Solar Powering Nigeria's Needs

Lekan Otufodunrin

Lagos, Nigeria - Jun 2007

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Faced with the problem of insufficient electric power in Nigeria generated through fossil fuels via the national grid, the Federal and state governments, individuals, commercial and private organizations are gradually adopting the use of solar energy as an alternative energy source.

Electric power supply in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of about 140 million citizens has over the years continued to decline with residents of major cities experiencing constant blackouts. Many businesses reliant on fossil fuel operated generators have either shut down or operate below capacity. Most rural communities are not even connected to the national grid.

To utilize the abundance of solar energy the Nigerian federal government recently launched a Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP).  It includes short, medium and long-term targets for a comprehensive renewable energy development strategy.  If implemented successfully the ‘plan will result in the utilization of wind, solar PV, solar thermal, small-scale hydro and biomass technologies to satisfy a sizeable proportion of the nations energy needs by 2025.

Across the country, solar power is already being utilized for among other things, provision of electricity for rural communities, agricultural purposes, and meeting some of the power requirements of large corporations.

In Northern Nigeria, some rural communities in Jigawa State, one of the country’s 36 states has benefited immensely from the use of Solar energy under a programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development and the United States Department of Energy.

With solar energy the communities not only enjoy electricity supply in their homes, they now have potable water supplies, better health care facilities and street lights. Small businesses which hitherto could not thrive due to a lack of electricity are now booming courtesy of shared PV systems provided under a programme implemented by a United States based not for profit organisation; Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) and a local Non-governmental organisation; Jigawa Alternative Energy Fund (JAEF).

Lagos State government in southern Nigeria is also implementing a rural electrification project through the use of solar energy.  Nineteen communities are benefiting from the project according to the state commissioner for Science and technology, Kadiri Hamzat who stated that the tropical climate makes solar energy the most viable alternative source of renewable energy in Nigeria.

”It costs about 150 million naira (around 1.2 million dollars) to connect each village to the national grid, while electrification via solar energy costs only about 10 million naira (around 83,000 dollars) per village” he said.

Through the support of the Chinese government, the federal government has launched similar rural electrification projects based on the use of solar energy in other states. The growing use of solar energy across the country is attested to by the increasing number of companies offering various ranges of solar powered products.

Among the customers of Lagos based ‘Rubitec Nigeria Limited’ are MTN, Chevron, British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) and the National Programme on Immunization.

Managing Director of Rubitec, ‘Bolade Soremekun’ confirmed that the demand for solar power and other alternative power sources is on the rise and that there has been a marked increase in the last two years due to the deterioration in services offered by the nation’s electricity agency.

He however said more promotional work needs to be done to highlight the benefits of solar power generators; such benefits include, reliability, environmental friendliness, silent operation and low cost maintenance.  “With the poor state of our electricity supply, we really have no choice other than to embrace solar energy and I am glad that more organizations and individuals are coming to this reality” Soremekun stated.