Off-Grid Power Supply Will Bridge Nigeria’s Energy Deficit

solar panel

Efforts by the Federal Government to have stable electricity supply through conventional sources of generation – thermal and hydro, have failed to yield positive results. For over five decades, Nigeria has introduced several measures, laws and adopted different models with the last being the privatisation of the generation and distribution value chain of the power industry on November 1, 2013. However, the total generation capacity still hovers around 10,000 megawatts (Mw) with only 5,000Mw available or accessible for use.

To underline the efforts and financial commitment to providing stable electric power in the country, Rubitec Africa (Rubitec Solar) Managing Director, Mr. Bolade Soremekun, revealed that in the last one decade, over $50 billion has been spent on ensuring stable or improved power in the country through the electricity sector reform. Sadly, this amount has resulted in providing only 1,500Mw of added capacity as only five per cent of customers have been connected to the grid.

On this trajectory, Soremekun noted that it would take the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) 20 years and $80 billion to connect the entire nation to the grid. He also noted that the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that 140 million people in Africa will gain access to mini-grids in Africa, requiring installation of 4000-8000 mini-grids a year in 25 years.

In the last three years, however, the Federal Government had expanded its focus on exploring other sources of power generation through off-grid to reduce the pressure on grid supply. Apart from irregular and unreliable supply, pressure on the national grid has led to constant system collapses. These occurrences have made entrepreneurs, those who play in the industrial sector and a chunk of residential power consumers to solely disconnect from grid supply to rely on self-generated power for their operations.

The government through the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in partnership with the private sector operators, has been developing solar and wind projects to feed the population that does not have access to grid supply. The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) is another major vehicle the government is using to drive the off-grid generation project, especially in the rural areas of the country.

To show that off-grid supply is important in making Nigeria meet her energy requirements, the World Bank and other world organisations have been making substantial donations to support the off-grid development. Off-grid supply is power supply that does not go through the national grid. They are usually low capacity generations.

World Bank collaboration

A new collaboration between the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency (REA), the World Bank and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has found that Nigeria could unlock the nascent minigrid market in Africa. The joint analysis found that developing off-grid alternatives to complement the grid creates a $9.2 billion (about N3.2 trillion) yearly market opportunity for mini-grids and solar home systems (SHS). This option will save $4.4 million (about N1.5 billion) yearly for Nigerian homes and businesses.

These findings were discussed at a five-day “Upscaling Minigrids for Low Cost and Timely Access to Electricity Services” summit hosted by the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency (REA), in conjunction with the World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), Climate Investment Funds (CIF), and United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) in Abuja, recently.

The Abuja summit was the first time the event would hold in West Africa, an indication of the government’s commitment to supporting investment in off-grid electrification initiatives and the vast investment opportunities in Nigeria for the development of mini-grids and roll out of solar home systems, which have a combined potential market of $9.2 billion annually.

Getting off-grid solutions to scale and commercial viability in Nigeria has the potential to unlock an enormous market opportunity in sub-Saharan Africa, across 350 million people in countries with smaller demand and/or less-robust economies. A common barrier to minigrid market growth is investors viewing the market as being too risky, therefore, gaining access to project financing is rare and the market rate debt is expensive.

The summit, however, revealed that Nigeria is positioned well to not only address market barriers, but also showcase to other nations that mini-grids are commercially viable.

The event, which brought together more than 600 global participants from over 50 countries cutting across governments, organisations, the private sector, academia, NGOs, media, and others to discuss ways to facilitate investment in the sector as well as accelerate the deployment of minigrid systems, aimed at interlocking with ongoing minigrids, upscaling initiatives globally as well as ongoing activities in Nigeria.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), who spoke on the opportunities in off-grid power generation and supply, said: “I see only opportunities in Nigeria and not challenges and policies have been developed to help entrepreneurs fast-track energy access for underserved populations. I commended the instrumental partnership of the World Bank in developing the power sector and the Rural Electrification Agency for developing data to help private developers reach the communities they need.”

“In Nigeria,” according to Mr. Mac Cosgrove-Davies, Global Lead Energy, Access, World Bank, “80 million people lack access to electricity and millions suffer from unreliable service. The World Bank and the Government of Nigeria are working together to make mini-grids viable solution to bridge a large share of the electrification gap in the country.” “Rural Electrification Agency will be the implementing agency for the fund,” he added. 

Stakeholders’ views

Soremekun contended that Nigeria has an installed power generation capacity of about 8,600 megawatts (Mw), which is more than half of the capacity of the entire sub-region. Generation capacity actually available on the grid fluctuates between 4,000 and 5,000Mw for a demand that is escalating with the rising population and socio-economic activities

He noted that about 80 per cent of Nigeria’s energy mix is made of electricity generated through gas-fired power plants, while 20 per cent of the mix is obtained though hydropower plants. The grid power is only available to meet the need of about 30 per cent of the population (mostly urban centres), while the rest (mostly rural dwellers, comprising about 70 per cent of the population) are left at the mercy of traditional biomass energy to meet their energy needs.

“Poor grid power has forced most private companies to acquire and own independent self-electricity generation equipment and solutions known to be costly and highly polluting. Electrification rate stands at merely 45 per cent.

“In 2009 and 2011, the World Bank estimated that the self-generation capacity was even higher than the power made available through the grid,” he added.

Soremekun explained that on-grid supply comes from big power hydro and thermal power stations such as Shiroro, Kainji, Jebba, Egbin, Afam, Omtosho, Olorunsogo, Geregu and Gbarain, among others and the generated power is wheeled into the national grid for distribution to all parts of the country. The power these stations generated is evacuated into the grid and  managed by Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) that sell to the distribution companies (DisCos).

Off-grid supply is mainly meant for Solar Home Systems (SHS) and comes small systems of between 10watts and 500 watts (W) and mainly for rural communities while Solar Home Systems of larrger systems of between 500W – 15 kilowatts (KW) for urban and semi urban.

He also noted that off-grid systems for SMEs and businesses are between 500KW and 1megawatt (MW) and perfectly runs under the REA energising economy, while mini grids can range from 15KW to 10MW for industries, estates, educational institutions and markets, solar agriculture, solar irrigation – small medium scale farmers.

REA Managing Director, Damilola Ogunbiyi, assured that the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) is dedicated to increasing electricity access to rural and underserved communities in the country, and it supports off-grid development mainly through the deployment of Solar Home Systems (SHS) and Mini-grids.

As part of the ‘Energising Education’ programme of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, the REA is seeking to develop off-grid Independent Power Plant (IPP) projects for the generation and provision of adequate power supply to 37 Federal universities and seven university teaching hospitals across the country. 


In April 2018, METKA Power West Africa, a subsidiary of MYTILINEOS S.A, an international EPC contractor and industrial manufacturing group, signed an agreement with the Federal Government for the first phase of the Energising Education programme, which is to help nine Federal universities and teaching hospitals get off the national grid and generate their power independently either through gas or solar sources.

Under the agreement, METKA will provide full engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for power generation plants, street lighting and training centres, as well as operations and maintenance services for four universities. All the four universities will be powered by hybrid power plants, utilising renewable energy sources integrated with energy storage and diesel generation as backup.

On the partnership, Ogunbiyi, said: “The benefits of the Energising Education Programme are immeasurable, as improving the quality of education and ensuring safe and conducive learning environments, through access to reliable power, training centres and streetlights, would result in the churning out of excellent graduates, thus the multiplier effect on all facets of society. We are looking forward to this objective being realised through our strategic partnership with METKA Power West Africa.”

METKA Power West Africa Chief Executive Officer, Evangelos Kamaris, said: “We are very pleased to be able to support REA in the Energising Education initiative, and we are committed to supporting the energy needs of Nigeria and its people. In total, 7.5Mw of off-grid hybrid power will be installed, incorporating the Exeron technology – the most advanced hybrid off-grid system.”

Hybrid energy systems support power grids that combine one or more sources of power generation – solar, wind, diesel generator and grid – with battery storage to deliver a consistent level of electricity and/or store unused energy in a battery or future use. The rapidly decreasing costs of renewable and battery storage have made hybrid power systems more affordable than diesel-based generation in most places around the world. METKA formally launched Exeron in Nigeria in May 2018.

Kamaris said: “With the scalable capacity from 2kW to 65MW, Exeron is designed to derive optimum efficiency from all energy options. The Exeron technology can offer power independence for areas with limited access to the grid or bad grid connection, while providing significant cost savings. It is an efficient solution suitable for a wide range of applications, including residential, industrial, oil & gas, telecoms, defense and security.

“The award-winning technology features stringent modular design, easy-to-maintain hot plug technology, advanced battery management as well as the increased availability, thanks to excellent system redundancy.”

Kamaris assured that the Exeron range of off-grid power systems, developed and manufactured by IPS (International Power Supply) fulfills all the necessary requirements for effective energy management, communications and modularity, creating an optimal solution for off-grid locations.

Exeron is designed to generate, store and provide power for remote and rural areas. The system can be installed indoors or outdoors. It is also perfectly suited to locations with limited or bad grid power. It can secure continuous uninterruptible power and operates also as an UPS system.

The power system achieves significant electricity bill reduction; a backup power capacity for the unusual case of power outage; the best protection for the connected loads is guaranteed since the Exeron output is galvanically isolated and supplies pure sine wave voltage.

According to Kamaris, METKA is highly responsive to clients’ needs, and aims to maximise overall value, considering the key investment factors: – investment cost – project schedule – performance – plant availability – maintenance costs – operational flexibility

He said the global power sector operates in a rapidly changing environment, with increasing energy demands, an evolving legislative framework and a strong focus on greener technologies, hence innovative solutions are required to secure cost-effective, environmentally friendly energy supplies in the years to come.

To him, power plants must be efficient, reliable, and increasingly flexible in operation. Effective project execution is a critical success factor for the major investments needed in new power generation infrastructure. METKA, he said, meets these challenges by providing complete power plant solutions based on state-of-the-art power generation technologies throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“We carry out fully integrated turn-key projects with complete engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) scope, for clients ranging from traditional state-owned utilities to independent power plant developers. Our objective is to provide the optimum solution for client requirements and project needs.

“METKA has the resources, experience and understanding of international markets, in order to meet customer’s needs effectively and to actively support the development of regional energy infrastructure.

“It is successful because the entire organisation is highly focused on project execution. Complex projects demand excellent project management skills, combined with a wide range of functional expertise in areas such as design engineering, technical procurement, logistics, site construction, quality management, and plant commissioning.

“Our team is our power METKA has developed its capabilities through continuous investment in Human Resources across all functions. The company has the full range of technical resources across the spectrum of EPC and commissioning activities for major power generation projects,” Kamaris said.

Stakeholders are of the opinion that the firm’s track record in successfully delivering projects on-time and within budget constraint, has enabled it sustain efficiency in its operations. They affirm that METKA has the critical mass to successfully manage major projects, while maintaining the essential flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to unexpected events, as well as the capacity to execute multiple projects simultaneously with outstanding performance. These attributes are further buoyed by its strong collaborations and relationships with major equipment suppliers, thereby making them to deliver on the most appropriate technology for any project.

“The company’s state-of-the-art industrial facilities and equipment provide it with significant competitive advantages, particularly in terms of reliability and compliance with the most stringent international quality standards.  As a leading international provider of turn-key high efficiency power plants and with an experience of over 50 years, METKA is a reliable partner for major international power plant investments. Above all, the company values the trust received from the customers and the fact that its reputation is built on integrity and the ability to meet the undertaken commitments,” Kehinde Sanni, an engineer, said.

Kamaris said METKA built Korinthos Power 437MW combined cycle power plant in Greece, Pakistan’s KESC Korangi 220MW combined cycle plant, Romania Petrom Brazil 860MW combined cycle power plant, Turkey’s RWE & Turcas Güney Elektrik Uretim A.S. Denizli, 775MW combined cycle power plant and Borasco 870MW combined cycle power plant, Iraq Basra 1250MW open cycle combined power plant. Others are in Algeria, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Iran and Jordan.

“We apply sophisticated 3-D modelling tools to produce highly integrated, detailed plant designs. This improves design quality, and reduces construction time for your investment. These tools also allow operations and maintenance aspects, such as equipment accessibility, to be considered during the design stage.

Combined cycle power plants as the most efficient of the currently available thermal power generation technologies, gas turbine based combined cycle power plants are the technology of choice for flexible, utility scale power generation. Apart from the high efficiency compared to traditional steam boiler plants, combined cycle plants offer advantages in terms of their relatively low environmental impact, high level of flexibility and shorter project implementation times.

METKA’s experience covers both single shaft and multi-shaft configurations, and a wide range of gas turbine models, including both heavy duty industrial and aero-derivative types. “Single shaft configurations, with gas turbine and steam turbine on the same axis, connected to a single generator, have an advantage in terms of the compact layout. Multi-shaft configurations may have one or more gas turbine generators, together with a single steam turbine generator. Our most recent projects are based on the latest generation “F” class gas turbine technology from the leading OEMs, including GE, Siemens, Alstom and Ansaldo, providing extremely high plant efficiency.

“METKA combined cycle solutions use well established reference plant concepts as a basis for the design, with flexibility to meet client needs, as well as other local market and project specific requirements. We work closely with the power-train manufacturer so that proven product developments, and lessons learned from previous operating experience, can be built into the plant design,”he said.

Other positions

Giving insights on off-grid renewable energy, Head of Special Projects, Rural Electrification Agency, Mrs. Anita Otubu, quoted the World Bank as saying that 57.5 per cent of the population has access to electricity in Nigeria while 42.2 per cent of the population is without access to electricity in Nigeria

According to her, Section 88 (13) of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) states that the REA shall support the increase in access to rural electrification. It shall promote fast and cost-effective expansion of electricity access in un-electrified rural areas, evenly, across the different geo-political zones in Nigeria. The core focus of the REA will be to support the development of the off-grid clean energy by providing an enabling environment for the sector to thrive.

The REA is responsible for administering and managing funds from different sources towards achieving its objective of promoting rural development, adding that the aim of the Off-Grid Electrification Strategy is to provide access to clean and sustainable electricity to millions of Nigerians

To achieve that objective, REA has to develop a data driven off-grid model for Nigeria that will become an exemplar for Sub-Saharan Africa; utilise the funding from the Nigerian Electrification Project (NEP) as catalyst to scale up rapid implementation of off- grid solutions across Nigeria; increase gender inclusion in the Nigerian power sector; promote the use of a decentralised, multi-demographic approach to power  infrastructure delivery and develop 10,000 mini grids by 2023, which will provide power to 14 per cent of the population.

Others are to increase economic growth in critical sectors such as agriculture; provide reliable power supply for 250,000 SMEs; provide uninterrupted power supply in federal universities and university teaching hospitals; deploy five million solar standalone systems for residential and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 2023; and supports the Federal Government’s climate change obligations under the Paris Agreement, with respect to promoting renewable and reducing carbon emissions.

Civil Society Group for Good Governance (CSGGG), a non-governmental organisation also canvassed support for off-grid power supply sources. The Convener of the group, Mr Dominic Ogakwu, said off-grid power solutions like solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy sources would address power generation, transmission, and distribution problems in the country. To him, the seemingly intractable estimated billing system commonly called “crazy billing” applied by electricity distribution companies for customers who don’t have meters exist because many Nigerians don’t have access to off-grid power.

Ogakwu said: “Small and medium businesses are suffering due to poor power supply. We want the government to proffer solutions to that problem so that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can thrive. Also, according to the power generation report by the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing released in April, eight out of Nigeria’s 27 power plants were shut down due to gas line and frequency management constraints at some point.”

Challenges and opportunities

Nigerian enterprises identify access to electricity as their greatest obstacle to growth. At the same time, solar power has dramatically fallen in cost.

Solar is now a cheaper alternative for Nigerian companies. However, despite the economics, enterprises do not adopt solar due to the high upfront cost to purchase solar power assets; the technical challenge of owning and maintaining independent power production, Soremekun said. He, however, noted that there is a multi-billion dollar opportunity to bring reliable and high quality power to thousands of households in the country

He said the development of structured and novel approaches to scaling and rolling out hundreds of mini grids in Nigeria, adding that the nation has potential for over 4,000 mini grids and over four billion Euro investment. This will stimulate significant development in this territory

Kamaris said: “Metka is an off-grid power solutions provider. The firm combines the usage of traditional and renewable energy sources with energy storage systems, controlled and managed by intelligent power conversion technology to deliver power to individuals, communities and industries that are not supported by the grid. Through the strategic partnership with International Power Supply (IPS), the manufacturer of the award-winning Exeron power system, METKA identifies and develops customised solutions to meet the challenges of the rapidly growing hybrid and off-grid power market, serving the needs of customers around the world with an all-in-one intelligent energy management system, with modular design, that increases reliability and reduces significantly the dependence on diesel, and is suitable for a wide range of applications, such as: telecommunications infrastructure, remote power solutions for oil & gas production and pipelines, electrification of off-grid communities, industrial facilities and residential units.

“The Exeron range of power systems fulfills all the necessary requirements for effective energy management, affordable and reliable power supply and ease of operation creating optimal, cost effective solutions for our customers.  EXERON is designed to generate, store and provide reliable power for remote and rural areas. The system can be installed indoors or outdoors.”




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