Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The federal governmentâ€™s â€˜Energizing Education Programmeâ€™ has kicked off with the decision of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to formally sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with eight federal universities and one teaching hospital for the first phase of the programme.
A recent statement from the REA in Abuja stated that the programme would provide uninterrupted power supply to 37 federal universities and seven teaching hospitals, using off grid captive power plants which includes a mix of renewable and gas fuel sources.
The programme would in the first phase benefit over 300,000 students and staff of the eight universities and a teaching hospital when completed in 2018, in addition to residents of host communities of the schools.
Though the programme would target to generate 87.6 megawatts (MW) for the 37 federal institutions under coverage, seven of the nine planned power plants with capacity to generate 10.5MW out of a total of 26.56MW for the first phase would be fuelled by solar energy, in line with the governmentâ€™s energy mix policy, while the other two are expected to be fuelled by gas.
The REA also disclosed that a total of N9.5 billion has been approved for the projects by the national assembly in the 2017 budget, which was recently passed and signed into law.
It also stated that the programme has been included in the Power Sector Recovery Programme (PSRP) initiated by the government and the World Bank.
The schools with the hybrid solar plants are Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (0.50MW); Bayero University (3MW); Usmanu Danfodiyo University (1MW); Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi (3.5MW);Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (0.50MW); Nnamdi Azikiwe University (1.50MW); and Federal University of Petroleum (0.50MW).
Those for gas fuel are University of Lagos (8.03MW); as well as Obafemi Awolowo University and its teaching hospital (8.03MW).
REAâ€™s head of special projects, Mrs. Anita Otubu, was quoted in the statement to have said: â€œThe Federal Government is keen on ensuring that its universities are at par with their international counterparts and recognizes access to power as an essential commodity to achieve this.â€
Similarly, the Vice Chancellor, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Prof. Abdulrahman Saminu Ibrahim said: â€œI believe it has the potential to do a lot for the universities. I want to commend the stakeholders for this particular innovation.â€
While Prof. E.I. Kucha, Vice Chancellor Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, said: said, â€œWe were very excited that at last we may heave a sigh of relief. So, we are happy that this programme may finally take off and our university is part of the programme from the onset.â€
The statement equally added that the programme will install street lighting to enhance security measures on campuses; develop and operate training centers for student training on renewable energy; and eventually, extend uninterrupted power to improve quality of life and economic opportunities in the surrounding rural communities of the institutions.