Local solutions to driving impact in the energy sector
“The Japa story that resonated with me most was the lady that said she moved because at age 40, she shouldn’t be worrying whether PHCN bought light or not. As flimsy as it sounds, electricity supply is the bedrock of civilization/first world countries as we know it.“ – Tolubabygirl (Twitter).
Nigeria's energy sector
The energy sector is a critical component of modern society, with its impact felt in every aspect of our daily lives. This impact ripples across various sectors, including education, security, healthcare, business, and other industries. Despite various ongoing interventions and policies, Nigeria's electricity sector has been plagued with various challenges which result in frequent power outages, inadequate supply, and, in some cases, a complete lack of access, especially at the community/rural level.
It has become pertinent to find alternative energy solutions for these underserved communities, especially with the country’s goal of increasing access to electricity by 90% by 2030. For this reason, it is essential to consider how local solutions can drive electricity access.
The mini-grid solution
Local solutions refer to initiatives implemented at the community or rural level, aimed at addressing specific energy challenges. These initiatives can range from community-based mini-grid systems to energy-efficient policies, and they often leverage local resources and expertise to drive change.
The mini-grid energy systems have emerged as a viable alternative to the traditional grid system, a shift towards sustainable renewable energy, and have proven to be an effective solution in providing off-grid solutions for underserved communities in Nigeria. Successful mini-grid projects such as the Okeluse Mini Grid in Ondo State, and the Kare-Dadin Kowa Mini Grid in Kebbi State have demonstrated the impact of mini-grid systems in improving access to electricity and enhancing the economic activities in these communities. These mini-grid systems serve as alternative grid extension efforts in remote and hard-to-reach areas, providing reliable and affordable electricity to these communities.
Despite the potential benefits of mini-grid systems, there are several challenges and limitations to their adoption in Nigeria. Financing constraints and technical limitations pose significant challenges to the development and scaling up of mini-grid systems.
Addressing the challenges
The establishment of dedicated funding programs for mini-grid systems will help ease the constraints on the development of mini-grid systems. One of the current funding programs is the Rural Electrification Agency’s (REA) plans to build over 1,000 mini-grids in off-grid communities through the third grant of its Rural Electrification Fund (REF). So far, the REF has funded the deployment of 19,000 Solar Home Systems (SHS).
Another potential solution to the financing and technical limitations of mini-grid systems in the country is enabling electricity access from solar installations. In addition, empowering the productive use of energy in these remote areas with off-grid interventions could also benefit the national grid. In the sense that beneficiaries can sell their excess electricity to the grid. This approach has already been successfully implemented in other countries, such as India, where it has been used to provide electricity to underserved communities and reduce electricity costs for factories.
Dufil Prima Foods factory in Kaduna State is a prime example of this approach, as the 1.5 MW solar plant it has installed is generating excess electricity that is sold to the national grid, providing electricity to surrounding communities that were previously off-grid.
What do we need?
By utilising this approach and scaling it up with supportive policies, innovative financing mechanisms, and partnerships with private and public sector stakeholders, we could create localized mini-grid systems that would benefit the host community and surrounding rural communities, providing them with reliable and sustainable electricity. This intimately helps close the electricity access gap in Nigeria.
In order for progress to be achieved, the public and private sectors need to collaborate more on energy development plans and projects. This means that the government should work to make it easier for companies and individuals to fulfil their corporate social responsibility, especially when making investments in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency initiatives.
The challenges faced in the electricity sector in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized, particularly in the rural and hard-to-reach areas where the need for access to electricity is dire. However, the adoption of sustainable and innovative solutions such as mini-grid systems and empowering the sale of electricity to the grid has proven to be an effective way to improve access to electricity in underserved communities. To ensure the success of these initiatives, there is a need for supportive policies, innovative financing mechanisms, and partnerships with private and public sector stakeholders. With concerted efforts, the electricity access gap in Nigeria can be significantly reduced, and the socio-economic development of rural communities can be positively impacted.
Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.