Federal Government Electrification Project takes a new dimension with the installation of a mini-grid under the performance-based grant of the Rural Electrification Agency in collaboration with the World Bank. The mini-grid, a 64kw solar hybrid and 360kwh of battery storage, was commissioned recently in Rokota, Niger State.
In Rokota, a rustic community in Niger State, the villagers now walk with a spring in their feet. They wake up sprightly to a bright morning sun –and their newly-installed 64kw-mini-grid. Life cannot get better than that. Rokota residents knew the pains of living without electricity. Their shea butter and palm fruit farming had suffered. So, had their small trade; and there was hardly any signs of social amenities in the community.
That was in the past. On December 7, Rokota roared to life and all roads led to the rural community courtesy of the renewable energy project that the World Bank in collaboration with the Federal Government of Nigeria, is embarking on to increase universal access to electricity, especially in underserved and unserved regions.
The commissioning of the mini-grid under the performance-based grant of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in collaboration with the World Bank was the first of its kind.
The mini-grid, a 64kw solar hybrid and 360kwh of battery storage, is an indication that soon millions of Nigerians without access will be lifted out of darkness. It is considered an innovative programme to catalyze off-grid development in Nigeria, through the provision of grant funding, detailed market data, and technical assistance, in collaboration with the World Bank ($350m) and African Development Bank ($200m).
The NEP components are solar hybrid mini-grids, solar home systems (SHS) and the energizing education programme (EEP). With a distribution network of 10km across the community, the mini-grid is expected to supply constant electricity to 326 households, which will propel economic growth and improve small and medium scale business activities within the community. New business opportunities will also be possible with the availability of reliable electricity.
The Minister of State for Power, Mr. Goddy Jedy-Agba, said of the project: “I am honoured to be a part of this momentous achievement of the REA and the World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Power and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The commissioning of the 157KW capacity solar hybrid mini-grid power plant will provide economic growth and stability to the people of Rokota. “The Ministry of Power is providing the needed support for the implementation of all Federal Government policies in the diversification of the energy sector. I am, therefore, thrilled that our drive has led us to this great event. This is only the beginning of greater accomplishments.”
The project, being the first to be commissioned under the World Bank-supported Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP) explains the relevance of Rokota to Nigeria’s overall development and the determination of the government to lift as many Nigerians as possible out of poverty and is expected to provide clean, safe and reliable electricity to 3,000 people in the community.
The community is the first in Nigeria to benefit from the renewable off-grid electricity under the NEP mini-grid component. The component aims to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity to 300,000 homes and 30,000 local businesses in Nigeria.
Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of REA, further explained that the presence of power sector leaders, the project financiers, private sector developers, community leaders and captains of industries at the commissioning that the project will change lives through renewable energy solutions.
Ogunbiyi said: “I am proud to say that in line with the Federal Government’s power sector roadmap. The Rural Electrification Agency has supervised and implemented mini-grid projects across multiple rural communities, educational institutions, hospitals, and businesses.” According to her, there are investments opportunities in the off-grid sector and added that it is the reason most of REA’s projects are private sector-focused.
Ogunbiyi explained further: “This is why we partnered PowerGen on this project here in Rokota, to deliver this 157KW solar mini-grid project that will power over 326 households and transform the lives of countless more.
“I must commend the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Ministry of Power on its mandate in enabling private companies, like PowerGen, to participate in this space – all for the sustainable development of Nigeria’s energy sector.”
In his goodwill message, the World Bank Country Director in Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, affirmed the bank’s commitment to reducing the consumption and use of fossil fuels in energy production through renewable energy investment.
“I am thrilled to be here with you all as we witness the commissioning of the first solar hybrid mini-grid project under the Performance-Based Grant component of the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP). This is a huge milestone that will set the pace for more impactful electrification projects under the World Bank-funded programme,” Chaudhuri explained. The World Bank has already approved $350 million for off-grid electrification projects in Nigeria and beginning with Rokota, Nigerians have started benefiting from these projects.
He added, “Aims and objectives are to eliminate extreme hunger which will make life better. With a project like this, the statistics of about 600M that have no access to electricity will be a thing of the past. The goal is to get electricity to the every nook and cranny across the world. We are very happy to be part of this life-changing experience. Your children will read with ease, the community will have a health centre that runs smoothly.”
Also speaking on the occasion was Rohit Khanna, the Practice Manager of Energy Climate Finance & Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), who stated that the electrification project in Rokota would improve the lives of the community and contribute to their economic development.
ESMAP as an alliance between the World Bank and 18 partners is dedicated to advancing energy transition through sustainable power solutions to reduce energy poverty and boost economic and developmental growth, especially in rural communities.
Khanna said: “Our role at ESMAP is to shape the World Bank Group strategies and assist it in implementing programs and policies that foster the use of renewable energy solutions for the conservation of the environment and climate.”
The World Bank’s Task Team Leader, Jon Exel, told the gathering that mini-grids were progressively emerging as a major cost-effective and reliable approach to electrifying unserved and underserved communities across Africa, with huge potential in achieving the bank’s energy goals of universal energy access.
According to him, the World Bank is currently one of the largest financiers in the energy sector, earmarking a total of $350 million for the NEP. “Our goal,” said Exel, “is to decrease energy poverty and reduce carbon emissions by funding renewable energy solutions to power communities such as Rokota, tertiary universities and teaching hospitals under the Energizing Education Programme and foster the provision of Solar Home Systems to households and enterprises through access to clean, affordable and reliable energy.”
With about 30 jobs created during the construction phase and many more jobs to be created with businesses growing from the stable electricity, Exel pointed out that the project firmly supports small scale job creation initiatives and, as a result, improve the quality of life of over 1000 people here in Rokota community and beyond.
Exel further commended REA and PowerGen Renewable Energy, for working collaboratively in delivering the project.
“REA stands as a model agency to partner with thanks to their dynamic team and institutional capacity and processes,” said the World Bank representative.
Mr. Alastair Smith, the Managing Director of PowerGen Renewable Energy Nigeria Limited, said: “We are happy and privileged to have brought this impactful project to the good people of Rokota Community.” Speaking further, Smith said, “Thanks to the Nigeria Electrification Project, under the Performance-Based Grant which we applied for, we have been able to deliver this solar hybrid mini-grid power plant in record time. I am proud to say that the mini-grid, with a total installed capacity of 157kw and 360kwh of battery storage, was delivered based on international best practice and standards.”
The Rokota traditional ruler, who could not hide his joy, said the community had looked forward to December 7.
“This is a major event,” he said, “and on behalf of the people of Rokota Community, we are grateful for this opportunity.”
The ruler of the community said further: “I thank the Federal and State governments for selecting our community for this life-changing project. We are indeed very privileged.
“At Rokota, our children can study under the glow of clean electricity. As enterprising people blessed with kaolin, red clay, and iron ore resources, we look further to more commercial activities and small businesses growing Rokota’s economy. For instance, I hear that there are already thoughts around large scale shea butter production.”
Representative of Niger State governor, the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructural Development, Engr. Ibrahim Panti, expressed gratitude to the Federal Government and the World Bank for the project.
The vote of thanks was delivered by Mrs. Adejoke Odumosu, the Head of NEP PMU, who explained that the combined efforts of all those involved in the off-grid work resulted in the commissioning of the laudable project, said the project would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of the Federal Government, the World Bank, the Rural Electrification Agency, the private sector developers and the people of Rokota.