According to Mr Godfrey Ogbemudia, from the Community Research and Development Centre (CREDC), a partner in the project, electricity is supplied by the solar facility for four hours a day, from 6pm to 10pm. A further two to eight hours of electricity can be enjoyed through the use of individual battery packs, with a prepayment keypad meter installed in each household.
For the people of Ofetebe, farming and fishing are the main occupations. But despite the high level of agricultural activities, there is no good access road in the area, which contributes to the high price of kerosene, used as fuel for lanterns.
Before solar energy made its way into the community, much of their little and hard-earned income from agricultural produce was spent on purchasing non-renewable energy sources. This not only increased poverty, but also the stress of sourcing kerosene during times of scarcity.
As an unsustainable energy source, kerosene can also be harmful to health. The continuous inhaling of CO2 has exposed people to respiratory ailments. The community clinic did not have electricity supply, forcing health workers to close before it was dark.
Poor energy access also meant there was no access to clean and drinkable water. Now, solar energy powers the community borehole, providing water for the community and reducing dependence on rainwater and river water.
With its benefits for healthcare, education, productivity, and quality of community life, the solar energy project in Ofetebe could prove to be a role-model for renewable energy solutions in Nigeria. The energy sector is of great strategic importance to the national economy, and a major driver for growth. But the country is facing an energy crisis, with only 50.6 % of the population connected to the grid (UNDP, 2015).
According to the World Bank’s 2014 statistics, Nigeria has an estimated population of 178 million people and an installed generating capacity of 12,522 MW of electricity. When comparted to South Africa, which has a population of 53.6 million and an installed generating capacity of 44,000 MW of electricity, the scale of the challenge facing Nigeria becomes clear.
On average, Nigerians consume 126 kwh of electricity per person per year. South Africa’s annual electricity consumption per capita is approximately 4,800 kwh, or times more. This illustrates the severity of the power generation gap in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, with a GDP of $521.8 billion. South Africa is second with $350.6 billion.
According to the Federal Government’s 2010 Power Reform Roadmap Report, Nigerians spend over twice as much on self-generated light and power, using candles, diesel, and petrol, as they do on grid-based electricity. At least 6,000 MW is generated using petrol and diesel generators.
This represents a financial burden on Nigerians, of between $6.7 and $10.47-billion, compared to grid-based power. This is not counting the premature deaths and chronic ailments resulting from breathing polluted air, and the harmful environmental impact effects of the greenhouse gases emitted through the burning of fossil fuels.
Nigeria is endowed with oil and natural resources, and yet the country has never had an adequate supply of electricity. This is likely to worsen, as the country’s population increases and economic development puts greater strain on energy capacity.
With the gradual diminishing of fossil fuel reserves, and renewed efforts to save the eco-system from global warming, many nations are turning to alternative sources to meet their energy demands. In Nigeria, the energy crisis leaves many industries running at high cost and keeps many private homes in blackout.
Rural electrification presents a daunting task, since populations are often dispersed across difficult terrain, raising the cost of per-consumer investment and making service quality difficult to maintain. About 80 per cent of electricity generation in Africa is through fossil fuel. Fossil fuel-based power generation is the most expensive form of energy globally, yet it is the largest source of electricity generation in Nigeria.
The good news is that solar energy has emerged as alternative to grid-based electrification. Nigeria’s annual average of daily solar radiation is as high as high 7 kWh/m2/day in the northern border region, and about 3.5kWh/m2/day in the coastal regions. This means that the annual average of daily hours of sunshine varies from 9 hours in the north to 4 hours in the south.