what is at stake: Globally, more than 1 billion people still lack access to electricity; Sub Saharan Africa is home to about 600 million of these. In Nigeria, 80 million people are without access, and millions more suffer from poor service. REA expects mini grids to fill a substantial portion of that gap covering up to 8000 villages nationwide.
“This is not a job for any one of us alone. As mentioned, The Government of Nigeria is pushing hard toward universal electrification. The Nigerian government has asked the World Bank’s support for a National Electrification Project that focuses on off-grid opportunities including mini grids and the World Bank is delighted to respond to this request. We know that our development partners – many in this room – are also standing shoulder-to-shoulder with government on this effort.”
Benmessaoud,who spoke through the World Bank Global Lead, Energy Access, Mr. Mac Cosgrove-Davies stressed that the National Electrification Project fits well into a broader energy portfolio in Nigeria which aims to holistically support sector development.
“ Together with all of you, we are seeking to help our Nigerian colleagues make the most of international expertise and experience as it fits the Nigerian setting. We must all contribute, each in our own way.
“Success for this learning event, for all of us, will be measured in how far, how fast, and how high we can take this sector.”