43,000 Rural Homes, Businesses to Benefit from N1.95bn REF

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Stories By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
A total of 43,000 households and businesses in rural communities across Nigeria will be electrified by mini grid power systems and solar home systems (SHS) to be built with the N1, 952,583,434 billion sourced by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), from the monies that had accumulated in the Rural Electrification Fund (REF).

The REA which disclosed this in Abuja recently, explained when it handed over the REF awards to beneficiary operators, that the projects to be implemented by 14 indigenous firms for SHS, and 14 for mini grids, would have 19,130 SHS deployed to rural communities, while 12 mini grid systems would be built as well.

The SHS would cost N999, 667,434, while mini grids would cost N956, 916,000; both creating opportunities for the beneficiary rural communities to access affordable and reliable electricity for improved economic growth; education; and health care services.

The Chief Executive Officer of Nayo Tropical Technologies which got a grant of N96.3 million to build a mini grid power system in Kebbi state, Mr. Anayo Okenwa, explained that the grant was a big push to fast track electricity supplies to rural communities in Nigeria.

“This will give us the needed soft landing in financing our projects; it gives us opportunity to go further to rural areas to invest in rural mini grids. This is the best way to fast track access to energy for rural people in Nigeria by using distributed power, in this case, solar energy,” said Okenwa.

He further explained: “I am getting roughly N96.3 million, and we are to match that amount which is about 50 per cent of the project cost. We are covering Kare and Dadin Kowa communities, we are building 90 kilowatts projects just about 900 meters from Niger Republic border with Nigeria in Kebbi and Sokoto, the remote end of Kebbi.

“Our case is unique, we have capacity to deploy quickly more than the other companies and we are hoping to call the agency to commission in the next three weeks.”

Okenwa, also talked about the conditions attached to the grant, saying: “The conditions attached to the project is that it has to be beneficial to the rural people, and if you don’t raise enough funds to match the grant, then the grant will be pending and you have to prove that it is sustainable, that is lasting in its operations. A lot of stakeholders monitoring comes to play here.”

Similarly, Mr. Oneil Lajuwomi, who runs a Lagos-based renewable energy firm, Wavelength Integrated Energy Services, stated that rural communities would be relieved from the troubles of poor or lack of electricity supplies to their homes and business places with the new systems to be deployed.

“We are one of the grant awardees from the REA to provide solar home systems to rural areas, and this is remarkable that we are getting support from the federal government of Nigeria to deploy solar home systems to customers in rural areas which have actually suffered neglect.

“They survive on polluted fuel which is poisonous to their health. The worth of our project is N139 million and our 50 per cent grant for that is N70 million and we are to deploy 1445 solar home systems in about five Ogun state communities,” said Lajuwomi.

On the possible impacts, he stated: “We expect a lot of impacts on the rural dwellers, there is going to be a lot of relieve on them from lack of electricity because the system will provide electricity for them to do some economic activities and timeline to deliver is three weeks. We have been on this for about a year now.”