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Nigeria: Investing in off-grid projects

Exclusive interview with Dolapo Kukoyi, Partner at Detail Commercial Solicitors in Lagos. At the Future Energy Nigeria conference, she is moderating a session on “Working towards financial viability in Nigeria’s electricity sector.”

Let’s start with some background on Detail Solicitors and the work that you do in the power sector.

DETAIL is distinct as Nigeria’s first commercial solicitor firm to specialise exclusively in non-court room practice.  The firm’s areas of practice are Energy (Power, Oil & Gas), Infrastructure & Public Private Partnerships (PPP), Finance, Private Equity, Capital Markets, Corporate & Commercial, Real Estate & Construction and Technology & IP.

DETAIL has a robust power practice, reputed for its thorough understanding of the legal, contractual and regulatory framework of the Nigerian power sector. The firm has worked on both the Government/Regulatory side, the Central Bank of Nigeria on its intervention in the power sector and the private side with power developers, financiers and investors. DETAIL’s capabilities include advising clients on power asset privatisations; regulatory compliance; independent power producer start-up, development, due diligence, licensing and financing as well as providing advice on gas supply and purchase agreements.

We also have strong experience advising clients on the legal regulatory framework and structuring off grid projects (commercial, industrial and residential) as well as mini grids.

What does your role entail and what do you find most challenging right now?

I lead the power practice of the firm and also supervise on other practice areas including our infrastructure, technology and corporate commercial practice. I do a lot of client service and management, staff supervision, mentoring and management of the firm as a business as well.

My role also entails thought leadership in the power (including renewables), gas and infrastructure sectors generally.

What I find most challenging right now is maintaining our standards of client service and delivery during the current economic downturn in the power sector and in the country generally. Clients want to pay much less for a lot more. We need to keep being proactive, innovative and relevant in the sectors that we operate to keep attracting the right clientele who value our services and the expertise we bring to their transactions.

Any energy projects that Detail Solicitors is involved in in the region currently that you are particularly excited about at the moment?

Over the past year, we have been involved more in the off grid space where we have a lot of clients interested in investing in off-grid projects (residential and commercial) from renewable and thermal fuel sources. We have also had a lot of clients interested in the mini-grid space who have set up similar projects in other African countries and in Asia. Such clients are now looking at developing similar projects in Nigeria and setting up structures that would make them eligible for development funding from development finance institutions. We also note a lot of keen interest by impact investors in the off grid space.

We are also currently advising on a number of ongoing divestments and acquisitions in the energy space and on the development of an interesting project around LPG distribution and storage.

In the on grid space a lot of project developers are reassessing their projects and looking to take advantage of the eligible customer program or just reassessing their current contractual obligations and funding arrangements within the current realities.

Any specific success stories you can share?

Not yet because a number of these projects are still confidential and are at development stage and we would only be able to make announcements when our clients do. I am however very optimistic that we will have a number of success stories to be announced next year.

What in your view are the challenges to the energy sector in Nigeria and the region? And the renewable sector in particular?

The biggest challenge currently is getting Nigeria’s on grid market (generation, distribution and transmission) on the path to viability and sustainability. It is a huge challenge; however, it is not insurmountable but just requires commitment, a concerted effort and a holistic approach by government with the collaboration of all stakeholders.

How optimistic are you about business opportunities in Nigeria’s energy future?

I am quite optimistic about the potential for growth in Nigeria’s energy sector. Nigeria has over 180 million people and over 50% lack access to grid electricity and for those who do have access, the electricity is limited to less than four hours of supply per day. The dampener is that despite the massive opportunities that exist, there are multiple hurdles for projects (big and small) to scale which reduces our competitiveness as a nation and our ability to attract the right kind of private investment and development finance that would deepen our market.

What is your vision for the power sector in Nigeria?

My vision for the Nigerian power sector on the on grid side is one in which we have a viable and profitable on grid market with effective contractual arrangements across the power value chain and an enabling environment that incentivises investment in future on grid projects.

On the off-grid side my vision is for increased energy access for households, communities and businesses on the strength of private investments, collaboration of all stakeholders in the market where it is not just about territories, scoring points and market share but where the common objective is energy access for every Nigerian and economic development for Nigeria.

At the upcoming Future Energy Nigeria conference, you are moderating a session on “Working towards financial viability in Nigeria’s electricity sector” – what are you hoping for during this session?

There’s been a lot of talk at conferences and talk shops over the past few years. I am hoping that this session would be solution oriented with substantive actions to be followed through by stakeholders in the sector.

 What are you most looking forward to at Future Energy Nigeria?

Engaging, pragmatic and solution-oriented discussions and great networking opportunity.

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.