Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and Jigawa State government have commenced negotiations to enable Jigawa to deploy solar electricity solutions to reduce its monthly expenditure on street lights in its 27 local governments by adopting solar power.
REA and Jigawa would also be pushing to advance the stateâ€™s plan to have its planned renewable energy city come up in good time, as well as, deploying mini grid and standalone solar power systems to Jigawaâ€™s rural communities and farm areas.
Speaking after meeting with the Managing Director of REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, in Dutse, the Deputy Governor of Jigawa, Mr. Ahmad Mahmud, stated that the state spends an average of N110 million electrifying street lights in its local government areas, and would want to reduce or even stop that expenses on diesel generators.
Mahmud, also explained that the government would also want to support its farmers who use petrol powered pumps to irrigate their farmlands, in addition to deploying mini grid solutions to rural communities where it spends billions annually to extend unstable electricity grid to.
In terms of large scale solar power generation, the deputy governor also indicated that the government has set aside its land to support any serious investor in solar power in the state, and would need the support of the REA to accomplish these goals.
â€œWe are in a unique position in Jigawa State, we are right in the middle of solar radiation belt. When you talk about solar, it is not just about sunlight, there is a lot of factors to be considered like cloud cover, and it is not what you see in the sun that translates to solar electricity.
â€œJigawa happens be right in the middle of the best solar belt in Nigeria, and we keep on getting a lot of investors coming to get land because solar requires land â€“ you will probably need 150 hectares of land for a 100 megawatts solar plant, and with the drive towards agriculture, land is getting more difficult. We proactively moved in and identified state-owned land and locked it down, so when an investor shows commitment, he is guaranteed land in a matter of six weeks,â€ said Mahmud.
He further stated: â€œWe have three very serious solar investors in Jigawa with combined potential generation of 280 megawatts, and the consumption of this state at the moment is less than 25 megawatts, and you can imagine the impact this would make. We are being very bullish about this development.â€
â€œBut more importantly in my conversation with the REA MD is that there is a lot we are doing in terms of putting solar in hospitals. We inherited street lights in 27 local governments in Jigawa, and they are being run on diesel generators and cost us N110 million in a month with the diesel supply. This fluctuates though, and sometimes get to N180 million.
â€œWhen you do the calculation, you will discover that one year of maintenance and operation of these generators will replace everything with solar, and we wonâ€™t have to worry about this for 25 to 30 years.
â€œThe same thing is with irrigation where people use petrol pumps, and that cost of fuel can be 60 per cent of the cost of cultivation, if we introduce solar pumps for the farmers, we will immediately eliminate this cost. These are areas where we are talking to REA to come in and help us move toward renewable energy,â€ he added.
According to him, â€œWe also have off grid communities that are small and the distribution companies may not invest money to take power to them. We want to liaise with the REA to commit to putting off grid standalone solutions in these villages because right now government is spending money to electrify them.
â€œWe spend N4 to N5 billion every year on grid extension that would not become our own but that of the distribution company. If we partner with the REA we can begin to see some changes this year in the power supply of Jigawa state.â€