Gbamu Gbamu is a farming community in Ogun State, Nigeria, located within the Omo Forestry Reserve in the state. As part of the implementation of the Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP) Phase I, an 85 kW solar mini-grid was commissioned by Rubitec in February 2018, and this project has been one of the most sustainable mini-grids in the country. In total, six pilot mini-grids were commissioned across five states in Nigeria, giving more than 15,000 people access to reliable electricity. These mini-grids were partly funded with 1.7 million euros from the European Union and the German government, in collaboration with the Nigerian government.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has created policies over the past several years to enable mini-grid and off-grid development in the country. Beginning with the National Electric Power Policy of 2001 and including more recent policies like the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission’s Mini Grid Regulation of 2017, the government has increasingly committed to off-grid development and electrification. This commitment has ranged from enabling regulation and policy to direct investment through budgeted funds and facilitating development partner loans and grants.
Through the efforts of development partners and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Nigeria continues to focus on electrifying rural areas of the country, where as much as 55% of the population remains without electricity access. The emergence of mini-grids as a cost-effective option for electricity provision has created an exciting opportunity to rapidly increase electrification, and the sector is gradually moving away from grant funding towards debt and equity capital, as Nigeria has enormous market potential to support such growth.
Despite the mini-grid market’s rapid growth, there are opportunities to further accelerate the pace of innovation and implementation. In a bid to enable and accelerate growth, stakeholders across the industry in Nigeria have identified some opportunities along each element of the mini-grid value chain, and according to a report by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), one of these opportunities is to increase capacity utilization through demand stimulation programs and modular system designs.
For mini-grids to be sustainable, project developers must have enough paying customers, preferably commercial users who demand more power. “It’s not just about having lights and charging phones. If people use electricity for productive use, it can earn more money.” Bolade Soremekun, chief executive of Rubitec, was quoted in an article published by the New York Times in 2018.
To address the need for demand stimulation in solar mini-grid sites, the Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP), in collaboration with Rubitec and Max, carried out an electric mobility pilot project to gain insights into the potential of electric vehicles (EVs) in rural and peri-urban communities. Max deployed 10 electronic motorcycles in mid-2020, while NESP monitored the implementation of the pilot by conducting an initial survey in November 2020 and an updated survey in July 2021. Between these periods, the average consumption by Max was 3.50kWh/day.
We have up to 100 mini-grids operational in Nigeria, and most of them still have additional power to give, said Duke Benjamin, head of GIZ’s Nigerian Energy Support Program (NESP). “What we are trying to do is increase productive uses in these places, increase socio-economic activities, and improve livelihood.”
In Gbamu Gbamu, Adeniji Dauda is a farmer and a trader, who cultivates cocoa and sells dried cocoa beans to earn a living. He explained the importance of mobility for his business operations and how a motorcycle is a key work tool as it helps transport his farm produce to the market.
Mr. Dauda is happy that the electric motorbike is noiseless and can effectively carry his large sacks of cocoa beans. “Even with heavy loads, no matter how big they are, the electric motorbike moves smoothly with no challenges.”