306 solar panels, 5.5km cable bring new hope of electricity to 250 homes, hospital

In Akpabom, a community with GPS coordinates N04°35.091′, E007°50.111′ located in Onna local government area of Akwa Ibom state, there is a fresh hope that its 250 homes, school, health centre, and market square would do away with ubiquitous darkness over its environment or even noises from petrol-powered hazardous generating sets.

Leveraging clean electricity generated from 306 solar photovoltaic panels and evenly supplied by about 5.5 kilometres of cable, the community, which is approximately 90 minutes away from urban Uyo, could find it easier to run its fishing, agriculture and petty commercial activities.

Through its implementing agency – the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), the federal government had recently commissioned a 100kW solar hybrid mini grid power plant in Akpabom.

Constructed and operated by indigenous mini-grid developer, Green Village Energy (GVE), the mini grid project was co-financed by the REA through its Rural Electrification Fund (REF). Funding for the power project also came from impact investor – All On – a Shell funded off grid energy impact investment company, and the Akwa Ibom state government.

According to the REA, the Akpabom mini-grid was the third of the REF-funded projects to be commissioned, and will provide clean, safe, affordable and reliable pay-as-you-go electricity for the community.

It explained that the project was part of the government’s commitment to meet the developmental needs of Nigerians through electricity access to all.

Its Managing Director, Damilola Ogunbiyi, reportedly stated that the REA was specifically empowered to help the government meet these goals especially to electricity-deprived communities in the country.

“As an agency, we are responsible for powering unserved and underserved communities, therefore, it is fulfilling every time homes, businesses, schools and medical centres are connected to sustainable solar power,” said Ogunbiyi.

She equally said: “Almost immediately, we are able to witness rural communities being transformed with clean energy through the jobs that are created during construction, to their micro and small businesses scaling to larger capacity thanks to reliable electricity.”

CEO of All On, Dr. Wiebe Boer, in his comment on the development, explained that his firm was delighted to part-fund the project especially on the back of its bankability and ability to serve as a model for closing the energy gap in Nigeria.

Boer stated: “As a private investor, we are pleased to partner with the REA and the Akwa Ibom state government to finance GVE to construct and operate this commercial mini grid for the Akpabom community. These kinds of public and private sector collaborations make projects like this bankable and are the best way to close the energy access gap in Nigeria at scale.”

Similarly, the Head of Oniong Clan in Akpabom, His Royal Highness Obong Samuel Johnson Efik, expressed his gratitude to the government and partners in the project for providing electricity to the community.

The monarch stated that with the power system, “Our businesses are now fully operational, especially at night.”

“Our fishermen are able to preserve their fish and businesses, in general, are growing. Today is indeed the beginning of better things to come for Akpabom,” he noted.

Speaking further, CEO of GVE, Ifeanyi Orajaka, said the project enjoyed tremendous supports from relevant stakeholders and partners including the European Union.

Orajaka stated that: “It is a thing of pride that GVE, an indigenous Nigerian firm, can be a part of developing Nigeria’s rural areas and growing the evolving off grid energy sector in the country.

“We are very grateful to the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), our private investors All On and the European Union Electrification Finance Initiative (ElectriFI) for co-investing in our company, and the Akwa Ibom state Government for co-funding and providing tremendous support towards the success of the project through the state ministry of science and technology.”

The power 100kW system

GVE noted that Akpabom mini grid comprised a total of 306 solar panels and a distribution network cable of 5.5 kilomtres to adequately energize the community.

It explained that 58 new jobs were created as a result of the local labour required for the project.

According to it, Akpabom would now enjoy similar social and economic progress that Upake which has a 80 kilowatt (kW) mini grid in Kogi and Kare-Dadin Kowa and Tsulaye (98.8kW) in Kebbi State have enjoyed through the REA REF.

Further, the 100kW mini grid would ensure stable and steady electricity for 22 street lighting points along the main street of Akpabom to enhance security at night, enable extended business operating hours for commercial operators in the community, provide electricity for children to study and play even at night, reduce the community’s energy-related expenditure by 40 per cent as well as cut down incidences of malaria-related sicknesses by 68 per cent.

More on Akpabom

According to GVE, fishing, agriculture and petty commercial activities are Akpabom’s major commercial engagements.

It also has a total estimated population density of about 250 houses with a school, health centre, and market serving it.

By foot or with motorbike, GVE said the community can be navigated, adding that while quite a handful of its inhabitants have access to electricity through petrol generators, others had often resorted to dirty and unhealthy kerosene lamps, candle lamps, and firewood as their energy sources.

Similarly, it indicated that the average cost of petrol in Akpabom was N200 which it added was 38 per cent pricier than the open market pump price for petrol in Nigeria.

For kerosene, GVE noted that the average cost of kerosene in Akpabom was N250 per litre and 300 per cent costlier than open market rate.

It explained that the major challenge facing economic development in the community was the lack of electricity access for residential and commercial activities, and more for processing of agro-based produces for marketability.