Community/shared solar power option: a pathway to sustainable rural electrification in Nigeria
Nigerian governments at all levels have been making concerted effort to extend electricity supply to the rural areas. Among the several efforts by various governments are formulation of rural electrification policies, creation of agencies for the administration of rural electrification projects, installation of diesel power generators, and development of public-private partnership strategies in solving rural power supply problems. While significant progress has been made, several rural communities are yet to have access to electricity supply. Rugged terrain and limited financial resources are among the constraints to extension off-grid to the rural areas. However, electricity supply, being one of the drivers of economic development and social wellbeing, is a problem that has to be tackled head-on. The current climate change concern and many other environmental issues of our time necessitate finding a sustainable solution to the problem. Consequently the goal of this study was to examine the potentials of community solar power option as a sustainable rural electrification approach in Nigeria. Other goals included identifying potential hick-ups and solutions to lifecycle management of community solar. Moreover, the study was to determine the suitable configuration for efficient and sustainable community solar power management in Nigeria. The study methodology involved intensive literature survey, historical data collection and case studies on rural electrification in Nigeria as well as examples of community solar projects in Nigeria. Preliminary results revealed that community solar power would be a sustainable approach to rural electrification in Nigeria if a number of conditions are satisfied. Some of the conditions to be satisfied include devolving the management of a community solar system to a participative committee of stakeholders representatives, and incorporating community capacity building in the plan. Other conditions are government, corporate and municipalities’ collaboration in funding such projects from scratch till after one or two years of operation, and incorporation of monitoring and intervention strategies for continuous power supply and further improvement.