By John Meze
The federal government has resolved to develop about 37 independent power plants(IPPS) for the 37 federal universities and seven teaching hospitals in the rural areas of the country.
According to the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, at the inauguration of the reconstituted board of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), the government would, also, build independent power grids from there to connect adjoining rural and unconnected communities.
The Minister, who described the project as one of the anchors for implementing rural access, further informed the reconstituted board members that at least 27 of the these IPPs would be solar powered and which would be the heart of the matter because President Buhari understands the increasing emergence of renewable energy sources, like solar power from the fringes of the energy debate to the mainstream.
“This is why he was one of the first leaders to append his signature on behalf of Nigeria to the Paris agreement.”
“Most importantly he understands the appeal of renewables generally and Solar in particular to the global youth population and Nigeria’s youth.”
“He understands how impactful a small solar plant can be to a barber, hairdresser, small food processing plant and small businesses generally where our youth are participating in making their contribution to our national development,” he said.
Adding that the President understands and appreciates the role that young people played in building the nation and driving the economy, he said that, that was why he has appointed young people to the leadership and management of the agency, to deliver not only on the promise of their generation but also on the expectation of millions of unconnected people who are living without electricity.
Others, he said, are the completion of over 2000 Grid extension projects that started life as constituency projects since 1999 but have now either been abandoned or uncompleted and the resuscitation of 6 (SIX) small Hydro dams and activation of their power component, which have received Federal Executive Council (FEC), approval, have been advertised, and we have received Expressions of Interest which we are evaluating.
The Minister, who, also expressed the expectation that the new team will be able to build on whatever is left behind by the past regimes in country, enjoined them to improve on it and ultimately achieve the purpose for which the agency was set up.
Former Governor Raji Fashola while reminding the new board that their duty would be to provide access to electricity for millions of Nigerians who are yet to be connected to the grid, said, “it is called a ‘Rural’ Electrification Agency, there are many urban and suburban communities that still lack access to power because they have not been connected to the national grid.”
“Part of the reason for this lack of access is that the 330/132 KV and 132/33 KV lines (popularly called the high-tension wires), by which this connection is often made, run over long distances covering several hundreds of kilometers.”
He explained that the cost of extending these lines to communities is expensive and where the population in such communities is not large, the price of their electricity will be high because it will be borne by a few people.
Adding that, because public tariff is fixed, he noted that the investments in these lines are not considered attractive and it is easy to pass over these communities or simply attempt grid extensions which have not covered the field and have resulted in many people being left behind.
He informed that it is the plan of the government to set out how to reach the unconnected communities, through a combination of grid extension and development of independent grids, using new technology such as solar, which will mitigate the cost of the long 330/132 KV and 132/33 KV lines.