Powering Communities in Nigeria; an Important Task Deserving of Genuine Commitments:
By – Engr. Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, MD/CEO, Rural Electrification Agency of Nigeria – REA
In Nigeria, nights are longer and lonelier without reliable electricity, especially in last mile communities. This is only one out of the many reasons why powering communities across Nigeria is a task deserving genuine commitments.
For us at the Rural Electrification Agency, reliable electricity is what makes the difference between sustainable development and retrogression, as energy poverty affects the standard of other social systems, including healthcare, education and living conditions.
Sadly, for decades, we have battled with energy poverty in Nigeria, while exploring myriad strategies to solve this malignant problem. In a vibrant country such as Nigeria, with a growing youth population as well as investments across industries, the demand for electricity continues to rise.
Last year while visiting Shimankar (a rural community in Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State, Nigeria), we commissioned a 234kWp solar hybrid mini-grid. This is currently one of the largest capacity mini-grid deployed by the REA to power a previously unserved community in Nigeria.
After a quick assessment of this picturesque community, I was struck immediately by the wealth of opportunities this intervention will continue to unlock. With thousands of such rural communities lacking access to energy, the REA stays committed to delivering on the mandate of the Federal Government of Nigeria through the implementation of our programmes, under the invaluable guidance from the Federal Ministry of Power.
Given more private sector investment, funding and qualitative collaborations, we are confident that we can connect even more people at a faster pace. Beyond the productive work being achieved in collaboration with our partners in government and the development sector, we continue to encourage private sector participation in this space.
At REA, there are always myriad opportunities for private sector participation as our programmes and initiatives are private-sector driven.
Are the off-grid electrification objectives of the Federal Government realizable? Absolutely! We simply MUST stay on course, while accelerating the interventions to power Nigeria, one community at a time.
We are already making significant progress by connecting more Nigerians to clean, safe and reliable energy, beyond Shimankar, with myriad mini-grid and solar home system projects at different stages of completion and deployment.
In the year 2019, the Agency officially activated the 1st Call of the Rural Electrification Fund (REF). This Federal Government funding mechanism was established to provide support for the development of the on- and off-grid sectors, while ensuring equitable regional access to electricity and maximizing the economic, social and environmental benefits of rural electrification subsidies.
We have since gone ahead to deliver 12 solar hybrid mini-grids and over 19, 000 solar home systems under the REF. The SHS technology is gaining popularity as a compact energy solution, given the high rate of success in boosting the number of connections in the past year.
As a matter of fact, through the ongoing Solar Power Naija programme (SPN), we will be leveraging the SHS technology to impact 25 million Nigerians upon completion of the programme. Thus far, the deployment of the first 100, 000 units was activated a few months ago in Jangefe community, Jigawa state. Ultimately, the SPN is designed to benefit all 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria.
The milestones we have achieved through the SPN as well as other REA programmes continue to motivate the team at REA. It gives us great satisfaction witnessing the social and economic changes in the lives of the industrious men, women and children in those communities as we have continued to leverage data on energy needs to enable us make the right decisions in the business of powering Nigeria.
It is a tough road but a purposeful journey and we have resolved to make even more progress in coming months. It is imperative for us as a nation to understand that it is impossible to end poverty in Nigeria without ending energy poverty.
We already see evidence in Rokota in Niger State, Upake in Kogi State, Adebayo community in Edo State, Akikpelai and Oloibiri in Bayelsa State, Budo-Are in Oyo State, Mbale Lagaje in Adamawa State, Eka Awoke in Ebonyi State, Obudu in Cross River State and many other communities across the nation where our efforts have greatly ameliorated the living standards of the people.
Our portfolio of SHS and mini-grid developers continue to increase at a steady pace as more developers have realized and expressed confidence in the open and transparent process of participation in the implementation of REA programmes.
This is in addition to the reliable funding mechanisms such as the Federal Government’s Rural Electrification Fund as well as the Performance-Based Grant (PBG) and the Output-Based Fund (OBF).
On this journey, our plan is to sustain our efforts at boosting investor confidence while leveraging these off-grid technologies to power Nigerian communities and enable true sustainable development as envisioned by the Federal Government of Nigeria.