We commend the Federal Government’s new solar power initiative, which will enable 25 million Nigerians in underserved areas have access to electricity. The laudable scheme offers also the novel incentive to enable Nigerians to invest in and personally own a solar home system.
There is no doubt that epileptic power supply has been the Achilles heel of the nation’s economic development since independence. It has been the biggest constraint on our industrialisation effort. Many industries have exited the country because of inadequate electricity supply. Investors have been discouraged
having to raise their capital and the money to generate their own electricity. At first, it was argued that the nation was not making enough investments in the sector. But it later injected billions of dollars into the sector between 1999 and 2008, yet the problem seemed largely unresolved.
The grand privatisation of the power sector was carried about eight years ago partly out of frustration that no
other solution seems to be working to help the country solve the power problem. In the last two years, how-ever, the nation has confronted new problems, including the collapse of power networks, inadequate generation, inefficient transmission and loss of power due to poor transmission as well as inefficient revenue generation. Against this background, therefore, the Federal Government’s Solar Power Naija project could not have come at a better time than now. The government will, from next week, begin the installation of five million solar systems for which it would charge consumers N4,000 a month in underserved and off-grid communities. The programme would be executed by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). It is designed to boost the ongoing efforts to meet the energy supply challenge. Expectedly, the rural areas and urban settlements would be given greater priority. According to the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, the scheme will benefit up to 25 million Nigerians, create at least 250,000 jobs and reduce green gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2030. The beneficiaries will pay between N4,000 and N4,500 a month. Those, who completed their payments within three years, might become permanent owners of the solar home system. At a briefing in Abuja, the Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jeddy-Agba, said the Solar Power Naija would address one of the main challenges to energy, which is access to finance. “Under the pogramme, developers can ac- cess funds for as low as five per cent interest rate.” The Solar Power Naija is expected to leverage a great deal of support not only from the Federal Government, which has an outlay of N140 billion for the scheme, but also donor partners including the World Bank, United States Aid for International Development (USAID), Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and Foreign as well as Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of Britain. The donor partners are expected to offer support in the areas of data collection, programme design, manufacturing frame- work and quality assurance.
Giving an overview of the scheme, the Managing Director of the REA and the implementer, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, said that when President Muhammadu Buhari approved the Economic Sustainability Plans earlier in the year to combat the effect of COVID-19 pandemic, the Solar scheme was part of the plan and was designed to address the issue of access to finance through the Central Bank for pre-qualified private companies. The Central Bank would provide funds for NESI SSL Ltd. which in turn gives loans to local manufacturers and assemblers. The scheme has two components, the upstream, which comprises the assemblers and manufacturers of solar panels and components, and who would access their fi- nance through a Central Bank facility. The downstream is made up of developers of mini-grids and distributors who would be able to access finance through the CBN/NESISSL arrangement following the technical and commercial due diligence conducted by REA and selected fund administrators. The REA said it has mapped 3,000 settlements where there are two million buildings across 18 states of the federation. We urge the ministry of power to implement the scheme with enthusiasm. Solar power’s technology has been slow in coming but there is no doubt that it is the future, especially when its costs are said to be dropping.