CEO of Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency talks investment opportunities

An exclusive interview with Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi, managing director/CEO of the Rural Electrification Agency of Nigeria, maps out future opportunities in Nigeria’s energy sector and the challenges hindering progress.

Mrs Ogunbiyi is an industry expert and programme advisor for the upcoming Future Energy Nigeria in Lagos from 12-13 November, and is a keynote speaker and expert panelist in the opening session.

What projects that you have been involved with so far are you most proud of or have been the most ground-breaking or both?
The Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), Energizing Economies Initiative (EEI) and Rural Electrification Fund (REF) are close to my heart because of the impact we are already seeing in growing the economy, creating jobs and improving quality of life and education for Nigerians. Notably also, because they are results of true collaboration across federal, state and local government; and partnerships with the donor community and private sector. This is ground-breaking in itself for a government power sector agency.

With NEP, under the Energizing Education Programme (EEP), Solar Mini Grid and Solar Home Systems components, the REA is providing access to clean, stable and reliable energy to communities, businesses, federal universities and teaching hospitals. For example, with the 7.1 MW Solar hybrid project for Bayero University in Kano State which is the largest off grid solar hybrid with batteries in Africa and the 2.8 MW Solar hybrid project for Alex Ekwueme Federal University in Ebonyi State, reliable electricity is upgrading the university environment, powering streetlights for enhanced security as well as improving the teaching and learning quality for both lecturers and students. The project also enables quality health care services by powering medical facilities, lifesaving equipment and preserving vaccines with university teaching hospitals.

Nigeria’s largest energy event, taking place
12-13 Nov 2019,
Eko Hotel, Lagos

Similar impact is occurring under REF projects where solar mini grids are using clean energy to power homes, schools, mosques, churches, medical centers and small businesses in rural communities like Akpabom in Akwa Ibom state, Upake in Kogi state and Kare-Dadin Kowa in Kebbi state to mention a few. These communities are now being transformed as their small businesses grow with the constant power and jobs been created as a result.

The Energizing Economies Initiative (EEI) is a private sector led project that is electrifying economic clusters across Nigeria. Markets like Sabon Gari market in Kano, Ariaria market in Abia, Iponri market and Sura shopping complex in Lagos and many markets across Nigeria are enjoying clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity. As a result, market traders are growing their businesses, while the customer experience is significantly enhanced with a pollution and noise free commercial environment.

REA is working hard to scale these projects across Nigeria which is sure to have significant social and economic transformation in Nigeria’s development.

What in your view are the main challenges right now for Nigeria’s energy sector?
The primary challenge the Nigerian energy sector is experiencing is the imbalance in demand and supply, especially for on-grid power supply. With the projected increase in Nigeria’s population in the coming years, electricity demand will continue to rise.
To close the supply gap, the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Power and the REA is providing off-grid alternative sources of energy, in addition to reforms in the on-grid power sector, to meet the electricity demands of Nigerians, especially to unserved and underserved communities.

Access to funding is also a challenge in the energy sector. While the Federal Government of Nigeria has been instrumental in funding REA projects and initiatives, significant funding is still required to scale up our work. So far, the REA has been able to secure alternative funding from donor agencies and through Public Private Partnerships.

And the opportunities?
There are huge investment opportunities in the off-grid space which is why most of our projects are private sector-led.

The REA is providing opportunities to grow the off-grid sector with private sector collaboration and investment. We have only just recently signed partnership agreements with seven companies under the Output Based Fund (OBF) for the sale of solar home systems to homes and businesses across Nigeria and the Performance Based Grant (PBG) for the deployment of mini grids to unserved and underserved communities in Nigeria.

These grant partnerships are an attestation to both local and foreign investors of the Nigerian Government’s readiness to leverage renewable energy technologies for increased access to electricity. There are countless investment opportunities in the off-grid space (on-grid as well) and Government has been working hard to create the enabling environment for private companies to participate in this space for the sustainable development of Nigeria’s energy sector.

How important are mini grids for Nigeria’s energy future?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that mini grids could account for up to $300 billion of investment by year 2030. For Nigeria, the off-grid energy market opportunity is massive and mini grids could account to up to $10 billion annually.
This translates to huge economic opportunities for private sector developers and a larger vehicle for electrifying community clusters across rural and urban Nigeria. Mini grids, indeed, are the future for reaching unserved and underserved communities with safe, reliable and clean energy…

For the full interview and to learn more about Future Energy Nigeria, click here.

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