Improving access to electricity has remained a key focus of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s interventions in the power sector.
The Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) have over the years steered the plan to provide off-grid solutions to the country’s energy challenges.
With the adoption and implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP)’s Solar Power Naija Programme, the Federal Government is taking its off-grid initiative to another level.
The programme will provide electricity access to five million households, serving about 25 million Nigerians in rural areas and under-served urban communities nationwide.
On April 9, the solar power scheme was launched in Jangefe, a small community in the Kazaure Emirate, Roni Local Government Area of Jigawa.
With the commencement of the administration’s solar power scheme, the community will get 1,000 Solar Home Systems connections for its about 5,000 population.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who inaugurated the scheme at Jangefe, said that the rollout would continue across the six geo-political zones.
“Other solar companies are also in the pipeline for the Solar Power Naija facility to continue the march to five million connections during the life of this administration.
“From Jangefe, the scheme will then go to the entire 36 states and the FCT covering 25 million Nigerians in the end.
“This will further improve access to electricity nationwide, especially as available statistics (World Bank 2020 Report) indicate that 97 million people or 47 per cent of Nigeria’s population do not get electricity from the national grid.
“Indeed, the commencement of the ESP Solar Power Naija Programme marks a significant leap from what, in the past decade, had seemed like an impossible task of expanding electricity access, especially to rural communities.’’
NDPHC and REA, have the responsibility of implementing the ESP’s five million solar connections initiative.
At the end of the implementation of the scheme, NDPHC and REA, leading other private sector partners would have provided access to 25 million Nigerians across the country and in the process, creating over 250, 000 jobs in solar power assembling, servicing, maintenance and payment systems.
In the same vein, since January 2017, when the administration, through NDPHC, launched the first phase of its off-grid initiative, known as “Beyond the Grid Project,” providing 20,000 solar units to off-grid communities across the country, the plan to electrify all Nigerian communities has progressed steadily.
On the other hand, REA, as an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria provides electricity to rural and underserved communities.
The agency is currently working on 197 capital projects in the six geo-political zones.
It also supports off-grid development projects which have proven to be more cost-effective than connecting to the grid in remote areas of the country.
The Solar Power Naija Implementation Blueprint spells out the role of REA in the programme.
“REA will drive the implementation, while private companies will install and manage the home systems, drawing funding from a low-cost loan facility from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“Through a World Bank and REA programme called the Nigerian Electrification Programme (NEP), each connection under the Solar Power Naija Programme will receive a 20 per cent rebate for the developer, thus allowing the rates charged to consumers to be reduced by the same amount.”
Osinbajo gave more insights on the role of the REA, while inaugurating the solar power scheme in Jigawa.
He said that structures had been put in place to make the connections cost affordable for all.
“In addition to the concessionary lending rates, the government has provided subsidies and rebates for private developers to the tune of over 200 million dollars under REA and World Bank Nigeria Electrification Programme.
“ The programme incorporates several innovative solutions to increase affordability for the citizens, while also providing sufficient comfort to investors and financiers alike.
“The Solar Power Naija Programme, designed by the Rural Electrification Agency, is an ambitious initiative that aims to create five million connections through a N140 billion financing programme that will support private developers to provide power for five million households, which means providing electricity for up to 25 million Nigerians,’’ he said.
The role of the REA in this regard is to provide the regulatory framework for the implementation of the scheme, serving as the link between the consumers and the service providers on one hand, and the service providers and government, on the other hand.
The NDPHC, on its part, will leverage its track record and expertise in providing off-grid solutions to the country’s energy challenge.
The company had in 2017 launched 20,000 units of solar home system for rural communities not connected to the grid.
Building on this background, the agency’s target is to provide 100,000 units in the first phase of the five million connections.
It was incorporated with the mandate to manage the power projects tagged ‘National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP)’ and in the past few years got involved in off-grid initiatives, all in a bid to improve power generation and distribution especially to rural communities.
On his part, the Managing Director of NDPHC, Mr Chiedu Ugbo, said the company had creditably acquitted itself in solar power projects.
“We have a track record in implementing solar power project; we have done 20,000 units already, that is being enjoyed by communities across the country.
“Here today, we are kick-starting the 100,000 Solar Home System, and we are taking this as phase 2 of our Beyond the Grid project at the NDPHC.
“From this community, we will be going to other communities across the country and we are starting this phase with 100,000 units.
“It is an economic programme of government as well; what that means is that it is beyond providing electricity.
“We have job creation as part of the benefits of this scheme. We are targeting about 250,000 jobs from the entire programme; the first phase we did which was just 20,000 units created about 500 jobs,” he said.
Partnering with A-SOLAR, a local solar power company implementing aspects of the Solar Power Naija scheme, delivering 1,000 units in Jangefe community, the NDPHC is poised to deliver 100,000 units across the country in the first phase of the project.
Observers say the solar power scheme is capable of turning around Nigeria’s perennial electricity challenges.(NANFeatures)
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)