Off Grid Options for Rural Electrification is Better for Nigeria’s Clean Energy Goals

Four hundred and thirty-eight rural electrification projects were completed by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in 2017 as contained in the 2017 budget. These projects are to ensure the provision of electricity in rural areas to improve access to electricity.

On one hand, the completed projects mean expanding the already burdened grid to accommodate additional load.

On the other hand, although it provided energy to the rural areas, the energy provided cannot be judged clean because of its source. At least 75% of the on-grid electrification projects in the country are thermal-powered.

Electrifying Rural Areas

The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in its 2017 budget, made provision of power to rural areas through 471 projects approved by the government. To achieve this, the agency made provision for the construction of mini-grids and expansion of ‌ grids.

Data available shows that the agency completed 438 of the 471 projects proposed in 2017. This shows a 92.9% rural electrification project performance from the 2017 budget.

Most of the projects were ‌in the north-central region of the country. The region had 103 of the 117 electrification projects completed, as stated in the budget. In the south-south, 77 out of 85 projects were completed and in the north-west,76 of 79 projects were completed.

Measuring the regions based on most projects completed as proposed, the south-west, which has fewer projects, completed most of its projects. Out of 54 projects, 53 were completed, representing 98.12%. At the extreme end is the north-central with 88.03% completion rate. Other regions had a completion performance above 90%.

Increased Climate Change Pressure

While powering the rural areas with increased output in gigawatts, it detracts from   the country’s clean energy progress. As the grids operated by the generation companies (GenCo) are mostly thermal power plants.

These projects are connected to the grid networks, which are mostly thermally powered.

At least 75% of the power supply generated in the country is thermally powered. For example, in 2020 27,324.33 gigawatts (GW) of thermal electricity were produced out of a total output of 35.720.27 GW. Likewise, in 2021, 28,045.9 GW out of 36,367.92 GW thermal-powered electricity was produced.

Details of energy generated in the country from January to June 2022 averaged 3328.4 megawatts (MW) daily.

It is estimated that a thermal electricity generation plant emits 450 grams of carbon per kilowatts (g/kw) of electricity produced. This means that in 2020 and 2021, 13.553 million tons and 13.912 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) were emitted from thermal plants.

Thus, at a daily average of 2496.3 MW of thermal electricity which is 75% of total electricity generated daily and an emission rate of 450 g/kw; 1238.263 million tons of CO2 are emitted daily from the thermal plants.

As thermal-powered electricity generation increases, so does the CO2 emissions. If Nigeria continues its rural electrification projects with thermal-powered energy, the odds against the country’s 2060 goal of zero emissions increases.

The Off-Grid Renewable Energy Option

Electrifying the rural areas using the off-grid option will not only provide clean, sustainable energy, it will also provide revenue to the government and save some cost.

It is estimated ‌that an off-grid electricity project to power 5 million homes will generate additional N7 billion tax revenue for the country annually. Also, powering the same number of rural households will save the country $10 million in import substitution annually.

Nigeria’s rural population is 90.033 million as at 2020 and just 24.6%, representing  22.148 million have access to electricity. At least 67.885 million people in rural areas don’t have access to electricity and with an average of five persons per household, an estimated  13.577 million households do not have access to electricity.

If these 13.577 million households are connected to off-grid electricity, it will generate at least N17.5 billion in tax annually and will save the country at least $25 million in import substitutes annually.

Implementation of the National Electrification Project (NEP) can leverage Nigeria’s  17 MW off-grid energy generation capacity, which will deliver benefits, beyond the proposed coverage, to the country.

The off-grid power generation has recorded success in South Africa, where it provided the most cost-effective rural electrification option. The project’s success in providing off-grid electricity was high as it considered businesses, population growth, and the corresponding load increase. And in the long run, generating revenue for the government.

Rethinking the electrification of rural areas using off-grid technologies will move Nigeria forward in the direction of its clean energy goals, provide energy to households and set the country on course for the attainment of SDGs 7 and 13.

Source: Dataphyte

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