Powering higher institutions through off-grid solutions
Absence of adequate power in Nigeria’s higher institutions limits capacity utilisation and makes learning environment difficult for both students and teachers. Laboratories and technical facilities cannot operate efficiently hence the students’ performance is hampered.
Nigeria’s 11 electricity distribution companies who have these institutions as part of their franchise areas have proven to be woefully inadequate to power these institutions. Power supply currently hovers around 3,500 and this is insufficient for a country of over 180 million people. South Africa generates over 40,000MW for about 50 million people.
In a bid to address this situation, the Federal Government, through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with eight (8) Federal Universities and one Teaching Hospital for the first phase of the Federal Government’s Energizing Education Programme (FGEEP) on June 20.
The goal is to seek alternative means to resolve power challenges in institutions of higher learning in the country, by providing uninterrupted power supply for 37 Federal Universities and 7 Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria through the utilization of off grid captive power plants capable of generating up to 10MW.
According to the agency, the programme will also install street lighting to enhance security measures on campuses, develop and eventually extend this uninterrupted power to improve quality of life and economic opportunities in the surrounding rural communities.
The first phase of the exercise, to be completed in 2018, would include 9 institutions and would benefit over 300,000 students and staff members. Seven of the nine planned power plants (10.5MW out of a total of 26.56MW) will be fuelled by solar energy, in line with the Federal Government’s energy–mix policy.
The universities and teaching hospital that signed the MoU with the REA, include Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi; Bayero University Kano; Usman Danfodio University Sokot; Federal University of Agriculture, Markurdi; Nnamdi Azikiwe University Anambra; University of Lagos, Akoka; Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Delta; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile- Ife and the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing stated that the launch of EE programme is in line with the objective of engaging the private sector in developing off-grid captive power projects for the provision of adequate power supply to thirty seven (37) federal universities and seven (7) university teaching hospitals (UTH) across the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In order to achieve this aim, an extensive energy demand study has been undertaken at each university to determine their actual power requirements, electrical distribution networks and identifying land for the installation of conventional and renewable Captive Power Plants.
The anticipated socio-economic benefits attached to this rural electrification access intervention are significant, and not only largely impacts the power, education and health care sectors, but also provides a measure to ensure that Nigeria achieves its targets contained in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), under the Paris agreement.
The REA hopes that the programme will assist in the enhancement of education and systems at tertiary level, deepen access to electric power in rural communities, promote a decentralised multi-demographic approach to infrastructure delivery and development of renewable energy projects.
According to the MoU, partners to the project include the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Federal Ministry of Education, Bureau of Public Procurement, National Universities Commission, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Department for International Development, World Bank, EPC and OEM contractors and the participating universities.
Analysts have lauded these initiatives as all over the world renewable energies are enjoying greater prominence. A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a body that collects data on renewable energy globally, said that additional 161GW capacity was added in 2016.
This is an 8.7 percent increase from capacity obtained in 2015 and data shows that even the African continent were renewable energy investments have been slow saw uptick in capacity by over 4 percent. Increased investments from countries like Morocco and South Africa helped Africa to achieve a 4.2 percent increase over 2015 figures. This off-grid project could further boost efforts to decarbonise the atmosphere.
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