Toba Owojaiye reporting
The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has unveiled a groundbreaking initiative to enhance the oversight of mini-grids across Nigeria. As reported by Punch, the federal government has introduced an Energy Management System (EMS) stationed at the REA’s Abuja office, serving as a control center for off-grid electricity.
The EMS goes beyond conventional monitoring, enabling the real-time tracking of crucial parameters such as power generation, battery charging systems, solar radiation, carbon emissions reduction rates, and discharge systems. This holistic approach aims to address the lack of comprehensive energy information in Nigeria.
Adebayo Adelabu, the Minister of Power, emphasized the transformative impact of the EMS, asserting its significance in obtaining accurate energy data. By leveraging this data, the government aims to enhance the reliability, accessibility, and environmental sustainability of energy systems.
Implemented through Official Development Assistance by the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology (KIAT), the EMS is poised to revolutionize how energy data is handled and utilized in expanding electricity provision across the nation.
*Nigerian Mini-Grid Landscape*
As of September 2022, the REA, in collaboration with the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB), had successfully completed 65 mini-grids across Nigeria. Additionally, over 770,000 solar home systems were deployed, positively impacting the lives of more than 3.5 million Nigerians.
A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in December 2022 shed light on two types of solar mini-grids: Tier-1 and Tier-2+. Tier-1 mini-grids, with a capacity of over 1-watt peak, have been serving approximately 78,000 Nigerians, offering around 4 hours of power during the day and a bit over 2 hours in the evening.
In contrast, Tier-2 and higher solar mini-grids, boasting a capacity of over 20-watt peak, cater to a growing user base, reaching 91,000 Nigerians in 2019. These systems provide over 4 hours of power during the day and about 2 hours in the evening, enabling access to a broader range of appliances and services.
*Regulatory Concerns and Enthusiastic Support*
Despite the promising initiative, skeptics have raised concerns about the potential overlap with the functions of other agencies, particularly the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). Questions have been raised about the compatibility of the new setup with existing legislation empowering NEMSA and NERC in managing the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).
In response, proponents argue that the REA, as a policy execution agency providing support to mini-grid operators, requires visibility into power infrastructure projects it funds. They view the establishment of a Network Operations Center (NOC) and Network Management System (NMS) as a positive development, facilitating effective monitoring and reporting on the contribution of Renewable Energy Systems to Nigeria’s energy mix.
In the midst of these discussions, it is evident that the REA’s role is not that of a regulator, but rather a facilitator ensuring the effective implementation of renewable energy projects. The creation of the NOC/NMS reflects a concerted effort to address the complexities of managing mini-grid systems in Nigeria, offering a promising step towards a more sustainable and accessible energy future for the nation.