Rural Nigerians are among the most energy-poor in Africa, but their future looks brighter thanks to a new initiative to educate state-level policy-makers and the private sector about decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions, reports a non-profit involved with the project.
Almost 30 years after the national government launched a concerted effort to plug the country’s rural regions into the national grid, its “rural electrification rate still stands at only 39%, with approximately 75 million people still in darkness,” writes Power for All in a recent blog celebrating the launch of the Scaling Off-Grid Energy project.
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The high cost of extending the grid has been the chief reason for its slow deployment, with an estimated investment of $10,000 per kilometre “hardly bring[ing] a return on investment,” the organization states. That problem is compounded by the fact that delivery to rural customers is “supplied as a social good by government, rather than as a service that needs to be paid for by those who use it.”
Until now, access to the central grid has been the default solution and the only solution for rural communities. But times are changing, with Power for All hosting a series of workshops to introduce best practices in “mainstreaming” DRE into rural development plans and existing electrification policies—a process that includes securing private investment.
While working to “dispel popular but untrue notions about renewable energy being prohibitively expensive,” the real costs of delivering DRE to rural areas are considerable, the organization states. So the Scaling Off-Grid Energy trainings “introduce innovative business models to policy-makers, enabling their communities to access DRE solutions at their level of affordability.”
Adding to the optimism about effectively deploying DRE systems in rural Nigeria is the apparent appetite for regional and inter-state collaboration at every stage of development, from manufacturing to assembly to distribution.
Those collaborative “clusters” will make it easier for regions to “achieve economies of scale, and maximize job creation potentials,” notes Power for All.
The training sessions have also proven useful to private investors and DRE providers that had previously struggled to enter rural markets. Post-training, “many have already received expressions of interest from state governments on how they can best explore opportunities for mini-grid solutions for their rural communities,” the organization reports.
Overall, “the future of electrification in Nigeria is looking bright,” with “rural electricity targets of 75% by 2020 and 90% by 2030” entirely within reach.