Ogun State recently inaugurated a pilot solar hybrid mini-grid rural electrification project in Gbamu-Gbamu community. Ehime Alex writes
February 9, 2018 cannot be forgotten in a hurry by the people of Gbamu-Gbamu community. It was the day that witnessed the official inauguration of an 85 kilowatts solar hybrid mini-grid rural electrification project at Gbamu-Gbamu Village in Ijebu-East Central Local Council Development Area of Ogun State, by Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
It is also going to be a day to be remembered and kept in the annals of achievements and landmarks development of rural electrification project in Ogun State as well as in Nigeria at large.
Perched among other remote villages, a somewhat upland territory, and located off Lagos-Benin Expressway, by Ogbere Junction, Ogun State, Gbemu-Gbemu plays host to a handful of scrub groves, and has currently an approximated 760 houses with a population of about 4,000 dwellers who majorly are farmers producing cocoa, plantain, palm oil, kola-nut, cassava, yam and maize.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria as a country needs to be delivered from the myriad of challenges befalling it. One of such problems has been the inability and lukewarmness of successive governments to provide the citizenry with availability, adequate and uninterrupted power supply across the state, whether in the most remote rural or most megacity urban settlements. It is worrisome, indeed uncivilised for the country to continue to hold that the current national grid network and centralised power production cannot serve both urban and rural Nigeria.
Whilst the current reality posits that the country desires to have a steady and uninterrupted power supply, the need to deploy alternative technologies, especially renewable energy sources to power rural dwellers cannot be over-emphasised.
Nigerians believe that time has come of essence for the government, at all levels, to channel unreserved efforts at executing rural electrification projects across the states, hence the unalloyed significance of the inauguration of the pilot phase mini-grid rural electrification project in Gbamu-Gbamu, Ogun State.
Gbamu-Gbamu solar mini-grid programme is one of the six projects implemented under the Nigerian Energy Support programme (NESP), a joint initiative of the European Union (EU) and German Government (through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ). It was jointly financed by the EU and German Government, with the technical assistance of the USAID/Power Africa’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project (REEEP) to reach financial closure through crowd-funding.
The project is also apparently in consonant with the Ogun State’s Rural and Infrastructure Development/Employment Generation for the pursuit of rural electrification projects to generate and effect extension of transmission and distribution network facilities like High Tension (HT) and low Tension (LT) poles, transformers, electric conductors and other accessories to the communities living in the rural areas of the state for the purpose of providing constant electric power supply. The multiplying effect would be to open up the entire rural areas of Ogun State for socio-economic development on education, healthcare delivery, industrialisation, improved agriculture output, creation of employment, communication and information accessibilities.
In a statement, the state government had stated that, “The project in Gbamu-Gbamu has been implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaftfϋr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing (FMPWH), the Ogun State Government and a private company, Rubitec Solar. It has additionally benefitted from U.S. technical support via REEEP. REEEP is funded by USAID/Power Africa and implemented by Winrock International. REEEP seeks to improve access to clean energy financing for project developers, provide technical assistance to financial installer. REEEP is designed to help mitigate climate change, reduce carbon emissions, increase economic opportunities, improve employment, and, ultimately, sustain development in Nigeria.”
It was said that, when fully implemented, the pilot phase of the project would provide electricity to over 10,000 people across five states of Ogun, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto and Cross River through the NESP, EU and German Government support, Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and other stakeholders in the country’s power sector in putting in place measures to ensure that energy solutions such as the mini-grid approach is replicated and scaled up.
Additionally, about 100,000 rural inhabitants in several states across the country will receive support from the programme until 2020.
It should be noted also that the NESP is a €24.5 million technical assistance programme, launched to promote investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and rural electrification.
Welcoming this unprecedented development with unreserved excitements and jubilations, the people of Gbamu-Gbamu community had in their numbers trooped out en mass to witness the formal inauguration of the 85 kilowatts solar mini-grid project meant to provide them power supply through a planned pre-paid metered process.
The Baale of the community, Chief Fayomi Adekunle, who spoke exclusively with THISDAY, said Gbamu-Gbamu has been transformed since 1996 without electricity, and the hope of having power supply brought to it was not anticipated to come in the next 20-30 years.
Their travail had been that, over the years, the dwellers would travel the long distance of about 45 minutes to the Lagos-Benin Expressway to get fuel or diesel to power their generators.
Adekunle, who appraised the good gesture of Senator Ibikunle Amosun-led administration, on behalf of Gbamu-Gbamu people, assured that the community would work in collaboration with the development partners at safeguarding, maintaining and sustaining the project. He confirmed that pre-paid meters have been distributed to every house in the community.
In an address, the Ogun State governor, Amosun, on behalf of the about 7.2 million people of Ogun State, stated that the inauguration of the solar mini-grid was of double significance to his administration. Firstly, because it symbolises the continued implementation of his mission to rebuild the state, more especially in area of rural infrastructure development that could lead to employment generation, and secondly, because it demonstrates the continued belief of other stakeholders in his-led administration.
Appreciating the federal government for including Ogun State in the first phase of the NESP, Amosun said, “We believe that the provision of a stable power supply will boost economic activities of our people, promote employment generation by enhancing and scaling up our micro-small and medium scale enterprises. It will also promote the value-chain and reduce rural-urban migration.”
Amosun, the architect of modern Ogun, who stated that there was no gainsaying the importance of energy to education, agriculture, health, commerce, industry and indeed to all economic activities, expounded that for any meaningful socio-economic activities to take place, the general populace must be provided with unhindered access to efficient and constant energy.
“It is therefore trite to say that energy remains at the heart of the very survival of man. It is for this reason that every responsive and responsible government must explore ways of ensuring that it (energy) is available and accessible to the generality of its populace,” the governor said.
Reassuring that it was imperative for the state to create an enabling environment for investment to thrive, he said, his administration has taken the initiative to approve and endorse three legacy documents, namely: Ogun State Rural Electrification Plan, Ogun State Strategy for Decentralised renewable Energy, and Guidelines for Mini-Grid PPP frameworks.
Amosun however used the occasion to warn all traditional rulers in the state to allow development efforts of his government to thrive, adding that any unguided affront and confrontation against the good work of his administration in any community in the state would ordinarily put the government and its development partners to flight. He added that, nothing good comes free. In as much as the government does its bit, much is expected from the people to reciprocate the good gesture. “There is much to be done, we don’t have unlimited access to funds. Every day we see what is possible, but government alone can’t do it.”
The groundbreaking inauguration was also an historic occasion for the deputy governor of Ogun State, Chief (Mrs.) Yetunde Onanuga, who supervised the Gbamu-Gbamu solar mini-grid project to stress that the provision of electricity supply for rural dwellers in the entire country, not connected to the national grid, was established to promote interest and investment in renewable energy with particular devotion to rural electrification.
In a brief presentation, the Chief Executive Officer, Rubitec Nigeria Limited, Mr. Bolade Soremekun, whose company developed the mini-grid at Gbamu-Gbamu community, said his company was a bit skeptical when sometime in 2016 it received a call for proposal from NESP on the guided idea competition for the project.
Stating that, the NESP and its development partners were aimed at creating business enabling environment for private sector-led market for rural electrification to provide access to reliable and affordable electricity services for rural households, businesses and public infrastructure, Rubitec CEO said, the company became more skeptical as a result of the funds needed in the financing of rural electrification for renewable energy which were not easy to come by in Nigeria.
Soremekun said, “This is a private-led investment in solar hybrid mini-grid driven by profit and social responsibility. It is not a government contract; it is financed by loan, grant and equity. The loan must be paid back and the equity must yield it returns.”
Technically, he explained, “Our mini-grid will serve 487 metered customers with 462 single-phased connections and 25 three-phased connections.
“The Gbamu-Gbamu mini-grid comprises a system of 85KWp solar and 45Wp diesel generator, with the electricity distributed over a 5.2Km mini-grid with metering for payments, serving the whole rural community,” he added.
Rubitec Nigeria Limited (Rubitec Solar) is a Nigerian Company specialising in Off Grid Solar Energy.
In a chat with THISDAY, Rubitec, Lead Engineer, Mr. Alabi Abiodun regretted that the installed 85 kilowatts capacity in Gbamu-Gbamu, housed in a containerised power-house, was under-estimated by its company going by the current population to be served in the community. Abiodun who however said that, prior to the inauguration, the people of Gbamu-Gbamu have been enjoying about 15 hours per day uninterrupted power supply during the past two weeks of test running the renewable solar installation, adding that the company has concluded plans to expand the mini-grid in no time.
In the context of the importance of energy sector in the country, the European Union representative, Kurt Cornelius who opined that about 45 per cent of the Nigerian population are still without access to electricity, said the country is fully in line with EU approach mechanism of access to electricity. To that end, he said “$150 million has been committed in the EU current programming phase for creation of access to electricity and to promote the use of renewable energy.” He added that, the EU is not only happy to have funded the NESP but also very proud of the partnership with the German Government, the federal government of Nigeria, Rubitec and other development partners.
On his part, the U.S. Consular General, John Bray, noted that one of the priorities of U.S. Government in Africa is in power sector development. “Our programme to actualise this goal is called “Power Africa” which has the ambitious goal for power sector development throughout the continent,” he said. “We want to add 30,000 megawatts of power and establish 60 million new connections. Part of that solution is what you are witnessing in Gbamu-Gbamu,” he added.
In a remark, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, ably represented by the Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Suleiman Hassan Zarma, said, the project underscores the importance the federal government attached to the provision of electricity to remote and under-served rural communities all over the states of the federation through distributed power generation using locally available resources such as solar, bio mat and wind. He noted that, a similar project of about 80 kilowatts off grid had already been inaugurated recently in a community in Sokoto.