State government in Nigeria begins ambitious off-grid plan

The state government of Lagos has begun to implement a plan to bring off-grid solar to rural sites in the region.

The plan, formed and implemented in collaboration with the Department for International Funding and Development (DFID) in the UK, follows audits by the Lagos State Electricity Board (LSEB) into the state of energy across 655 schools and more than 270 Primary Health Centres (PHC) in the area. The results of those surveys indicated a heavy reliance on power obtained through fossil fuel generation: 84 per cent of PHCs in Lagos State augmented poor power supply from the national grid with diesel generators, while 34 were entirely self-sufficient. Of those 34, 14 had no power supply at all.

In its audit of 655 primary and secondary schools, LSEB concluded, “Our public secondary schools are not spared the national grid’s inadequacies as most are being supplied by public transformers. Therefore the schools augment their power supply with the help of a total of 991 small- to medium-sized generators accounting for a total capacity of 6.7MVa. […] After extensive data analysis and interpretation, the LSEB recommends solar energy to power critical loads (admin and labs) in each school. Critical loads account for almost 60% of the energy demand in each school and can be defined as the barest minimum power that the school requires in order to operate effectively. Solar energy is fit for purpose in this case as Lagos State public secondary schools hardly use cooling appliances such as air conditioners. The proposed solar solution will require 6.7 MW of solar power derived from 11.7 MWp of installed capacity.”

The year-long project broke ground on 7 January with the launch of a 10 KW solar installation at the Epe maternity hospital, followed by a 15 KW system coming online at the Lagos State Senior Model College Meiran on 20 January. LSEB claims that 32 schools, plus one hospital, have already had panels installed under the programme. School systems will range between 5 KW and 15 KW, while hospital systems will be either 10 KW or 25 KW.

The project is being conducted over three stages. The first phase began with the Epe maternity hospital and the largest 32 school systems, and is slated to end in February. The second phase will cover 10 hospitals and is expected to be completed by May. Phase III will focus on 170 schools and is expected to finish by July.

According to Dolapo Popoola at LSEB, the project is to be split into three phases. The state government of Lagos and DFID are each providing half of the funding. Precise detail as to the amount the project will cost has not yet been disclosed by DFID or LSEB. However, the schools audit estimated that the costs of installing solar systems and replacing incandescent bulbs in the educational centres would total ?18.2 billion ($90.5 million).

Popoola said, “There are 655 schools and 260 primary healthcare centres in Lagos. This phase funds installation in 172 schools and 11 primary healthcare centres. There have been challenges obtaining funding. The Lagos Solar project was conceived in 2012 but did not get started until Q4 2014 mostly due to lack of support and funding.”

Popoola said that DFID’s contribution had been mostly financial, with some oversight. She added, “DFID thought that they were going to have to get more involved but the government here had already done a lot of the design and planning. That’s a good policy for DFID in enabling rather than being involved directly. We’ve got two DFID managers who sit in on meetings.”

Popoola added, “The initial round of funding for Lagos Solar from UK AID is helping the Lagos State Government provide off-grid sustainable power solutions to rural schools and hospitals. In Lagos, in addition to insufficient power from the grid, it is quite common for the grid to neglect rural areas. Education and healthcare are very important to a developing Africa. Without adequate power, neither sector can function very well. However, there will still be 483 schools and 249 PHCs left without adequate power after this first round of funding is exhausted. We are hoping to attract more sponsors to be able to fully complete our vision and be one step closer to energy access for all.”

According to Popoola, the majority of the panels are to be sourced from outside Nigeria but installed using local talent. A statement from LSEB estimates that 200 employment opportunities for locals will be created under the project. To that purpose, the LSEB looked to the Renewable Academy in Berlin to provide training. “We had them come over and train people here,” Popoola said. “Those people they trained went on to train technicians who are doing a lot of the installations. We have very rigorous training. There’s now 96 technicians and we are looking to increase that as we go to Phase III.”

The implementation of solar across the state of Lagos follows titanic movements in the Nigerian solar market last year. In August, pv magazine reported on the sweep of foreign investment in Nigerian solar, outlining the partnership between the European Investment Bank, the Global Environment Facility, the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction Development, and the Climate Investment Funds. That development followed SkyPower FAS’s signing of a $5 billion deal with the Nigerian government for the development of 3,000 MW of solar PV over the next five years.