Many have expressed optimism that it is a collaboration that would yield positive fruits. And last weekend, the partnership between the Federal Government and the World Bank, which is aimed at energizing communities with solar hybrid mini grid power plants, recorded its first accomplishment at Rokota, a community in Niger State.
The project was the first to be implemented under the World Bank supported Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP). Through the project’s mini grids component, it aims to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity to 300,000 homes and 30,000 local businesses in the country.
The Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), through which the Federal Government, in collaboration with the World Bank and African Development Bank (ADB), seeks to catalyse off grid development in Nigeria. The project involves the provision of grant funding, detailed market data and technical assistance through the World Bank ($350m) and African Development Bank ($200m). The NEP components are Solar Hybrid Mini Grids, Solar Home Systems (SHS) and the Energizing Education Programme (EEP. The Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency (REA) is the implementing agency
Rokota in Niger State was selected as the first beneficiary of the project. And last Saturday, the entire town came alive as a solar hybrid mini-grid power plant was commissioned in the community. Stakeholders at the event noted that the mini-grid, a 64kw solar hybrid and 360kwh of battery storage, is an indication that soon, millions of Nigerians that have been without access to electricity will start enjoying power.
The mini-grid, which has a distribution network of 10 kilometres across the community, will supply constant electricity to 326 households. The community leaders expressed hope that with the commissioning, the economy of the town and its residents will be boosted, as small and medium scale business activities within the community and its environs will be improved. Members of the community said they were looking up to the creation of new business opportunities that would be facilitated by the availability of reliable electricity.
Many dignitaries thronged the community for the unveiling of the power plant. Minister of State for Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, said he was delighted that the project was completed and commissioned. He praised President Buhari for his determination to lift communities out of darkness through the Rural Electrification Agency.
His words: “I am honoured to be a part of this momentous achievement of the Rural Electrification Agency and the World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Power and the Federal Government.
“The commissioning of the 157KW capacity solar hybrid mini-grid power plant will provide economic growth and stability to the people of Rokota.
“The Ministry of Power is providing the needed support for the implementation of all Federal Government policies in the diversification of the energy sector. I am, therefore, thrilled that our drive has led us to this great event. This is only the beginning of greater accomplishments.
“The fact that the project was the first to be commissioned under the World Bank-supported Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP) demonstrates the importance of Rokota to the nation and the determination of the government to lift as many Nigerians as possible out of poverty.”
The minister pledged that everything possible would be done to ensure that communities in the country that had been seemingly forgotten over the past years would begin to enjoy a new lease of life with the provision of basic amenities, including stable power.
Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Electrification Agency, said it was gratifying that the project was being delivered by her agency. She expressed gratitude to the Federal Government and the ministers in charge of the Ministry of Power for their support, which she claimed had been instrumental to the successes being recorded by her agency.
She said the presence of the stakeholders and power sector leaders, the project financiers, private sector developers, community leaders and captains of industries at the commissioning was proof of the great importance attached to powering communities in Nigeria through renewable energy solutions.
Her words: “I am proud to say that in line with the Federal Government’s power sector roadmap, the Rural Electrification Agency has supervised and implemented mini-grid projects across multiple rural communities, educational institutions, hospitals, and businesses in the country.
“There are great investment opportunities in the off-grid sector, which is why most projects by the Rural Electrification Agency are private sector-focused.
“This is why we partnered with PowerGen on this project here in Rokota, to deliver this 157KW solar mini-grid project that will power over 326 households and transform the lives of countless more.
“I commend the Federal Government and the Ministry of Power on its mandate in enabling private companies, like PowerGen, to participate in this space – all for the sustainable development of Nigeria’s energy sector.”
Representative of Niger State Governor and/Commissioner for Works and lnfrastructural Development, Ibrahim Panti, said the state government would remain eternally grateful to the Federal government and the World Bank for the decision to commence the series of projects in a Niger community
Mr. Shubham Chaudhuri, the World Bank’s Country Director in Nigeria, explained that the World Bank is committed to reducing the consumption and use of fossil fuels in energy production through renewable energy investment.
“I am thrilled to be here with you all as we witness the commissioning of the first solar hybrid mini-grid project under the Performance-Based Grant component of the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP). This is a huge milestone that will set the pace for more impactful electrification projects under the World Bank-funded programme.
“The World Bank has already approved $350 million for off-grid electrification projects in Nigeria and beginning with Rokota, Nigerians have started benefiting from these projects.
“The aims and objectives are to eliminate extreme hunger which will make life better. With a project like this, the statistics of millions that have no access to electricity will be a thing of the past. The goal is to get electricity to every nook and cranny across the world. We are very happy to be part of this life-changing experience. Your children will read with ease, and the community will have a health centre that runs smoothly.”
Also speaking, Rohit Khanna, the Practice Manager of Energy Climate Finance & Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), explained that the electrification project in Rokota was a significant event that will improve the lives of the community and contribute to their economic development.
ESMAP, he noted, is an alliance between the World Bank and 18 partners. Khanna said the programme is dedicated to advancing energy transition through sustainable power solutions to reduce energy poverty and boost economic and developmental growth, especially in rural communities.
“Our role at ESMAP is to shape the World Bank Group strategies and assist it in implementing programs and policies that foster the use of renewable energy solutions for the conservation of the environment and climate,” the ESMAP manager said.
Jon Exel, the World Bank’s Task Team Leader, explained that mini-grids are progressively emerging as a major cost-effective and reliable approach to electrifying unserved and underserved communities across Africa, with huge potential in achieving the bank’s energy goals of universal energy access.
According to him, the World Bank is currently, one of the largest financiers in the energy sector, with as much as $350 million for the Nigeria Electrification Project.
“Our goal is to decrease energy poverty and reduce carbon emissions by funding renewable energy solutions to power communities such as Rokota, tertiary universities and teaching hospitals under the Energizing Education Programme and foster the provision of Solar Home Systems to households and enterprises through access to clean, affordable and reliable energy,” Exel stated.
With about 30 jobs created during the construction phase and many more jobs to be created with businesses growing from the stable electricity, Exel pointed out that the project firmly supports small scale job creation initiatives and, as a result, improve the quality of life of thousands of people in Rokota and even beyond.
Exel further commended REA and PowerGen Renewable Energy, for working collaboratively in delivering the project. Said Exel: “REA stands as a model agency to partner with, thanks to its dynamic team and institutional capacity and processes.”
Managing Director of PowerGen Renewable Energy Nigeria Limited, Mr. Alastair Smith could not hide his excitement as he spoke during the commissioning.
His words: “We are happy and privileged to have brought this impactful project to the good people of Rokota community. Thanks to the Nigeria Electrification Project, under the Performance-Based Grant which we applied for, we have been able to deliver this solar hybrid mini-grid power plant in record time. I am proud to say that the mini-grid, with a total installed capacity of 157kw and 360kwh of battery storage, was delivered based on international best practice and standards.”
Traditional ruler of the community, Alhaji Adamu Mohammed, said the community and its people would remain indebted to the Federal Government, the World Bank and the REA for bringing joy to the people of the area. He stated that Saturday, December 7 2019 would remain an indelible date in the minds of every indigene and resident of Rokota.
“This is a major event. And on behalf of the people of Rokota, I say that we are grateful for this opportunity. I thank the Workd Bank and the Federal Government for selecting our community for this life-changing project. We are indeed very privileged.
“From now on, our children can study under the glow of clean electricity. As an enterprising people blessed with kaolin, red clay and iron ore resources, we look further to more commercial activities and small businesses that can grow Rokota’s economy. For instance, I hear that there are already thoughts around large scale shea butter production.
“With this electricity, life has become sweet for us. I now run borehole water conveniently, and our children will no longer read with local lamps. We will have access to cold water. We are grateful that our community is remembered.”
The health officer at Rokota Lwemp Health Clinic, Mr. Ndachukwu Ibrahim, said: “This is a milestone in the history of this community. Before, we used to travel for about 10 kilometres for assistance. With this newly commissioned electricity, we have a small fridge now where we keep our medical pharmaceuticals. Now we have light to attend to our patients. With this, we are enjoying a new lease of life. We are grateful to the World Bank, REA, and Federal Government.”
Mrs. Adejoke Odumosu, the Head of NEP PMU, noted that the combined efforts of all those involved in the off-grid work have materialised into the laudable project being commissioned. Odumosu added that the project would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of the Federal Government, the World Bank, the Rural Electrification Agency, the private sector developers and the people of Rokota.