Driving rural electrification through accurate, accessible data

By Philip Clement, Abuja

In Nigeria, access to electricity is one of the major challenges for many households, particularly for those in rural areas. Only 40 percent of the rural population has access to electricity compared to 60 percent in urban areas.

Today, a very large number of Nigerian businesses suffer due to lack of power, especially in the rural communities. Micro and small business operators in the rural areas rely on small power generating sets which end up consuming large amounts of expensive fuel and diesel to power their business.

Another big challenge for the rural electrification network in Nigeria is the lack of accurate data on non-electrified and off-grid communities as well as data on socio-economic factors, such as population clusters and electricity supply levels, which is required for effective electrification planning and execution. More so, the lack of veritable data in this sector leads to faulty planning and results in projects that are not sustainable.

As such, the Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP), a technical assistance programme co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) which is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Power, aims to improve access to electrification data, build manpower capacity and assist in setting up financial mechanisms to support rural electrification projects.

Nigeria SE4ALL Platform to promote electrification throughout the country

In an effort to intensify access to reliable data on electrification in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Power launched with the support of NESP, a robust online platform in November 2020.

The Nigeria Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Platform addresses topics that play into the global SE4ALL Initiative that aims to ensure universal access to modern energy services; to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030 compared to 2010.

Through the Nigeria SE4ALL platform, the government through the Federal Ministry of Power facilitates its effort in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 on energy. The online platform specifically aims to provide access to reliable and accurate data which will facilitate data driven electrification planning in Nigeria.
Since 2018, NESP has worked on mapping the existing grid (11kV and 33kV grid), identifying and mapping settlements in Nigeria and on improving settlement specific data such as existing buildings and land use. All the collected data is fed into the Nigeria SE4ALL Webmap. So far, due to this initiative, 22 Nigerian states have been mapped, spanning over 60,000 km of the electricity grid, almost 4,000 settlements and 32 Mio buildings.

The collected data provides both the public and private sector with the much-needed data to guide their operations.
Besides the interactive Webmap, which helps to find potential mini-grid locations and off-grid settlements, the platform includes the Nigeria SE4ALL Website with information about the SE4ALL initiative, recent electrification developments in Nigeria and live indicators of data gathered to date.

The platform further includes a Data Manager portal to download and edit layers from the Webmap. Additionally, the platform has an integrated Mini-Grid Monitor portal, that lists all existing mini-grids in Nigeria and provides access to monitoring data to better understand the market.

Mini-Grid Projects for rural electrification

Mini-grids, also known as micro grids or isolated grids, generate small scale electricity ranging from 10 kV to 10 MW and can operate independent from the national grid. This makes them an ideal solution for increasing the electrification rate in rural areas. In 2017, during the first phase of NESP, 6 commercial solar mini-grid pilot projects were implemented in 5 states (Niger, Sokoto, Plateau, Ogun and Cross River). These are now providing clean electricity to around 16,000 previously unelectrified people.

In the second phase of the programme, NESP is aiming to scale up electrification rate to reach 138,000 people in the country. To achieve this, NESP in collaboration with the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) set up two tenders, namely the Mini-Grid Acceleration Scheme (MAS) and the Interconnected Mini-Grid Acceleration Scheme (IMAS), aimed at providing financial (in-kind grant) and technical support to the selected mini-grid developers in implementing multiple projects across the country.

Approximately 25 mini-grids are currently under development and should be finalised by the end of 2022.
Against this background, the data gathered under the Nigeria SE4ALL project supports private developers in their project planning, especially on the required system size as the platform provides details about community size and type of buildings (business or households) and will accelerate the electrification rate of the country.

To further support sustainable energy solutions in rural areas, NESP is exploring electric transportation solutions. An electric bike pilot project in the Gbamu Gbamu community in Ogun State, one of the mini-grid communities supported under NESP I, has proven that the use of e-bikes fosters local businesses, as transportation in rural areas is facilitated by the electric bikes. The company Max Nigeria constructed an e-bike charger station that is directly charged by the solar mini-grid in Gbamu Gbamu.

Presently, about 100 mini-grids have been installed in Nigeria and concrete plans to accelerate the construction of further mini-grids are in place. Additionally, the number of domestic and international mini-grid developers is continuously growing and provides the basis for NESP to scale up this approach. A workshop to present the achievements and lessons learned so far in Gbamu Gbamu as well as next steps to roll out the approach to other sites is planned to hold in the first quarter of 2022.

Strengthening capacity of local partners

In strengthening the capacity of local partners, NESP is offering trainings to public partners such as FMP, REA and the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) on Geo-Information System (GIS) based electrification planning and monitoring.

So far, 3 training modules out of a 4-module training programme customised for FMP staff have been conducted, and GIS trainings for other organisations in the sector are available upon request.
Consequently, a Nigeria SE4ALL E-learning Platform was originally developed for FMP staff who were not able to participate in the physical trainings, and for those who wanted to refresh their acquired knowledge from the past trainings.

The platform, including a variety of training materials and recordings, will be open to the general public to enroll for free self-paced courses at the beginning of 2022.

In the same vein, 9 remote mapathons were conducted with nearly 200 Nigerian students and young professionals in participation, among which 1/3 were female participants. During the sessions, over 75,000 buildings were mapped in the off-grid area of Kogi, Yobe, and Imo states, contributing directly to the base data which will support electrification planning.

Also, NESP has continued to develop the capacity of the local mini-grid developers through periodic structured trainings and ready-made modules on technical design, monitoring and evaluation and leadership.

In the process, the exercise resulted in over 60 local developers being trained in collaboration with the World Bank-Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), aiming at increasing access to electricity services for households, public educational institutions, and underserved Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Information on of the activities supported by the Nigerian Energy Support Programme are also found on the NESP portal via nesp@giz.de.

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