Ru­ral en­ergy ac­cess and the fu­ture of SMEs

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Alex Abutu

As Nige­ria bat­tles to im­prove the elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion and sup­ply na­tion­wide, the re­cent ini­tia­tive of the Bank of Industry that led to the com­mis­sion­ing of the 48kw pi­lot model of­f­grid so­lar home sys­tems in two ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in the North-East and South- West zones of the coun­try is one that may not only as­sist in scal­ing up en­ergy gen­er­a­tion to meet Nige­ri­ans’ quest for a sus­tained power sup­ply but help in the pro­mo­tion of Small and Medium Scale En­ter­prises na­tion­wide.

The ini­tia­tive would not only help to cater for the en­ergy need of the peo­ple in the ar­eas but also help to pre­serve the en­vi­ron­ment.

Ad­dress­ing the en­ergy need of thou­sands of off-grid com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try is what the Bank of Industry is tar­get­ing through its So­lar En­ergy Part­ner­ship with the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP).

Un­der the pro­gramme, the de­vel­op­ment fi­nance in­sti­tu­tion is pro­vid­ing a long-term fi­nanc­ing for the in­stal­la­tion of off-grid so­lar home sys­tems in six com­mu­ni­ties in a pi­lot phase.

While in­ad­e­quate sup­ply of elec­tric­ity has been iden­ti­fied as one of the fac­tors re­spon­si­ble for col­lapse of in­dus­tries in the coun­try, SMEs are such that they do not re­quire much elec­tric­ity, hence the off-grid so­lu­tion of so­lar can be ex­plored to en­sure that up­com­ing SMEs in the coun­try do not suf­fer the faith of in­dus­tries.

Lit­tle has been said about thou­sands of ru­ral dwellers who are not con­nected to the na­tional grid and as such, de­nied ac­cess to ba­sic ameni­ties that make live worth liv­ing.

In or­der to meet their en­ergy need, th­ese ne­glected mem­bers of the so­ci­ety are con­signed to felling trees for fire­wood for cook­ing, rely on kero­sine lanterns, oil lamps for il­lu­mi­na­tion and adopt other sources of power gen­er­a­tion which are not only in­im­i­cal to their health, but also harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment.

The de­ci­sion of BoI to fund re­new­able en­ergy project, en­vi­ron­ment ex­perts say, is in line with the pol­icy di­rec­tion of the present ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ac­cord­ing to them, apart from be­ing the first Pres­i­dent that openly made con­cerns for cli­mate change part of his cam­paign is­sues, Mo­ham­madu Buhari, had dur­ing the just con­cluded Nige­ria Al­ter­na­tive Power Expo(NAEE), called on in­vestors in the power sec­tor to shift em­pha­sis to­wards en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly al­ter­na­tive sources of power gen­er­a­tion in or­der to pro­tect the ecosys­tem.

Mean­while, apart from the al­ready com­mis­sioned 24kw mi­cro-grid so­lar elec­tri­fi­ca­tion each in Bisanti, a re­mote vil­lage in Katcha Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Niger State and in IfeNorth LGA in Osun State, the project is to be repli­cated in four other com­mu­ni­ties, namely: Og­bekpen, Ikpoba in Okha LGA, Edo State, Kolwa Kal­tunga LGA, in Gombe State, Onono, Anam­bra West LGA, in Anam­bra State and Carwa/Cakum, Markarfi LGA, in Kano State.

The over 200 ru­ral dwellers in each of the com­mu­nity that are cap­tured in the project, are ex­pected to have suf­fi­cient so­lar elec­tric­ity to power three LED light bulbs, one elec­tric fan, one ra­dio/TV set and Mo­bil phone charg­ing. Un­like in the grid sys­tem in which elec­tric­ity bill is by fiat, the so­lar power sys­tem will be an­chored on ‘Pay-as-YouGo pre­paid tech­nol­ogy.

BoI Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Mr. Rasheed Olaoluwa, noted that the need to im­pact on the lives of thou­sands of peo­ple that are not con­nected to the na­tional grid in re­mote vil­lages in the coun­try was the driven force be­hind the project. Ac­cord­ing to him, the ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion so­lu­tion would not only help in re­duc­ing the ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion, it would help to pre­serve the lives of the peo­ple as well as the ecosys­tem.

He said, “Those that are worse hit by the cur­rent elec­tric­ity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try are the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially the off-grid ar­eas which have al­ways been with­out elec­tric­ity and have re­signed their fate to the use of kero­sine lanterns, oil lamps and other types of dan­ger­ous and un­healthy sources of light to be able to live their daily lives.

“Firstly, the in­stal­la­tion of off-grid so­lar home sys­tems in the two com­mu­ni­ties will help de­vel­op­ing the com­mu­ni­ties. Se­condly, we can be­gin to see a slow down in ru­ral ur­ban mi­gra­tion and pos­si­bly a re­ver­sal. It is a model we are de­ploy­ing in six com­mu­ni­ties across the six geopo­lit­i­cal zones.

“So­lar is a green en­ergy that re­lies on en­ergy from the sun. The so­lar panel stores en­ergy and the one that is not used dur­ing the day is stored in a bat­tery. It is a self-sus­tain­ing model, en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and we are proud to be sup­port­ive of the process.”

An elec­tri­cal engi­neer, Charles Ameh said that the in­tro­duc­tion of off-grid so­lar elec­tri­fi­ca­tion was one of the best ways of ex­pand­ing en­ergy ac­cess in the coun­try.

“This is one of the best ini­tia­tives so far in­tro­duced in our quest to ex­pand en­ergy ac­cess to ru­ral ar­eas. Most com­mu­ni­ties in this coun­try are still not con­nected to the na­tional grid and how long do they have to wait. The off-grid so­lar so­lu­tion is won­der­ful and should be repli­cated all over the coun­try,” he said.

The re­searchers from the Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Unit, Nige­ria Re and the Depart­ment of Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing, Univer­sity of Ibadan, Ibadan, agreed that the er­ratic sup­ply of power by Power Hold­ing Com­pany of Nige­ria has not only forced the ur­ban dwellers that are pre­sumed to have more ac­cess to the elec­tric­ity than their ru­ral coun­ter­part to the sim­i­lar fate of the ru­ral dwellers. “This made some state gov­ern­ments to take shot in off-grid op­tion with the as­sis­tance of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity such as World Bank to pro­vide elec­tric­ity for re­mote ar­eas where grid ex­ten­sions were dif­fi­cult to reach. Nige­ria was not lucky like other na­tions in this ad­ven­ture as mon­u­men­tal fail­ure were be­ing recorded than the suc­cess from the tech­nol­ogy.”

Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, GVE Project Lim­ited, Ifeanyi Ora­jaka, stated that the BoI/UNDP project would help the ben­e­fi­cia­ries to con­serve money, adding that the cost of pur­chas­ing kero­sine lamp, can­dles and gen­er­a­tors was ca­pa­ble of con­sti­tut­ing a strain on the pocket of or­di­nary peo­ple.

He noted, “be­fore now, this com­mu­nity used to rely on kero­sine lamps, can­dles and gen­er­a­tors. You and I know that apart from be­ing un­clean, un­healthy to both hu­man and en­vi­ron­ment they are gen­er­ally ex­pen­sive to op­er­ate. But with this so­lar en­ergy sys­tem, they are now in­tro­duced to clean, re­li­able and af­ford­able power so­lu­tion.”

Ex­perts are of the opin­ion that the off-grid so­lar so­lu­tion maybe ex­pen­sive at the be­gin­ning but look­ing at long term ben­e­fits and its friend­li­ness with the en­vi­ron­ment, its a wor­thy ini­tia­tive that should be spread around.

So­lar roof

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