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Panelists at NEXIER power seek sustainable funding for off-grid power, as possible withdrawal of ‘grant-funds’ looms




PANELISTS at the monthly NEXIER power dialogue are seeking avenues for sustainable funding options for off-grid power, amid concerns of possible grant-funding withdrawal by development financing partners.

The sustainable funding, they stressed, would enable Nigeria go beyond grant and have a sustainable template that solves concerns of energy poverty in the country.

Nigeria is currently seeking to improve electricity access for off-grid power consumers numbering about 80 million, whose cities and local communities are gradually being electrified through various programmes of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

Most of the programmes of the off-grid electricity supervised by the REA are financed by grant funders comprising mainly of the World Bank and the African Development Bank (ADB).

THE ICIR findings showed that a large chunk of those funds are de-risked by the aforementioned financiers.

The panelists’ concerns came from the possible end of the grant support programmes, which could see most rural areas fall into energy poverty. They, however, called for sustained funding options by Nigeria’s commercial banks.

“The customer is the ultimate beneficiary. A lot of programmes that comes with these funding are time bound. This is why we must also look for a sustainable funding model that the market can accept beyond the grant,” Temitope George, of Component 1 and 2 Lead-a Nigeria Electrification Project, supported by the ADB Project said.

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George said, “We must find the options that work for us to reduce the energy poverty deficit in Nigeria and improve the social capital of our off-grid energy consumers.”

A renewable energy expert, Segun Adaju, who spoke on the sustainability of funding options for off-grid power in Nigeria, said there was also the need to find and uderstudy a mini-grid model that offers a lasting solution to Nigeria’s energy poverty.

Adaju said, “Energy is not just for lighting peoples homes, or for television. It increases the economic power of the people. That is why, we must find a sustainable funding model and adopt it.

“If we don’t find a model that works for us and sustain it appropriately, we may be pushing more rural people into energy poverty.

“I deploy solar for rural communities and SMEs and have seen how it changed the lives of the people for good economically.”

Stressing that grant-funding must go one day, he emphasised the importance of looking beyond grants in mini-grid projects that lift rural communities from energy poverty.

Another panelist and Head of Mini-Grids ENGIE Energy Access, Onyinye Anene-Nzelu, also mentioned the need for the constant engagement of all stakeholders to harvest their suggestions in a bid to finding funding alternatives beyond grant-funds.

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“Stakeholders must come together and structure out a modern template that works for us beyond the grants, so that we lift people out of energy poverty,” she said.

A recent report by a senior energy specialist with the World Bank, Muhammad Wakil, expressing concern on Nigeria’s energy poverty, said, “Nigeria now has the largest number of ‘un-electrified’ people globally and the trend is worsening. Of the electrified, the supply is very unreliable with widespread blackouts.”

Wakil said Nigeria now has 25 per cent more “un-electrified” people than the second most “un-electrified” country in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The World Bank disclosed that between June 2020 and February 2021, its board approved $1.25 billion funding to support the Nigerian government in its efforts to reset the power sector.

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