‘States should get involved for DRE to penetrate rural Nigerian communities’

State governments in Nigeria should get involved and push through investments in Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE) to electrify semi-urban and rural communities within their territories, experts at the Nigerian Office of the Power for All have suggested.

The experts – Ifoma Malo, who is the country head of the DRE advocacy agency, and Mark Amaza, lead, strategic communications and research at the agency, stated in a note exchanged with OGN that with the responsibility of providing electricity to Nigerians shared between the federal and state authorities, there was no longer any hindrance on the states setting up good condition for investments on DRE solutions either commercially or otherwise to flow into their territories.

“As power remains on the concurrent list of the Nigerian Constitution (meaning that both the federal and state governments are empowered to legislate on it), there is the need to engage with states to enable them develop DRE-specific policies, plans and incentives in order to attract DRE investments into their states,” said the experts in their note.

They explained that: “This is particularly a critical step in increasing rural electrification through the use of mini-grids, increasing the options of these governments beyond traditional grid extension which is not only more expensive, but is also the purview of the power distribution companies (Discos).”

According to the pair, Nigeria’s DRE market currently suffers from the challenge of insufficient consumer awareness. They noted that this has slowed down its market growth.

They further stated that in the course of executing their Scaling Off-Grid Energy (SOGE) project, they discovered that early DRE projects, particularly publicly-funded solar street lighting projects which were shoddily done by poorly-trained contractors with substandard components had formed the perception in the minds of a large percentage of potential consumers that renewable energy does not work.

“This is added to the fact that there is an existing belief that these solutions are unaffordable, especially when compared with alternative energy sources from fossil fuels,” they added.

To turn things around in this regards, the experts stated: “There is a need to change that narrative by highlighting the successes of DRE solutions in Nigeria – this could be mini-grids, in remote, off-grid communities that are now enjoying 24/7 power; homes and businesses that use solar home systems (SHS) to power their needs; or rural and peri-urban homes that have replaced inefficient lighting sources such as kerosene lamps and candles with pico-solar and clean lighting solutions.”

Among these success stories that could change the narrative, they said, there was also the need to highlight the various business models that have increased affordability such as Pay-As-You-Go leasing; and Lease-To-Own, in order to make them aware that outright purchase is not the only way to afford these products.

Looking ahead, Malo and Amaza, stated that the Nigerian off-grid market will continue to remain an attractive one for investors as there is a huge demand for energy.

“This is encouraged by an overarching federal policy that is favourable to the growth of the DRE sector. An indication of how attractive the off-grid sector is, is the recent launch of the Nigeria chapter of the Africa Mini-Grids Association as the first trade association exclusively focused on the sub-sector.

“This launch was preceded by a workshop which brought together the mini-grid developers who are members of the association and key Original Equipment Manufacturers,” they stated.

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