Nigeria lies within a high sunshine belt and thus has enormous solar energy potentials. As power supply remains an issue in the country, the need to exploit the huge renewable energy resources we are blessed with cannot be over-emphasized.
Experts have placed the mean annual average of total solar radiation between 3.5 kWhm–2day-1 in the coastal latitudes to about 7 kWhm–2day-1 along the semi-arid areas in the far north. On the average, the country receives solar radiation at the level of about 19.8 MJm–2 day-1.
It is in recognition of this, that the Federal Government in its Vision 30:30:30 set the target to achieve 32,000 MW of available generation capacity on the grid by 2030 with 30 per cent renewable energy (RE) penetration. This ambitious target emanates from our collective pursuit for energy security.
It is in line with the above goal and target that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in its 2012 Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO 2) published an attractive Feed-in –Tariff (42 cents/kwh) and the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) expressed the willingness to embrace renewable technology in its energy mix and thereby, cushion the negative impacts of gas shortages/challenges.
Consequently, between 2014 and 2016, over 30 solar IPP approached NBET, after being registered by NERC through an unsolicited procurement process with the intention of developing RE-based IPP projects. These developers exhibited high interest mainly due to the attractiveness of the solar feed in tariff (42 cents/kWh). It was based on these initial commitments and enthusiasm of both government and private developers that a 5 – year Global Environment Facility (GEF) –supported project titled ‘De-Risking Renewable Energy NAMA (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action) for Nigerian Power Sector’ was approved for the country.
At a two-day stakeholders’ forum on training manual/curriculum for developers of interconnected mini-grids (ICM): business plan development and loan application procedures organized by the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP-GEF) in collaboration with relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), mini-grid developers, discos and development partners/donors in Lagos, the director-general of the Electricity Company of Nigeria (ECN), Prof. Eli Bala, said the original vision of the project was to catalyze private sector investments in grid-connected renewable energy (solar PV) with the 100 MW Solar-PV project of the Nigerian Solar Capital in Bauchi State as the “demonstration on-grid Solar-PV”.
However, he explained that due to the overwhelming inherent risks in large-scale RE development in the country, none of the prospective private investors (initially, 14 IPPs) registered had been able to reach financial close.
“Consequently, the project was re-designed to re-focus on the development of interconnected mini-grids, which seems to face lesser challenges and risks. Recognizing the limited skills and experience of mini- grid developers and other key industry stakeholders, in 2020, the UNDP-GEF Project on ‘De-risking Renewable energy NAMA in the Nigerian Power Sector’ developed a comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable training manual/curriculum for interconnected mini-grids development in Nigeria,” he said.
Represented by the national project director of the UNDP-GEF, De-risking Renewable Energy, NAMA, Engr. Okon Ekpeyong, the ECN boss said the training manual/curriculum or guidebook took detailed look at all the knowledge required for a developer in the mini-grid space to be able to successfully execute interconnected min-grids in Nigeria.
He pointed out that the manual “covers all the major aspects of required knowledge and skills to start, execute and run a Mini Grid plant in Nigeria”, adding it is still in the draft form, having not been reviewed and validated.
Speaking exclusively to Science Nigeria, the national project manager, UNDP-GEF, De-risking Renewable Energy, NAMA, Engr. Isaac Ierve, said the workshop was therefore to subject the draft manual to experts’ peer review, while creating opportunity for stakeholders to scrutinize it and thereby enhance buy-in and ownership by all mini-grid developers who are expected to be the end-users of the knowledge product.
“The main objective of the validation workshop is to ensure that the texts in the training manual flows logically; is coherent and consistent; forms a meaningful whole; is clearly expressed; is accurate in the information it provides; has an appropriate tone; is concise; makes its purpose clear; and is targeted towards the end-users (mini-grid developers),” he added.
A representative from the department of climate change of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Olanrenaju Akintola, said energy issues were one of the most troublesome issues in the country, adding “it is a good thing that we are taking the right step in the right direction because the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step and we are heading in the right direction in terms of validating a manual that will boost the development of the mini-grids sub sector.”
Commenting on the development, a private sector developer, the chief executive officer of ACOB Lighting Tech. Ltd, Alex Obiechina, thanked UNDP-GEF and the ECN for their “genuine interest” in ensuring the sector thrives.
“Sincerely, I think when the conversation started, as developers what is peculiar with the mini-grid space was there was a lot of experiment, so in the course of this experiment there will be lessons learnt, failures and successes; and to understand that there are agencies, bodies which is actually interested in tracking how this risk are mitigated to ensure that the sector thrives is a welcome development to us.”
In his remarks, the head technical facilitator, Lagos Energy Academy, Engr. Adetutu Adelekan, appreciated the workshop organisers for providing a platform for capacity building as according to him, it is the big gap in most projects, pointing out that every project should always have a little bit of capacity building to train and re-train engineers on new technologies.
“In 2019 we had in collaboration with NAPTIN and other agencies, we had a training of its kind on solar installation which was very impactful and we are very happy to be involved in the validation of this training manual because training is a continuous thing,” he said.
Adelekan said it was a welcome development to have more documents, papers, research for trainers to help both upcoming engineers, developers and everybody in the mini-grid space to learn more.