It was a new dawn for the university community. There was palpable excitement in the air on Friday, August 2, as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo unveiled the 2.8 megawatts first solar hybrid power plant at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (FUNAI) in Ebonyi State.
The project is driven by the Federal Rural Electrification Agency to generate power for Nigerian markets, communities, teaching hospitals and higher learning institutions
The off-grid power plant, it was gathered, is the first to be commissioned among 37 universities and seven affiliated teaching hospitals under its Energizing Education Programme (EEP), which was implemented by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).
EEP is a federal government intervention focused on developing off-grid, dedicated and independent power plants, as well as rehabilitating existing distribution infrastructure to supply clean, reliable power and renewable energy.
The commissioning, it was gathered, will afford over 7,700 students and 1,819 faculty staff at FUNAI access to clean reliable energy.
The commissioning also featured the launching of 7.5 kilometre of solar-powered streetlights, a world-class training centre for renewable energy and graduation of 20 female STEM participants who received certificates of completion for renewable energy training.
The FUNAI project is one of the EEP Phase 1 university projects expected to deliver clean and sustainable energy to nine federal universities and one university teaching hospital using solar hybrid or gas-fired captive power plants.
The multi-million naira solar power plant, under the Energizing Education Programme (EPP), parades facilities such as 2.8MW first solar hybrid power plant, 8mwh capacity battery bank, inverters and power panel, world class training centre and transformers. it was described as the successful outcome of the collaboration between the Rural Electrification Agency, Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, the Federal Ministry of Environment, and the National Universities Commission.
Sterling & Wilson, a solutions and services provider, executed the project. The firm was described as one that provides business solutions for solar, wind energy, transmission & distribution, hybrid energy storage and turnkey data centres to organizations across the world.
At the event, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo asserted that the project would not only provide sustainable decentralized energy to the entire campus, it would also improve education and create a better university experience for both students and staff.
His words: “Gone are the days where students read at night with candles, lanterns and torches. Our young people are willing to learn and they have great aspirations. It is our duty to aid them to accomplish their goals by providing a conducive learning environment for them. I am glad to be a part of this great feat.
“As additional components of this remarkable project, we are also commissioning a renewables workshop/training centre to promote renewable energy training and installed over 7.5 kilometres of street lighting to enhance security and safety within FUNAI campus. Our students will not only reap the benefits of clean, reliable and affordable electricity, they will also receive hands-on training on renewable energy which can be applied beyond the walls of this university.”
The vice president lauded the Rural Electrification Agency being led by Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, who he described as a young, innovative and dynamic woman, for initiating female STEM internship under the energizing education programme.
“We hope that this experience will inspire them to undertake STEM related careers, including careers as engineers and project managers. I want to use this opportunity to congratulate all of them for this great achievement.”
Osinbajo assured that the government would not rest on its oars until electricity becomes accessible to every Nigerian student. He noted that the multi beneficial project under the Energizing Education Programme would last for the next four years.
“The train of progress will be moving to Bayero University Kano (BUK), Kano State and Federal University of Petroleum Resources Effurun (FUPRE), Delta State where more projects would be commissioned over the next couple of months,” he stated.
Managing director and Chief Executive Officer of Rural Electrification Agency, Damilola Ogunbiyi expressed delight at the commissioning, which was the pioneer project under the EEP.
She observed that the youth had been generally recognised as the most important resource for future socio-economic development. She said that was why President MUhammadu Buhari approved the Energizing Education Programme (EEP), an initiative of the immediate past Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), in 2016.
Ogunbiyi noted that, as as CEO of the Rural Electrification Agency, part of her brief was to provide reliable, affordable and sustainable power to 37 federal universities and seven teaching hospitals through solar hybrid and gas-fired power plant solutions. The EEP is also saddled with rehabilitation of existing distribution infrastructure, installation of street lights for illumination and improved security within the beneficiary university campuses and construction of training centres to tutor students on renewable energy technology.
She spoke further: “The first phase comprises nine federal universities and one teaching hospital, which cut across six geo-political zones in Nigeria. It is fully funded by the Federal Government. This project here in FUNAI is the first to be commissioned today. EEP projects in Bayero University, Kano State and Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, in Delta State, will follow with commissioning scheduled within the next couple of months.
“This project is a testament to this administration’s commitment to increase energy access, promote the use of renewable energy solutions, improve the quality of education within secure and safe learning environments, empower female students and create jobs. The solar hybrid power plant being commissioned today, has a total installed capacity of 2.8MW, which will result in 8,139,208Ibs of annual carbon dioxide savings. This is sustainable, clean and efficient energy at its finest; ultimately improving Nigeria’s ecological footprint. Furthermore, the installation of 7.5 KM of street lighting has already made the university environment harmonious, comfortable and ultimately safe.
“It is important to note that there is an innovative educational component to this project, which is the construction of an onsite world-class workshop and training centre, aimed at providing training in renewables technology to students of FUNAI.
“As we step into a future filled with smarter and cleaner technologies, we look forward to continuing to energise education and creating jobs through the remaining phases, for which the REA has secured funds for Phase 2 and Phase 3 from the World Bank and African Development Bank respectively, under the Nigeria Electrification Project.”
Ogunbiyi expressed gratitude to the United kingdom Department for International Development through its Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility and Policy Development Facility programmes for providing technical assistance in the development and implementation of the EEP. She also praised Sterling and Wilson and its sub-contractors for the commitment to successfully implement the project with the Federal Government. She said the Vice Chancellor of the institution, officials of the Rural Electrification Agency, management of National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Buhari administration for their efforts at making the project a reality.
Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi said he was excited that the project was accomplished in Ebonyi State.
Said he: “Ebonyi State is committed to ensuring that high quality education is accessible to all – an education that produces driven, skilled and talented professionals that will be the engine for our growth and development as a nation. What better way to do this than having access to educational facilities powered by reliable clean energy?
“I want to assure you that we, the people of Ebonyi State, will do our best to support this project to ensure greater success and sustainability. Its impact goes beyond improving quality of education but it has also provided a total of 108 jobs for Ebonyi indigenes and will create more during the operation and maintenance of this project. We look forward to see the Federal Government replicate similar projects that will improve the quality of education, the economy and lives of Nigerians.”
Vice Chancellor FUNAI, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba expressed gratitude to the federal government for its kind gesture in providing comfortable environment for students to learn. He said it was a privilege that FUNAI is one of the flagship learning institutions paving the way.
“You may be unaware, but Ebonyi State used to be among one of the educationally disadvantaged states. But over the last eight years since the establishment of this university, we have grown by leaps and bounds. We have developed a learning and research centre that offers students the latest in computing technology, new library facilities and a sports village. We are now the first solar hybrid power plant to be commissioned at a federal university in Nigeria in addition to a renewable energy workshop/training centre and streetlights across the entire university that will provide a secure and safe learning environment. We are indeed privileged to be the first set of beneficiaries of the Energizing Education Programme under implementation by the Rural Electrification Agency. It is already transforming the way we teach, learn and live,” he stated
Also speaking, permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, an architect, noted: “It is no secret that a good education has the power to change a life. Education empowers minds that will be able to conceive good thoughts and ideas. Combined with technologies that continue to develop at breakneck speed, the result is a world that has the want, and the means, to learn at scale. The challenge therefore is not just about providing access to education, but also ensuring progress in improving the quality thereof. This is why the Ministry of Education is so enthused by the success of this commendable project. Not only does the project mean that students can now enjoy reliable and clean power, they are also afforded the opportunity to further their professional development by partaking in real-life type work activities in the workshop and training centre. This project evidences the stellar progress that the Federal Government continues to make towards improving the education sector.”
The Head, Special Projects, Rural Electrification Project, Anita Otubu expressed appreciation to the President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo for their commitment to increasing electricity access and improving the quality of university education in the country. She also thanked Mr Babatunde Fashola for his policy directives, the Federal Ministry of Environment and Green Bond Secretariat for their efforts in making the commissioning a reality.
Among the 20 female STEM participants were Kalu Oluchi, a 200-level student of Agriculture and Ogah Affiong, a 300 level Mechatronics undergraduate. They were among those that got certificates of completion for renewable energy training. To them, it was a wonderful experience. Kalu stated: “As an agriculturist, my participation in the programme had opened my eyes and broaden my horizon. I think I have ventured into another area. I see my future in energy sector.”
And to Ogah, “This programme is first of its kind in any university in Nigeria. It has been a wonderful experience. I got some knowledge about how solar and hybrid energy operate. I see myself titling my career towards embracing the energy sector.”