1) Let’s start with some background about Power For All, the Nigerian campaign in particular as well as your role there?
Power for All is a global campaign to accelerate the growth of decentralised renewable energy (DRE), which we see as the fastest way to achieving clean universal energy for all by the year 2025. Our campaign serves as a collective voice for businesses and civil society organisations that focus on off-grid solutions to energy challenges. With the Power for All Nigerian campaign, we promote energy access, address energy poverty and aim to improve socioeconomic sustainability. Power for All believes that decentralised renewables are the fastest and most cost effective way to advancing energy access in emerging markets. About 60% of the Nigerian population are reportedly unconnected to the grid. My role as lead for the Nigerian office is to help catalyze a collective voice for the decentralised renewables sector and bring stakeholders together — including policy makers and industry stakeholders — to support decentralised solutions in order to reach millions of Nigerians without electricity.
2) What is the most exciting aspect of the campaign so far? Any particular success stories you can share?
One exciting part of the campaign is increased awareness. We have held consultations and workshops for the media, which have led to more reporting and stories about the sector. We have also had similar workshops for government ministries, departments and agencies, to connect industry stakeholders to the government. This provided a forum for companies to articulate the policies that would help the sector to grow. The workshop also helped profile how government can support the industry, especially with regard to a review of taxes and duties that hamper the ease at which these technologies can be deployed. have also interacted with school programmes, to help teachers, students, parents and guardians gain an understanding of renewable energy. We have integrated education on DRE into the campaign to raise awareness of the benefits to health, education and opportunity that the technology brings. Also to inspire budding DRE practitioners who will bring more innovation to the sector. Our message that DRE is the quickest way to increase our electrification rates in Nigeria is beginning to resonate. We see increased interest from people wanting to explore other means of accessing energy for their homes and businesses.
Another exciting aspect of this campaign is the emergence of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria, REAN, through support and technical assistance from Power for All. Through this support, industry stakeholders (developers and distributors) have come together under one body and now have a platform from which to collectively advocate for policies and regulations that will advance the sector, as well as to deal jointly with challenges in the sector. All this has been done in just in the last few months.
3) What in your view are the main challenges currently in the energy sector in the region?
One major challenge is that our electrification rates in Nigeria are still very low. We have low grid penetration in several communities, particularly in rural areas. Furthermore, with an already ageing and increasingly unreliable grid, those Nigerians who are connected to the grid do not get sufficient power to run their businesses or power their homes. This has led to a huge over reliance on diesel generators which is neither cost effective, nor sustainable. Generators also create damaging emissions and pollution which impacts air quality and the environment. The bottom-line is that despite huge investments and funding that have gone into extending and improving the grid in Nigeria, energy access penetration remains very poor.
4) What opportunities do these challenges present?
One opportunity we see currently is the huge investor interest in the renewable energy market in Nigeria. There is a significant uptick of renewable energy investments in the country and it is clear that Nigeria is on the cusp of an energy revolution. This is evident from the numerous ongoing renewable energy sector projects and programs.
Another exciting thing we see happening in the Nigerian market is that the Federal Government of Nigeria has set a target of reaching 30% renewable energy by 2017, as well as recently announced further target of 50% renewable energy by 2020. We are excited by these large targets because they send a positive signal to investors and developers that the government is serious about supporting the renewables sector. As part of its commitment to reaching these targets, Nigeria recently signed 15 independent power purchasing agreements for solar energy providers as part of the process of enhancing its support for solar-powered electricity. The regulator is also in the process of releasing draft mini-grid regulations, as well as policies for the bio-fuels sector. These efforts on the policy end to implement and promote renewables into the energy sector value chain will help DRE to become more mainstream. This is vital, as DRE provides the only way to reach last-mile rural communities, and to achieve government targets.
5) What is your vision for the sector?
My vision specifically for the decentralised renewable energy sector is to see it reach scale and spread across Nigeria. I want to see increased investment in off-grid technologies including mini-grid and standalone solar systems across Nigeria, so that these technologies help to grow Nigeria’s medium and small scale businesses, eradicate poverty and provide more affordable energy solutions for the Nigerian population. I also want to see innovations that can help the country leap-frog towards clean energy so that the growing Nigerian youth population have the opportunities that can only be provided by basic electricity access, and which will also create more job opportunities and economic growth for the country. I am hoping that by the year 2025 or earlier, Nigeria would have fully made a strategic shift from the on grid source of power towards off-grid solutions through decentralised renewable energy.
6) You are a moderator in a session at the upcoming WAPIC pre-conference master class on embedded generation specifically focusing on ‘problem solving discussions to move the sector forward’- what are you hoping for in this session?
As you know WAPIC is now globally known as the sub-regional meeting point for all energy practitioners in West Africa. I am looking forward to sharing and learning from the experts, practitioners and attendees of this sector specifically on how the distribution companies (DISCOs) and mini-grid operators in Nigeria can work together to create economic clusters and manufacturing clusters through embedded generation. With the country’s transmission grid overloaded, it would be practicable to proffer solutions and define a road-map, on how DRE and DISCOs can help to solve energy challenges. I hope to see a strong communiqué that would aid the government of each country, and specifically the regulator in Nigeria, to create and accelerate decentralised renewable energy and mini-grid deployment in Nigeria, and fashion out an acceptable model that will help the sector to thrive.
7) Anything you would like to add?
One of the key things to emphasize is that energy access does not have to wait. Studies show that power plants can take a decade to come online, but rooftop solar systems can be installed within days or weeks, and mini-grids can be installed within weeks or months. By 2050, Nigeria is likely to be the third largest country in the world. With a rapidly growing population and increasing energy deficit, the speed of energy access is critical. We urgently need fast, affordable, decentralised solutions. We know what these solutions are, now we need to work together to ensure they can be accessed by those who need them most.