Leveraging solar power to engender regular electricity supply

For Kare-Dadin Kowa community which had been without reliable electricity supply for years on end, the commissioning of a 9.8mw hybrid plant by the Federal Government last week marked a new dawn for the rice and millet-growing border town. SULAIMON OLANREWAJU reports.

According to Adeyemi A. Ogundipe and Ayomide Apata in a paper, Electricity Consumption and Economic Growth in Nigeria, poor access to electricity has been a major impediment to the nation’s economic growth. They stress that while Small and Medium-sized Enterprises have been adjudged as the engine of economic growth, the performance of these businesses in Nigeria is grossly dismal as a result of inadequate power supply. This assertion is corroborated by a 2018 study by Ukoima Kelvin Nkalo and Ekwe Ogbonnaya Agwu both of the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, which shows that for every one per cent increase in electricity supply, an economy grows by 3.94 per cent.

To energise rural communities and empower them to contribute meaningfully to the nation’s economic growth, the Federal Government has embarked on the deployment of solar power as a vehicle to supplying uninterrupted electricity to less-urban communities. The light up Nigeria train, manned by the Rural Electricity Agency (REA), landed at Kare-Dadin Kowa Community in Arewa Local Government Area of Kebbi last week as the Federal Government commissioned a 98.8KW solar hybrid mini grid power plant.

For Kare-Dadin Kowa, a small riverine community whose major economic activities are agriculture and fishing, not only does the new plant symbolize better life and greater opportunities, it also means improved economic activities for the community as well as the nation as a whole. With the inauguration of the 98.8kw, which is more than one per cent of the current 7,000mw capacity of the country, the nation’s economy is also expected to witness a growth of about four per cent.

Therefore, residents of the community could not hide their exhilaration as they saw their dream of reliable electricity fulfilled with the inauguration of the plant. The old ones were very appreciative, the not too young were joyous and the young ones were excited as they lined the street to witness the historic moment. The traditional troupes’ added merriment as they sang and danced to the admiration of invited guests. It was indeed a significant moment for a community which had gotten accustomed to darkness as the son goes into recess.

The newly inaugurated solar hybrid mini grid plant would provide clean energy to 483 residential buildings, schools, places of worships, health centres, 82 commercial buildings which would also serve over 3,000 inhabitants of Kare-Dadin Kowa community.

Implemented by Rural Electrification Agency (REA) under its Rural Electrification Fund (REF), the Fund strives to maximize the economic, social and environmental benefits of rural electrification grants, to promote off-grid electrification, and to stimulate innovative approaches to rural electrification.

While applauding the grassroots oriented administration led by President Buhari, the Minister of Power, Mr. Saleh Mamman, congratulated all parties involved and stated that the inauguration was the beginning as his ministry was committed to electrifying Nigeria.

He said, “Under my leadership, the Ministry of Power will continue to provide requisite policy interventions to ensure that transformative projects like this will have the desired impact of electrifying Nigeria.”

In his remark, Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Bagudu, commended President Buhari-led administration’s Next Level Road Map in rural electrification and noted that “the solar hybrid mini-grid will expand and transform the economic landscape of Kebbi State.

The governor, who was represented by Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development, Alhaji Aminu Umar,  said, “Small businesses like welders, cold rooms, as well as processing mills can now operate more effectively with reliable and clean electricity as a result of this project. This solar installation has 380 panels that will provide electricity to over 3,000 residents of this community. We are the land of equity and this project is further ensuring the distribution of equitable power to the people of Kebbi State.

“My vision is to industrialise Kebbi, making it an economic business hub. This is why we have focused on the provision of electricity within Kebbi State by partnering and supporting on-grid providers, with new transformers and injection of funds to stabilise and ensure constant power supply to the state.

“This power project’s impact will also be felt in other sectors, in tourism for example. With an available supply of clean energy, commerce and industrial activities will increase in the state. We all aspire for a fully electrified Nigeria, and we will achieve this with your continued support and dedication,” he said.

In his address, the representative of managing director of Rural Electrification Agency and Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare, extolled the commitment of Federal Government by staying true to its words.

He said, “Kare-Dadin Kowa community is the second of 12 communities earmarked to benefit from Rural Electrification Fund (REF) grants. The project being commissioned here today, is implemented by the Rural Electrification Agency, with the goal of providing equitable access to electricity across Nigeria. Today, REA provides electricity to 82 commercial businesses, 482 residences and over 3,180 residents (including women and children). I must state that these are exciting times because history is being made in Kare-Dadin Kowa, Kebbi State and in Nigeria as a whole.

“Not only have the people of Kare-Dadin Kowa been provided with access to stable electricity, but also, this project provided job opportunities for the industrious people of this community in engineering, construction and project management.  Thanks to the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Next level Roadmap, more Nigerians can look forward to a Nigerian dream, where access to stable power is no longer dependent on alternative sources of electricity that are harmful to our health and the environment.”

Ohiare expressed his appreciation to the Kare-Dadin Kowa community for their openness and support, the private sector developer, Nayo Tropical Technology Limited for delivering the project to its full capacity and also his team in the Rural Electrification Agency, particularly to the MD/CEO, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, for the guidance and tenacity in ensuring that the various initiatives earmarked under the Rural Electrification Fund come to fruition.

Expressing his delight to the initiative which had brought his community out of perpetual darkness, the district head of the community, Alhaji Musa Maina Jantullu, said he recognized the significance of the project and delighted to be one of the beneficiary communities.

He added, “This community has been in darkness for too long and this is why myself and my community are grateful to the Federal Government and the people of the Rural Electrification Agency, for counting us worthy to benefit from solar technology. There is no doubt that the electricity will improve the way of life of my people, intellectual ability of our students by having electricity to read. This is an agrarian community which produces the best and largest rice and millet in Nigeria. As a border community, this will, undoubtedly, develop our community. I am elated, my subjects are joyous and we promise to protect and sustain it.”

In his goodwill message, the Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Muhammed Mera, who was represented by Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan, said, “This is especially gratifying for us and our rural communities in Kebbi State.  We can now experience what we would normally refer to as “the city life” now that we will have access to reliable and stable electricity. We are a small fishing and agricultural community so this is a major development as new business opportunities in milling, processing, storage and fishery will now become a reality for our industrious people. I appreciate the dedication of the Federal Government of Nigeria in ensuring that Nigerians, irrespective of their geographical locations, can now have access to constant electricity.”

Anayo Okenwa, MD/CEO of Nayo Tropical Technology Limited, said, “As an indigenous firm, we are proud to have leveraged the skills and capacity of our host community, in addition to providing the enabling environment for skilled labour and job creation.”

In his vote of thanks, Director, Rural Electrification Fund, Bulus Maiyaki, commended the relentlessness of President Muhammadu Buhari in seeing that Nigerians have increased access to clean and reliable electricity in their homes, businesses and schools.  He also gave kudos to the efforts of the Ministry of Power, the National Assembly and their Committees on Power, in creating an enabling environment for the successful implementation of Rural Electrification Fund projects across the country.

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