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General News of Monday, 25 September 2023


Solar Enthusiasts lay claim for dumping mini grid for standalone Solar systems

Solar energy Solar energy

Nigeria faces persistent challenges with inconsistent power supply despite advancements in AI and robotics globally.

The Rural Electrification Agency (REA), in collaboration with the Nigeria Electrification Project, has made significant progress in deploying solar photovoltaics, powering over 44,000 facilities and impacting the lives of more than 230,000 individuals nationwide.

There is a need for a shift from mini-grids to standalone solar home systems, local mineral processing of critical minerals, and government involvement to drive solar technology advancement in Nigeria, potentially leading to reduced energy poverty and sustainable revenues.

In the era of global AI and robotics advancements, Nigeria continues to face an enduring challenge with persistent unreliable power supply.

For those aged 30 and above, the concept of a consistently uninterrupted weakness of grid power remains elusive.

Nevertheless, a ray of hope emerges from the expansion in its solar energy sector, as Nigeria, a prominent player in sub-Saharan Africa, takes significant strides toward addressing its power woes.

The Rural Electrification Agency (REA), under the Ministry of Power, leads this transformation. Collaborating with the Nigeria Electrification Project, the REA has successfully powered over 44,000 facilities with 5.6 MW of solar photovoltaics as of August 2023, positively impacting the lives of more than 230,000 individuals nationwide.

During the recent Nigeria Energy Conference held in Lagos State, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, the Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), shed illuminating insights on Nigeria’s progress in deploying solar technologies across off-grid locations nationwide.

In his address, Salihijo highlighted that the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has deftly harnessed high-calibre data to inform and direct their initiatives, ensuring well-informed decision-making and precise interventions.

The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) recognizes the critical importance of technical proficiency in ensuring the effective deployment and continuous upkeep of off-grid systems nationwide.

Despite commendable progress in renewable energy, untapped potential persists. Emmanuel Ukpai, COO at Royal Offiaire Integrated Energy, highlights the need for local mineral processing and greater reliance on mini-grids in Nigeria’s renewable energy sector.

Why a shift from mini-grids to standalone systems needs to happen
Emmanuel Ukpai, advocates a shift in Nigeria’s energy strategy, towards favouring standalone solar home systems over mini-grids.

He argues that mini-grids often fail to meet community energy needs due to flaws in load auditing, as exemplified by the situation at Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike in Ebonyi State.

Despite being near the state capital, Abakaliki, the mini-grid there struggles to power the entire campus and relies on diesel generators for support.

Ukpai explains that the initial efficiency of the mini-grid was compromised when students began using heavy appliances like hot plates and irons without proper sensitization about the grid’s limitations. This highlights the need for a reevaluation of Nigeria’s energy solutions.

Supporting data on Nigeria’s critical minerals context
He underscores the cost-saving potential of locally processing key energy transition minerals in Nigeria, such as Cobalt, Lithium, Nickel, Copper, Graphite, and Titanium.

NEITI’s 2021 Solid Minerals Report identifies these resources and highlights top-producing states, including Ogun, Kogi, Edo, Cross River, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

According to NEITI, major export destinations for these minerals were China (87.89%), Malaysia (4.64%), Korea (1.41%), Thailand (1.17%), and the UAE (1.11%).

Ukpai stressed that the advancement of solar technology in Nigeria necessitates proactive government involvement through policies that will drive robust public-private partnerships.

The primary objective should revolve around taking full ownership of the solar manufacturing process, extending beyond batteries, inverter systems, and charge controllers to include the production of solar panels.

He said:

“To have the processing capacity, you need the funding and to liaise with an international manufacturing company. You can have two options:

Allow them to partner in the business (setting up of the manufacturing plants and running of the process). This means they will be actively involved in the business with shared responsibilities among the parties involved.

Contact them to set up these manufacturing plants and train personnel who will oversee the operations here in Nigeria. This will involve setting up institutions where this training can be carried out. If this is not possible, the country can sponsor its citizens to go outside the country and learn about the manufacturing process so they can come back and help run the business”.

He urged the newly appointed Minister of Solid Minerals; Dele Alake to prioritize Nigeria’s critical minerals to ensure sustainable revenues and prevent potential embezzlement.

Also, Experts like Patrick Odiegwu, CEO of Polyguard Investment Nig Ltd, in a chat with Nairametrics emphasized the need for value addition to the country’s mineral resources, highlighting funding, exploration, exploitation, data utilization, processing, and manufacturing as essential factors.

To achieve this, Nigeria must also invest in acquiring up-to-date skills and translating plans into action.

Minister Alake recently revealed a collaboration with the Australian Ministry for Mines and Petroleum, offering Nigerian mining professionals opportunities to study modern mining technology and practices in Western Australia for free.

This knowledge-sharing initiative aims to harness Australia’s expertise in developing a robust mining industry, benefiting Nigerian miners through training, study trips, and professional exchanges.

It is possible and already happening
According to Ukpai, the lack of mineral processing capacity in the country has contributed to the expensive nature of solar technologies in the country. Note that for now, GreenAge Technologies is into inverter system manufacturing and RETTI is also starting to manufacture solar panels, but still on a small scale.

Meanwhile, during a July 14 exclusive interview with Nairametrics, Chuks Umezulora, the Chief Operating Officer at Auxano Solar said the company was planning to launch its second solar component factory in Lagos State. According to him, the new factory is an automated line and has an annual solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity of 100 MW.

If these companies get the right partnerships, they can invest in processing and can go into large-scale production.

“Nigeria can manufacture all these things if they want to. If the government wants to solve their energy problems, then they need to make some changes to their mode of operation. No one can say that it is not profitable to go into manufacturing and yet the Chinese are on top of the game. Are they doing the business for fun”? asks Ukpai.

After processing, then what?

Ukpai shed light on the fact that if processing can be achieved, stakeholders can then provide capital incentives to the consumer through mortgages or financing where they can own solar systems without having to worry about the total initial high cost of capital.

He said:

“If you qualify for the financing, you can buy solar with like a 20%-40% down payment and the rest is split in part payments over 2-5 years. Federal and state workers who will devote almost 30 years of their lives to serving the country can enjoy some of these incentives and the country can also solve high energy poverty challenges.”