Rural electrification: Braving the Odds in 2020

Last December, 31st marked my first 365 days as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). When I was called upon a year ago to take on the responsibility of joining the REA and powering the unserved and the underserved, I resumed with excitement as I looked forward to the impact I and my team can make in this industry, doing the things I have always been passionate about and closing the huge energy gap the nation currently battles with.

At this time, COVID-19 had not hit, neither did we have any idea how much the world was going to change right before our eyes. We never envisioned a pandemic that was ultimately going to disrupt the growth path of development efforts across the world.

After assessing the strain of the pandemic on healthcare delivery, while appreciating the nexus between reliable energy and quality healthcare delivery, it became necessary to move fast along these lines. We quickly deployed four Solar Hybrid Mini-grids in four locations battling with high number of COVID-19 cases. As expected, these interventions since delivery have been powering ventilators, coolers and other critical medical equipment in those locations.

The year 2020 has been one like no other as individuals and agencies across the world have continued to chart new courses for safety and survival. Whenever I am asked what my take-away for 2020 is, I like to explain how important collaboration is when looking to make real changes. The quality and depth of inter-sectorial and inter-agency collaborations we had at the Agency this year have actually resulted in the impact we have recorded, in spite of the pandemic.

We completed 7 mini-grids and deployed over 6,000 Standalone Solar Home Systems to off-grid communities across the nation under the Rural Electrification Fund (REF); 3 mini-grids and 2 grid extension projects were also delivered using the Federal Government’s Capital Appropriation; 3 projects delivered through the Performance-Based Grant of the World-Bank and AfDB-funded Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP); one project delivered under the Energizing Education Programme (EEP). With the delivery of these projects, thousands of new connections have been achieved with quality socio-economic impact being recorded in off-grid communities.

Kicking off my second year in office, there is so much more work to be done. The Federal Government already tasked us with the implementation of Solar Power Naija, a component of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) designed to deliver 5 million new solar connections, serving 25 million Nigerians in rural areas and under-served urban cities.

Within the first quarter of 2021, we plan to kick off deployment of the Energizing Health Programme, designed to energize 100 isolation centers and 400 PHCs, in phases. Also, as we round off delivery of all 12 mini-grids and 19, 000 SHS under the 1st Call of the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), the 2nd Call is underway with more mini-grids to be delivered.

The Standalone Solar Home System (SHS) is proving to be a smart way to deliver energy for use in homes. This component is receiving a lot of quality attention with 7 new SHS developers recently signed under the Output-based Fund (OBF), increasing the number of companies in our portfolio from 12 to 19. The target is to electrify 1 million households and 90, 000 MSMEs through this component.

The 2nd Phase of the Energizing Education Programme (EEP) is underway. We are already carrying out energy audits at EEP Phase 2 beneficiary universities. This programme alone is designed to deliver clean, safe and reliable energy to 37 Federal Universities and 7 Teaching Hospitals across the nation.

I appreciate the guidance of the REA Board as well as the tireless efforts of the entire management and staff members of the REA. With a renewed sense of urgency, we plan to accelerate the deployment of these projects while providing more data-driven interventions to serve the energy needs of Nigerians as mandated by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Join us as we work tirelessly to achieve these goals.

Happy New Year!

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