Solar projects provided by Department for International Development DFID in Kaduna has lifted lives in rural communities as the project was launched in response to chronic problems supplying electricity to key social facilities in the state writes ONU OKORIE
SOLAR Nigeria programme has come to the rescue of some communities in Kaduna state over the persistent electricity black out in those areas if the recent projects initiated by the group is anything to go by. The project supplies offgrid electricity to 34 primary health care centres PHCs in rural and urban areas of Kaduna state, with a total installed capacity of 1.5MW. A report released to the media indicates that Kaduna solar clinics benefits more than 120,000 beneficiaries. The project was launched in response to chronic problems supplying electricity to key social facilities in the state. Rural areas in particular had little or no access to grid supply and clinics were highly reliant on generators, kerosene lanterns or candles for light and electrical power. These were very high maintenance, unsafe, expensive to run and damaging to the environment. Kaduna solar clinics falls under the social component of the solar Nigeria programmes, and is northern Nigeria’s distributed social solar project to date. With 1.5MW capacity and over 120,000 beneficiaries the impact of the project in the affected communities is without doubt invaluable to date. For instance, it has helped to provide longer clinic hours and 24 hour power while more babies delivered safely at night. It also enables a reliable vaccine and medicine refrigeration which has boosted morale of doctors, nursing and lab staff working in some remote environment in Kaduna state. It has also reduced use of expensive lighting sources and enable medical personnel attend to more in and out patients in those communities. According to lead nurse at a Kaduna PHC, Asmiu Abubaka “When people walk by, they ask what is happening at the hospital. I tell them through the support of UK and Nigerian Government we now have solar power” “We now have machines to sterilize tools, we have lots more patients, I can come to work and do my job much easier. People are coming from far to use our facilities. We are now looking to get full-time doctor on site. It really has made our lives so much easier” It all started when the solar Nigeria program conducted a baseline study to determine the energy situation of 80 primary health clinics across Kaduna state, resulting in the selection of sites for the installations, with attention given to power requirement, location, terrain, security, and fair distribution. Also detailed energy audit was conducted to ascertain the actual energy requirement of each selected clinic. Clinics were categorized according to their different energy requirements. A suite of standard solar power systems was designed and each facility was assigned the size of system necessary to meet its needs. Following the results, Department for International Development DFID an agency which leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty engaged crown Agents to procure equipment and container for the project. Solar Nigeria programme , with Kaduna State Government KDSG, provided technical assistance to the procurement process. In parallel, KDSG applied normal State budgeting measure to secure funds for its operations and maintenance contribution. Installation was carried out in three phases between 2016 – 2017, with the first phases of civil works completed mid 2016. The electrical retrofitting was completed in November 2016 and the installation of the solar system units completed in Jan 2016 Project management was delivered by a team including project planning and monitoring the maintenance of the completed sites. The project includes a remote monitoring system that tracks the performance of system at each site in real time. It is important to note that energy to the Nigeria economy cannot be overemphasize given that it had led to the ineluctable need for reform. The Nigerian power sector has been faced with several challenges leading to reform initiatives due to the nature of the Nigerian state which is characterized by a confluence of factors. The publicized power sector reforms in Nigerian under the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005 are yet to yield desired and \ or anticipated fruits largely due to corruption and impunity of perpetrators, regulatory lapses and inconsistencies. According to SocioEconomic Right and Accountability Project, SERAP in a publication recently, the country has lost more megawatts in the post-privatization era due to corruption, impunity, vandalization of gas pipelines and other acts of restiveness in the resourcebearing communities, among other challenges are reflected in this report. SERAP alleged that the total estimated financial loss to Nigeria from corruption in the electricity sector starting from the return to democracy in 1999 to date is over Eleven Trillion Naira N11 TRILLION NAIRA. These represent public funds, private equity and social investment or divestment in the power sector. It is estimated that may reach over Twenty Trillion Naira (N20 Trillion Naira) in the next decade given the rate of Government investment and funding in the power sector amidst dwindling fortune and recurrent revenue shortfalls. In order to rescue the electricity issue in the states, SERPA recommended that the 36 state government should begin the setting-up of state of Electricity Regulatory Commission such as Lagos State Electricity Regulatory Commission LASERG , Ogun State Electricity Regulatory Commission OGSERG, Kano State Electricity Regulatory Commission KASERG , etc to license private companies to engage in off-grid electricity generation, transmission and distribution including renewable electricity, captive electricity generation, rural electrification and others. It also urged the 36 state governments to vigorously pursue the objectives of Rural Electrification Act as state Electricity subject. The Rural Electrification Act also established an agency, to be known as the Rural Electrification Agency REA. The REA administers the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), a designated fund to provide, promote and support rural electrification programmes. Rural electricity is off-grid, and comes squarely within the ambit of regulatory purviews of the State Government in Nigeria. SERAP reiterated that vesting Rural Electrification Agency REA, Rural Electrification Fund REF, and Rural Electrification Project REP in the hands of the Federal Government is patently unconstitutional. Rural electrification is offgrid and comes under the legislative competence of state governments.