The Power of Decentralized Renewables: Transforming Underserved Communities in Nigeria

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Millions of people in Nigeria lack reliable electricity, hindering education, healthcare, and economic prospects, especially in remote areas. However, decentralized renewable energy (DRE) offers hope. These localized systems bypass traditional grid limitations and provide clean, reliable, and affordable electricity where it’s most needed.
REAN, a body of Nigerian renewable energy professionals, is leading the campaign, with the support of All-On an organization on a mission to increase access to commercial energy products and services for underserved and unserved off-grid energy markets in Nigeria. Recognizing DRE potential, they collectively aim to raise awareness, advocate for policy changes, and attract investment. Their ambitious goal? 40 per cent renewables in the national energy mix by 2030, empowering underserved communities through the DRE adoption.
The Plight of Underserved Communities – Underserved communities in Nigeria lack basic infrastructure, including electricity. These communities fall into two categories, namely, Rural areas with scattered populations, making grid extension expensive, and Fast-growing settlements near cities that lack proper infrastructure.
The lack of electricity severely impacts them in the areas of Education, where dim lighting hinders children’s studies, Healthcare, where essential medical equipment relies on electricity, Economy, where businesses struggle to operate, and social well-being, where darkness creates security concerns and restricts social interaction.
Nigeria’s grid struggles to reach remote areas due to high costs (long distances, low population) and maintenance challenges. In fact, utility companies prioritize expansion in profitable areas, leaving many Nigerians without electricity. However, Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) offers a solution, providing energy independence for underserved communities.
Decentralized Renewables – Decentralized renewable energy (DRE) bypasses grid limitations, using sun, wind, or biomass to generate electricity. There are three key DRE options for Nigeria:
Solar Home Systems (SHS): Provide basic power for a single home, and ideal for individual needs. They are quite affordable, too.
Mini-grids: Power entire communities with renewables and battery storage. With an easy installation and low maintenance, this should readily be embraced by community leaders.
Biogas Systems: Generate clean cooking fuel and electricity from organic waste. This is particularly built to foster an effortlessly clean environment.
The Ripple Effect of Empowering Transformation – DRE goes beyond just electricity. It empowers communities when extended lighting allows income-generating activities at night, fostering local businesses and job creation in installation and maintenance. Another effect shines through when street lights improve safety and communication, while reliable power in schools and healthcare facilities leads to a healthier and more educated population. Again, DRE reduces reliance on fossil fuels, lowering emissions and promoting sustainable waste management with biogas systems.
Once reliant on kerosene lamps and polluting coal pots, a village in Kwara State embraced clean energy thanks to entrepreneur Kudirat Saliu’s campaign with her partner NGO – Solar Sister. Now, their homes have reliable electricity, allowing children to study at night, safer cooking pots, and residents now pursue income-generating activities in the evenings.
A Collective Effort to Illuminate the Future – Widespread DRE adoption requires collaboration from these three stakeholders.
Policymakers should create incentives like feed-in tariffs, tax breaks, and streamlined permitting. Fund training programs for local communities on operating and maintaining DRE systems.
The private sector needs to invest in DRE technologies for underserved areas and develop innovative financing models (micro-financing, pay-as-you-go) with NGOs or financial institutions.
Communities should embrace training programs, explore DRE options, and conduct feasibility studies to find the best solution for their needs.
Imagine a Nigeria powered by clean, affordable energy. Homes lit, businesses booming, healthcare accessible, children learning – DREs can make this a reality. It’s a future of empowered communities and positive change. Unlocking this potential requires collaboration – policymakers, the private sector, and communities all playing their part. Together, we can illuminate a brighter, more sustainable future for Nigeria.