By Emmanuel Addeh
The federal government is set to deploy part of the N2.3 trillion Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) being coordinated by the Office of the Vice-President, to provide solar power for at least five million homes, the Ministry of Power disclosed Tuesday.
The government noted that it is also promoting the mini-grid regulation made by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), in collaboration with the World Bank to power 300,000 homes and 30,000 local businesses.
Speaking during the inauguration of the first 12KWP Volsus Solar for Health (VSFH) mini-grid and unveiling of the sustainable energy magazine at the Karu Primary Healthcare Centre, Abuja, the Minister of State, Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, said that the government will now devote more attention to rural electrification throughout the country.
The project also came with a 58KWA battery bank, solar power refrigerators and cooling systems to ensure that vaccines are well preserved for effective routine immunisation.
Jedy-Agba explained that the move was motivated by the need to empower those who live in villages and ensure that their small-scale businesses thrive, adding that rural communities are more likely to pay their electricity bills without complaining than those in urban areas where power operators are tackling the challenges of energy theft and meter bypass.
“This government is promoting a holistic development agenda and will continue to provide power for under-served communities in Nigeria because this will encourage people who live outside the towns and cities to engage in small businesses and preserve farm produce by processing them.
“To emphasise the focus government is giving to electrifying rural communities, there are plans under the N2.3 trillion fund for the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) being coordinated by the Office of the Vice-President, to provide Solar Home Systems (SHS) to five million homes across un-served rural communities in Nigeria,” he explained.
In addition, the minister noted that the Ministry of Power had set up a committee to restructure and provide in-depth oversight for its agencies to ensure that it delivers on the provision of improved and sustainable power supply to Nigerians.
He said through the mini-grids projects, REA aims to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity to 300,000 homes and 30,000 local businesses, plus the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP) which has commissioned the first mini-grid under the performance-based grant.
The minister noted that primary health centres are critical facilities in rural communities, but added that over the years, adequate power supply to them had been one of the challenges the facilities had faced across the states.
The Chief Executive Officer of Volsus Energy Limited, Mr Tomiwa Bayo-Ojo, in his comments, described the event as epochal, saying that the company would continue to promote rural and community-based electrification as a means of boosting access to electricity in underserved and unserved places in Nigeria.
He stressed that in the renewable energy subsector of the power sector, there is little or no presence of independent investment that is heralded by the private sector to promote solar and other renewable energy penetration across Nigeria.
Concerned about this, and considering the state of the nation’s health facilities amidst the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, the company, he said, initiated the VSFH programme, with the vision to promote the attainment of Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The components of this mini-grid facility consist of arrays of solar panels that could generate up to 12KWP energy with the battery bank capable of providing 24 hours electricity and could last for 58 hours at its maximum load point without sunshine.
“What this means is that even if there is no sunshine for more than two days, the facility will still power the health centre,” he said.