The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) is pushing to have four major markets in Nigeria go off the national grid, end use of fuel generators, and take their electricity supplies from either embedded clean solar or gas power sources; in a move to improve their efficiency levels and avoid using unstable and expensive power sources. Chineme Okafor was at the launch of the first phase of this initiative in Sabon Gari Market, Kano, and reports
Worried by the electricity challenges of small scale traders in Nigerian markets, most of who spend good chunks of their turnovers to electrify their operations and trade, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has opted to initiate the Energising Economies Programme (EEP) to at least cut down the power expenditures of these traders.
It however chose four big markets in the country: Sabon Gari in Kano; Ariaria in Aba; Somolu Printing Community and Sura Shopping Complex, both in Lagos, to boost undertake the EPP. This, it hopes, would help improve the productivity of traders in the market and in turn energise Nigeria’s informal economy.
“We saw there is a great need and urgency to power SMEs in our markets and to give them adequate power supply. We decided to use Sabon Gari market so we don’t start small but start with the most challenging markets and grow from it,” REA’s Managing Director, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, explained to THISDAY shortly after unveiling the first tranche of the project in Sabon Gari, Kano State.
Ogunbiyi noted that through the REA, the federal government launched the EEP which would be wholly driven by the private sector. The government, she added would not spend a dime of its money in the project but would facilitate private sector implementation of the project to make it sustainable in the markets.
She explained that the REA would be doing the energy audit, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), government and community relations in the process.
“Hand-holding the private sector to deliver these projects is our role in the entire process. We are not putting any money because we wanted it to be all private sector-led, and we chose to start with Sabon Gari Market because of its significance in Nigeria; Kano is the second largest city in Nigeria,” she added.
According to her, the first phase of the initiative in Sabon Gari will provide efficient, clean and sustainable power to traders and shop owners.
Joined by the Governor of Kano State, Mr. Abdullahi Ganduje, at the unveiling, Ogunbiyi, further said the market which had been disconnected from the national grid and only gets its power from multiple diesel power generation sources, would now gradually shift to using solar power provided by Rensource Energy Limited – the parent company of Sabon Gari Energy Solutions Ltd, to undertake its activities.
She also explained that REA conducted an energy audit to discover that the market, which has 12,369 shops, has a load demand of 916 kilowatt (kW), and that 500 shops have been connected in the first phase, with 6,000 expected to be connected in the second phase, while the balance would be done in the third phase by Rensource Energy.
“The REA in partnership with Sabon Gari Energy Solutions Ltd, a private sector power company, has successfully connected 500 shops in the market as part of the first phase of deployment.
“These shops will now benefit from stable, affordable and reliable power during market opening hours. The state of the art, decentralised solar system is equipped with remote monitoring capabilities, smart meters as well as durable lithium ion batteries to support night time load.
“Convenient payment collection is also being facilitated by partnership with Paga, which will provide presence within the market through its agents as well as its digital platform to enable mobile payments. As a result, 20 skilled jobs have been created and it is expected that this will increase to 200 as deployment continues throughout the entire market,” she added.
Curtailing Fire Outbreaks
Considering that Sabon Gari has had incidents of devastating fire outbreaks which have set back the traders, Ogunbiyi, stated that the new power supply measures would end incidences of fire outbreaks often associated with petrol and diesel generators used in the market.
She explained that the Kano State government and Sabon Gari Market Association have provided the REA strong supports to go on with the project because they understood that it was a cheaper and safer option to keep the market electrified.
“Based on what the federal government has promised the traders in the Sabon Gari Market, we are expecting that they will go on to start using clean and stable electricity from the solar facilities.
“One of the reasons why the federal government decided on this market was because of the horrendous fire they suffered in 2016. The goal is to make this market generator-free, to be using clean energy so we won’t have those unfortunate fire incidents again that cost so much money and goods,” Ogunbiyi explained.
Ganduje, who was represented by his Commissioner of Commerce, Industry and Cooperative, Mr. Ahmad Rabi’u Bako, also affirmed this.
He said: “We thank President Muhammadu Buhari, for recognising that we have had so many fire incidents in our market, that were caused by using unconventional means of supplying power and every time we have power from the public supply.
“Now, we are able to get from solar which is the safest source of power in a way that will benefit us not only against power outage but also the safety of the market. We have seen the facility they have here, what we are expecting is an improved business environment. We expect lesser hazard because there is no pollution from solar power unlike before.
“The company is here not just to supply power and go away, but also to maintain, that is why they have a customer care facility here in the market,” the governor added.
Equally speaking to THISDAY, the Managing Director of Rensource Energy, Mr. Demola Adesina, said the solar power system was built to power the market’s operations for 24 hours.
He said: “The first phase is completed today and powering 500 shops; by the end of March, we will be powering 6000 shops, and sometime in August, we will have enough system to power the entire market. In terms of energy capacity, the system when completed will have about 1.6 megawatts of solar PV and about 1.6 megawatts hours of lithium battery capacity which is enough energy to power the entire market including the heavy electricity users.
“The traders will pay according to their usage and each of the shops will have a meter to monitor their consumption. The market will have a customer service centre to address whatever challenges they have with the system because it is built to support 24 hours operation in the market,” he added.
“We use generators, and spend money on oil and gas (diesel), but since we got this light from solar, we have stopped to use generators. We will be paying N180 per day to have power, but it is better if we can be paying N100,” said Usman Ali Bagadaza, a shoe and allied leather works trader whose shop, PP39 in Sabon Gari Market was among the first 500 to be taken off the national grid and electrified with solar power under the REA initiative.
Bagadaza spoke to THISDAY in his shop in Sabon Gari shortly after the REA launched the execution of its Energising Economies Programme (EEP). He looked satisfied with the development, backed by a smile of approval.
He stated that before his shop got connected to the EEP-backed solar power, he relied on supplies from a private diesel generator operator he called ‘maja’ (local fossil fuel power supplier) and whose services to the market were limited to about six hours after which he would either be forced to stay without electricity or close shop for another day.
With lots of optimism, he said he was sure the steady electricity in his shop would improve his returns, adding that unlike before, he could stay longer in the market and even have his customers comfortably do business with him there.
In a similar vein, Musa Auwal, who runs a perfumery at shop PP60 in the market indicated that the decision of the REA to push through the EEP was a good one for small scale traders like him, who could do with every form of supports for their businesses.
“I like the solar light. It is good for my business and cheap for me. I don’t have to worry about diesel or maja again,” Auwal enthused.