Experts are of the opinion that off-grid development will address Nigeria’s power challenges. They say that development of off- grid power distribution solution, otherwise, known as standalone power system, will open up the power sector to more investment opportunities.
They said that the use of mini-grid and off-grid renewable energy solutions have the potential to become a game-changer in providing power to rural communities and businesses, which are not served by traditional transmission infrastructure.
According to them, the off-grid system creates opportunities across the entire power sector value chain, as it enhances the end-to-end productivity of all players within the sector.
The term `off the grid’ refers to living autonomously without reliance on a utility for power. Off-grid living is often ideal for rural locations where there is lack of reliable grid access.
Off-grid electrical systems can power individual residences or a community linked in a shared arrangement known as micro-grid.
In addition, they may be powered by renewable energy sources or by conventional fossil fuels.
Renewable energy is from a source that is not depleted when used, and is naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.
Kunle Olubiyo, the President of Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, an NGO, said that government agencies should focus on investment in renewable energy.
Mr Olubiyo said that agencies like the Niger Delta Power Holding should focus on investment in renewable energy so that many people could have power driven by clean technology.
“Each senatorial district in the country should have off-grid power generation that will be hybrid and best suitable for that area at the rate of 10 megawatts.’’
Ifeoma Malo, the Chief Executive Officer of Clean Technology Hub, an energy innovation centre, urged the Federal Government to harness renewable energy resources to address challenges in the power sector.
She stressed the need to think beyond the grid or building of power plant to drive energy access to solve electricity challenges as well as assist small businesses to grow.
According to her, harnessing renewable energy, which is easier to spread, will boost the country’s electricity supply.
According to Mr Malo, it takes an average of nine to 10 years to build a power plant, unlike renewable energy that takes about nine months to construct.
She noted with concern that there were plants built that had not been inaugurated as a result of non-availability of gas to power them or enough coal to fire them.
“However, with renewable energy, you do not have that kind of problem, it takes only about nine months to build a mini grid or a macro grid and this can supply electricity to deep rural communities.
“Once people have electricity, you begin to see new cottage industries, small businesses and artisans working so they do not have to buy generators or worry about buying fuel,” she said.
On their part, the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN), reiterated its determination to promote renewable energy in the country.
Lande Abudu, the Executive Secretary of REAN, said that the association is adopting the use of local content to promote renewable energy to ensure that Nigerians have access to improved power supply.
She said that REAN members were doing a lot to ensure that by 2030, the use of renewable energy reached about 40 per cent in the country.
“Our members are doing a lot in the development of renewable energy from primary health care solutions, and solar power solutions among others.
“We cannot do anything without access to power, so we are trying to form part of the solutions to ensure that everybody has access to power,’’ she said.
On the objectives of REAN, Abudu said that its aim was to promote the interest of members in the renewable energy industry among public and private organisations that may impact on the development of the industry.
According to her, REAN also creates a forum for the dissemination and exchange of information relating to renewable energy.
“REAN also acts as a link between the industry, government, consumer groups, international organisations and other renewable energy associations.’’
A renewable energy expert, Yusuf Suleiman, on his part, called on the Federal Government to reduce taxes and import duties on solar products to promote alternative power supply.
Mr Suleiman, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Blue Camel Energy, urged the Federal Government to revisit its policy on import duty on solar components.
“You cannot be lacking something and put high taxes on it.
“It is not like we have indigenous companies in Nigeria that are producing solar products, but government is now introducing high taxes to discourage importation of the products.
“We are not there yet, there is a need for government to look into these taxes and import duties seriously if we are to solve our power problems,” he said.
Suleiman also expressed concern on the amount of inflow of sub-standard solar equipment into the country, noting that this was responsible for the failure of so many projects.
“We do have a Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), I think they have to do more and be better equipped to deal with this influx,” he said.
He said that power was critical to all sectors of the economy, so government should look into the area of renewable energy to ensure that supply get to all Nigerians.
According to him, agriculture, industries and a lot more depend on stable power supply to thrive.
“I think any journey embarked on for more than 40 to 50 years and you are not making headway or getting to your destination, it is better to stop.
“Moreover, there are places where the solar radiation is far less than in Nigeria, and yet they have a high solar generating power system.
“I wonder why we are still establishing grid networks when the country is best in solar radiation and I think we should look seriously into that to improve power supply.
“If we do not address the problem of power quickly, the challenges bedeviling the sector will still remain and the growth will be retarded,’’ Mr Suleiman said.
To ensure that power supply is improved in all parts of the country, the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC, recently secured a $1.06million grant from the United States Trade Department Administration (USTDA) to enable it provide electricity and carry out feasibility studies towards deploying 1,370 solar power mini-grids in its franchised areas.
Speaking at the signing of the grant, AEDC’s Managing Director, Ernest Mupwaya, said that securing of the grant was part of efforts by AEDC to explore available solutions, aimed at providing electric power 24 hours a day to customers in FCT, Niger, Kogi, and Nasarawa states.
“In our environment for instance, there is a huge disparity in the level of electrification between urban and rural areas, where access to electricity is higher in urban areas compared to rural areas.
“As a company, we have designed a strategy which seeks to holistically examine how the obvious huge gaps in the level of electrification can be narrowed.
“In addition, we are developing and implementing initiatives to improve the quality of supply in urban areas.
“We are also considering how we can close up the gaps in rural areas, where the challenges, some of which include the affordability of electricity and long distances which require extensive network remain unique to these areas,” he said.
All in all, stakeholders say that if the Federal Government pursues the off-grid development policy with vigour, Nigeria’s power challenges will be greatly addressed.