By Chris Ochayi
The Federal Government has concluded arrangements to expend N2.3trillion on electrification of rural communities, targeting five million homes under the Economic Sustainability Plan, ESP.
Minister of State Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, who disclosed this in Abuja, while inaugurating the First 12 Kilo Watts Peak, KWP, Volus Solar for Health, VSFH, Mini-Grid with58 KWH Battery Bank at Karu Primary Health Centre initiated by Volus Energy Ltd, said the rural communities are more willing to pay electricity bills more than their urban counterparts.
He said the Federal Government is giving more attention to rural electrification in the country because of the need to empower those who live in villages and ensure that their small-scale businesses thrive.
According to him, “Recent surveys across some of these rural communities have shown that interestingly, the rural dwellers were 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.”
Mr. Jeddy-Agba noted that, “To emphasize the focus Government is given to electrifying rural communities, there are plans under the 2.3 trillion naira 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.
“Businesses will grow up if the rural dwellers have light. We have set up a committee to restructure the Federal Ministry of Power and provide in-depth oversight for its agencies. This is to ensure that we step up our game towards delivering on our mandate of providing improved and sustainable power supply to Nigerians especially, the un-served and underserved communities.
“This is because if you grow these communities, then businesses would spring up, the health sector will perform better, and you know what the result is – improved living conditions.
“This administration is also promoting the mini grid regulation made by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). For instance, through the Rural Electrification Agency, REA,, several mini-grid projects have been commissioned and more are underway.
“I was honoured to be a part of the momentous achievement of REA and the World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Power and the Federal Government of Nigeria. It was an exciting time for me and for the villagers in 2019 when the Rokota community in Niger state which has never known electricity, got a mini grid power plant for the first time.
“Through mini-grids projects, REA aims to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity to 300,000 homes and 30,000 local businesses.
“The Nigeria Electrification Project, NEP, has turned a new leaf with the commissioning of the first mini-grid under the performance-based grant of REA and the World Bank.
“REA is supporting private developers through performance based grants with support from development partners including the World Bank and the African Development Bank, AfDB, to provide mini-grids and solar home systems across communities towards achieving the access to energy Goal 7 of the Sustainable Energy Goal, SDGs.
“As I said, this administration is promoting Mini-Grids renewable energy to increase access to clean, safe and reliable electricity while accelerating the expansion of the national power grid, but it requires the support of the private sector to attain this in the most desirable way.
“It is in this light that the Office of the Minister of State for Power at the Federal Ministry of Power supported Volsus Energy Limited, a solar and renewable energy start-up firm towards flagging off the first Volsus Solar For Health (VSFH) programme being commissioned here today in Karu, Abuja.
“At this period when Nigeria is battling to flatten the COVID-19 transmission curve and to completely eradicate it, the Federal Government is supporting critical initiatives towards these goals. Reliable power supply is essential across health facilities to increase their work pace.
“You will recall that at the onset of the COVID-19, the government directed that uninterrupted power supply be provided to foremost isolation centres and NCDC testing laboratories in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States. So when we heard about the Volsus Solar For Health (VSFH) programme, we said we will give them the needed support to attain this goal.
“Primary Health Centres, PHCs, are critical facilities in rural communities as they are the first sign of government’s effort in providing sustainable health to its people.
“However over the years, adequate power supply to them has been one of the challenges the facilities have faced across the states. I was informed that at a time, this Karu primary health centre had to suspend night shift because of the epileptic power supply and the challenges that come with that.
I believe that this is now a thing of the past with the commissioning of this first VSFH 12 kilowatt power (KWP) solar mini-grid with 58 kilowatt hour (KWH) battery bank.
“The project also comes with solar power refrigerators and cooling systems to ensure that vaccines are well preserved for effective routine immunization, and improved working conditions for the health officials in this health centre.”
In his remarks, Chief Executive Officer of Volsus Energy Limited, Engr. Tomiwa Bayo-Ojo, explained that 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.
He said, what this means is that even if there is no sunshine for more than two days, the facility will still power the health centre.
According to him, “Several independent surveys have shown that sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria has abundant sunshine, with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) having nearly 365 days of sunshine all year round.
“Prior to the installation of this solar mini grid facility, access to uninterrupted power has been the bane of the centre especially as it could not operate optimally. However, this success story of the Volsus Solar For Health (VSFH) mini grid is changing that story.
“The mini grid is now providing 24 hour electricity to the wards, the labour room, the laboratory, and the entire building. There is also the component for a refrigerator to improve the storage process of vaccines for routine immunization at the centre.
“We have also provided fans and cooling systems to improve the productivity and safety of the healthcare workers at this very delicate time.
“This pilot mini grid project is fully funded by Volsus Energy Limited with technical and advisory support from the Office of the Minister of State for Power.”