June 19, 2021

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Powering Unity Schools with solar energy

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The 104 Unity Schools and 200 health centres in the country should in the next one year benefit from the Energy for all programme, reports JOHN OFIKHENUA.

 

As Nigerians grapple with an energy deficit, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has come up with the Energy for All scheme. It is to bridge the energy gap. The agency is primarily to light up the 104 Unity Schools with Solar Home Systems (SHS).

Recently, the illumination of the school environment has become critical and urgent. The spate of onslaughts on different academic communities for kidnapping and robbery has called for all day long electricity supply for the Unity Schools as well.

With solar energy, the schools can accomplish their reading schedule without drawback from outages. The schools can carry out the practical in their laboratories with ease. Therefore, renewable that is highly reliable has been described as the best energy option to light up the Unity Schools.

On this note, the Federal Government is implementing an off-grid electrification programme for the deployment of solar electrification projects in primary healthcare centres, unity schools and households in vulnerable off-grid communities across the country. This programme is being delivered by the Federal Ministry of Power through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

Tagged ‘Energy for All – Mass Rural Electrification’, the programme is being implemented under the National Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) geared towards supporting the country’s economic recovery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad led-REA is the driver of the initiative, which has the following components that are complemented by technical assistance and program management: the deployment of mini-grids at 200 PHC’s and provision of Solar Street Lights to adjoining communities and the distribution of Solar Home Systems (SHS’s) to 104 unity schools and provision of Solar Street Lights within the campuses.

The programme will be implemented over a 12-month period and is funded from Federal Government appropriation.

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Upon completion, the programme will enable job creation, energy access to unserved and underserved areas across the geopolitical zones of the country. Interestingly, it will contribute to the attainment of the Federal Government’s plan of having at least 30 per cent of its total electricity supply from renewable sources, majorly solar power by 2030.

Besides, the processes are in advanced stages for World Bank financing under the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP) to further close the energy gap in the health sector through the deployment of solar-hybrid captive power solutions to 100 secondary and tertiary health facilities which have also served as isolation and treatment centres across the country.

Through these programmes, health centres, unity schools and communities will be strengthened with reliable power to deal with health cases, provide a conducive environment for quality education delivery and an improved standard of living.

In line with global best practice, all components and interventions being driven under the ESP of the Federal Government of Nigeria have been deliberately designed to optimize the best in renewable energy technologies, mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while closing the energy gap across the nation.

Minister of Power Sale Mamman has promised that the deployment of a solar power grid to 200 Primary Health Centres (PHC) and 104 Unity Schools will be completed in 12 months. He confirmed that the ‘Energy for All – Mass Rural Electrification’ programme will be delivered by the Federal Ministry of Power through the REA.

According to him, ” the programme will be implemented over a 12-month period and is funded from Federal Government appropriation”.

The Ministry’s Press and Public Relations Unit, Deputy Director, Mr Austin Asoluka, disclosed this in a statement. The statement stressed that the programme which is under the National Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), is to support the country’s economic recovery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asoluka quoted the Mamman as saying “solar power mini-grids will be deployed to 200 PHC with the provision of solar-powered street lights to the host communities. At the 104 unity schools, the government will distribute Solar Home Systems (SHS) while providing solar-powered street lights within the campuses”.

Continuing, the minister explained that upon completion, the programme will enable job creation, improve energy access and help the federal government to attain 30 per cent of renewable energy contributing to the power sources by 2030.

He revealed that the agency is advancing processes with the World Bank financing under the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP) to close the energy gap in the health sector. Through this, according to him, the Agency will deploy hybrid solar power solutions to 100 secondary and tertiary health facilities which have also served as isolation and treatment centres.

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The COVID -19 has to a reasonable extent a blessing in disguise. Recalled that Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo had recently noted that: “Another challenge which became an opportunity for us was the Covid-19 and our response to that which as many know was the Economic Sustainability Plan.

“The President’s vision around that plan was that rather than have situations where people lose jobs and opportunities; we could take the opportunities of Covid-19 to create more jobs. We could take the opportunities of the economic fallout to create more opportunities for the Nigerian people.

“So the President approved that we should do these five million solar home connections across the country which would mean that 25 million Nigerians would have power. But not just that, there will be jobs around those who will manufacture, those who will assemble the solar systems, those who will install them will have jobs, those who will maintain them will have jobs and those who will also supply the payment systems and maintain the payment systems will also have jobs.”

He explained that the N140 billion finance programme will support private developers to provide power to the households.

Osinbajo stressed that the initiative is a partnership programme with the private driving the connections, supported by concessionaire lending by the Central Bank of Nigeria and commercial banks.

Under its Solar Home System (SHS) Programme, the agency has executed the 6, 805 Solar Home Systems deployed across six States (Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Kaduna, Akwa-Ibom, Katsina). They are designed to deliver mini-grids to 12 communities and 19, 000 SHS in total.

The REA has a robust history of energising academic communities with the Energizing Education Programme. Last year, Salihijo Ahmad dropped the hint that the development of renewable energy which had resulted in the commissioning of several projects till the last days of the year would continue this year. Therefore, the agency made good its promise with the inauguration of the energy for all programme- a continuation of intervention in unserved and underserved areas.

It was through its Energizing Education Programme (EEP), the agency commissioned some of its projects in 2020. It was the 8.2MW Solar Hybrid Mini-grid in Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi (FUAM), Benue State, which is serving over 17, 000 students and staff members. The project consists of a workshop and training centre designed to train the EEP-STEM interns. It also has 470 solar streetlights installed to ensure security on campus.

The agency has so far through the EEP, energized BUK, and Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike (FUNAI) under the EEP. A total of 18.5MW already deployed under the EEP, with 100 STEM interns trained at the Workshop and Training Centers, 740 jobs created.

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The agency has also under its EEP Phase II Term Sheets Signed projects for implementation in Uni Abuja; NDA; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture; Federal University Gashua; the University of Calabar and University Teaching Hospital; Calabar. Under the EEP, the agency is also implementing projects in the University Teaching Hospital Abeokuta; the University of Maiduguri and the University Teaching Hospital. REA in its term sheets that The Nation obtained in Abuja said ” (These Term Sheets kicks off deeper engagements with the EEP Phase II beneficiary institutions. Upon completion, all these institutions will be energized with clean, safe and reliable energy).”

While the COVID-19 was exceedingly severe, the agency intervened with four projects implementation through the deployment of solar hybrid mini-grids in University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Isolation Centre – 53.1kWp; NCDC public health lab, Lagos – 25kW; 128-bed Isolation Centre, Ikenne, Ogun State – 20kW; 100-bed Iberekodo Isolation Centre, Ogun State – 10kW. According to the agency, “these interventions will be scaled up to 100 isolation centres and 400PHCs, to be deployed in phases.”

Under the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), it implemented three projects in 2020. They include the Akipkelai and Oloibiri in Bayelsa State now being powered by a 134.64kW solar hybrid mini-grid. It serves about 364 households. The projects also include the Shimankar, in Plateau State now powered by a 234kW, serving 1,972 households, 273 commercial users in the community. It has culminated in the creation of over 200 jobs in the construction phase of these projects. The three communities are being powered under the NEP Performance-Based Grant (PBG).

Similarly, there is the NEP SHS through which seven new SHS developers signed in under the Output-based Fund (OBF), increasing the number of companies in the agency portfolio from 12 to 19. According to the plan, the target is to electrify 1 million households and 90, 000 MSMEs through this component.

Toward the end of 2020, the agency launched the Solar Power Naija for the electrification of 5 million households, to serve about 25 million Nigerians in rural areas and under-served urban communities. It is also planned to create about 250,000 jobs in the energy sector.