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‘How Nigeria can decentralise electricity access’

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
23 September 2022   |   4:00 am
Stakeholders have insisted that unless Nigeria decentralise, decarbonise and digitalise electricity access, prevailing challenges in the sector may persist.

[FILES] Electricity pylons<br />REUTERS/Neil Hall

•AEDC insists minigrid critical to Nigeria’s epileptic national grid
Stakeholders have insisted that unless Nigeria decentralise, decarbonise and digitalise electricity access, prevailing challenges in the sector may persist.

This is coming as the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) stated that the country must leverage mini grids in an attempt to find solutions to the challenges facing the national electricity grid.

Recall that the national grid, operated from Osogbo in Osun State, has been facing repeated collapse. Since privatisation of the power sector, the grid has collapsed over 140 times, a development which poses losses to electricity consumers, the generation and distribution companies.

While the nation had launched an energy transition plan to align with the global push towards net-zero, decarbonisation of the grid, which comprises less than 2,000 megawatts of renewable (hydropower) of the 12, 000 megawatts installed electricity capacity in the country, remained a concern for stakeholders.

Chief Business Officer (AEDC), Sani Usman, had noted that there was a need for utility companies to collaborate using modern technological solutions.

“Traditional electric utility models across the globe are continuously facing policy shifts and technological changes,” Usman said in a presentation delivered at the Energy Conference in Lagos.

According to him, without the collaboration, decentralising, decarbonising and digitalising electricity access in the country may remain a mirage.

Usman said the increasing emergence of decentralised energy actors following the need to provide affordable, reliable, and clean energy in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7) further increased the need to decentralise, decarbonise and digitalise.

“As captains in our respective traditional utilities, we do not see this evolution as a threat, rather, as a huge opportunity to maximise value via various collaborations and initiatives we are currently driving.

“Statistics show that despite the decreasing cost of renewable energy technologies (solar panels and batteries) over the years, the market entry cost to the average Nigerian is still high, considering the average energy burden and economic realities. Thus, partnerships between private developers of renewable energies with traditional utilities remain vital to guarantee affordability (via blended tariff), viability, and sustainability of clean and renewable energy projects,” Usman said.

Noting that progress has been made by some utilities in redefining strategies to improve key collaboration with various third parties/developers to meet customers’ rising energy demand and reliability needs, Usman said there need to intensify given ageing infrastructure and limited flexibility of network assets to accommodate the variability of some renewable energy sources.

Usman noted that the government must collaborate with the private sector to achieve projected turnaround in terms of decentralisation, decarbonisation and digitalisation.

Stating that AEDC had co-sponsored the energy conference as part of deliberate strategy to position and reinforce, Usman the company’s commitment to being at the forefront of beneficial collaboration in the best interest of consumers.

He disclosed that the collaborative options in the sector could come in the form of Mini-Grid and Distributed Energy Systems (DES) for unserved and underserved customers/clusters, sub-franchising of Clusters/Network Assets and Digitalisation of Key functions/operations, to drive efficiency.

Usman said: “Despite the challenges within the sector, the role of traditional utilities in scaling projects towards the attainment of SDG 7 remain critical given their already existing network coverage, rich industry experience, and understanding of realities on ground.”

AEDC Chief Marketing Officer, Donald Etim noted that a connected mini grid remained the way to go to unlock the bottlenecks currency bedevilling the country’s centralised electricity grid.

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