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How women rose in Nigeria’s renewable energy sector, quenching darkness

It is no longer news that what men can do, women can do better. This applies to the growing Nigerian power sector where women are taking their place in promoting engineering and the renewable energy sphere.

Daily Trust in this piece looks at the growing trend in renewable energy and how women are promoting these activities in Nigeria.

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The World Bank reports that Nigeria has the largest deficit of electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa with approximately 80 million people who do not have access to grid electricity in Nigeria. It further said Nigeria electrification rate is 55 per cent with rural electrification rate at only 39 per cent.

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Thus, to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030 it, the World Bank said Nigeria would need to connect between 500,000 to 800,000 households per year using both grid extension and off-grid solutions.

With the prevalent issues plaguing supply of grid electricity in Nigeria, as an alternative Nigerians have had to rely on generators powered by fossil fuel such as diesel to provide electricity. It is reported that Nigeria accounts for about 75 per cent of power generation from diesel back-up generators.

Rather than see this as plagues, the Nigerian woman has taken it to be a myriad of opportunities to delve into especially with the enabling environment being provided by a woman and Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi.

Heather Onoh is another woman taking a race in the renewable energy sector. Heather who is the Managing Director/CEO of Smarter Grid International (SGI) Limited told our reporters that renewable off-grid electricity has been developed to address the challenges of poor electricity supply especially in the rural areas.

As a renewable energy finance company and service provider, SGI led by a woman, has been delivering sustainable electrification and economic development for households and businesses in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Showcasing her ware in the emerging energy sector, Heather said SGI collaborates with international bodies such as GSMA to provide affordable solar energy solutions using the Pay-As-You-Go or Lease to Own system. “With this payment platform SGI customers can pay as low as Forty Naira (N40) per day for about three years for off-grid solar products,” she noted.

Products from SGI include solar-powered multi-purpose kiosks, Lithium-Ion Ferrous Phosphate batteries for powering solar devices, solar-powered fishing lights, television, fans, light bulbs, barbing clippers milling machines, coolers and fridges.

She said the firm is still researching to produce more products like solar-powered fish dryer and vulcanizing machines to solve key needs of some SMEs.

Habiba Ali is another woman taking centre stage in the renewable energy sector. The Managing Director of Sosai Renewable Energy Company in Kaduna State was set up in 2004 and has since recorded huge results in pushing solar power to rural areas.

“In the last five years, our company has become a renowned force in the evolving field of renewable energy in Nigeria. Our years of experience coupled with the expertise of our team of experts makes us one Nigeria’s go to renewable and biofuels company,” she said on her site.

Hannah Kabir is another name that rings a bell in this sector. The Managing Director of Creeds Energy once quit her job to venture into this entrepreneurship line. Established in 2012, the firm has installed 250 kilowatts (KW) of renewable energy solutions which has positively affected over 2,000 lives and fetched the company five awards.

Pressing on, Hannah on her site said she has a vision to: “Be recognized as one of the top five renewable energy companies in West Africa, distinguished by quality, innovation and professionalism.”

Still on women power in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), Ify Malo, the CEO of Clean Tech Hub and the Energy Innovation Centre in Abuja is one to behold. Her centre serves as an incubator for new ideas and technologies, and businesses.

Ify who is also the Country Campaign Director for Power For All in Nigeria, leads the Nigerian campaign to promote distributed renewable energy in Nigeria and is one of the country’s leading energy access experts.

Through her Power For All campaigns, more rural Nigerians are getting used to solar-powered lighting devices and leaving off fossil fuel lighting systems like lanterns as well as clean renewable energy cooking systems.

Separate from these success stories is that of the Country Director of EMRC, Rahila Thomas. This consultancy firm powered by a woman has been into key activities that saw the privatization of the power sector in 2013 and has continually provided guidance and advisory services to many of the Distribution Companies (DisCos).

In a 2017 report on women participation in the power sector, Rahila said “In the Nigerian power sector, our assessment of the Generation Companies (GenCos) shows that we have 23 CEOs. There is no female CEO in management or board; we have only two female CFOs and company secretaries.

“In the 11 DisCos, there is only one female CEO and three female CFOs. In the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) all the general managers are male, with only one female as company secretary,” Rahila noted.

There is also the Managing Director of Geometric Power Ltd, Mrs Agatha Nnaji. Agatha who is the wife of a former minister of power, Prof. Barth Nnaji reaffirmed that the power of women to turnaround businesses can never be underestimated because they have less ego and develop more passion to get issues resolved.

For the MD of REA, Damilola, there is absolute to push for mini grids to connect more unserved and underserved communities in Nigeria while providing platforms for women to showcase their leadership skills.

Just some two weeks ago, she flagged off the process to energies over 60 communities in the first phase of her mini grid projects across four states. The project which could be delivered in at most six months of 2019 could connect 2.5 million Nigerians.

In a summary sheet, she said the Nigerian Electrification Project (NEP) covers those communities in Niger, Sokoto, Ogun and Cross River during Phase I to provide about 24.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity and energize 1,710 local businesses.

With the consent from the communities through their Electricity Users Cooperative Society (EUCS), the mini-grids are expected to be operational in the second quarter of 2019.

 

There are hurdles, too

In spite of the successes, there are hurdles seeking the intervention of the federal government to promote more participation of both male and female folks in the power sector. There needs to be more awareness driven mechanisms to promote the acceptability of alternative energy sources.

Recently the government increased the import tariff for off-grid solar products including solar panels. According to Heather, this has negatively impacted the ability to increase or maintain the amount of off-grid solar products in Nigeria. “The consequential impact is an increase in the cost of these off-grid solar products,” she noted.

Thus, there is the need for government to provide import incentives on off-grid solar products as this will assist to reduce the cost and make the products much more affordable for Nigerians.

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