07 January 2014, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Federal Government has announced plans to expand the usage and application of solar technology to bring electricity to far flung communities, as part of its ‘Operation Light Up Nigeria’, in 2014.
The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, who spoke in a briefing to journalists in Abuja, noted that government was targeting local communities that are far removed from the national grid with solar energy technology.
He said, “The way electricity delivery is structured in Nigeria today gives an impression that there are three Nigeria. One Nigeria are the urban centres that are connected to power but are not getting enough power, the other Nigeria are semi-urban, sub-urban and part rural areas that occasionally might have some distribution transformers deployed and getting about one to three hours supply on daily basis, then the third Nigeria is the area that is far flung from the National grid.”
According to him, such remote communities have “no connection to electricity, no connection to the national grid and no connection in the foreseeable future.”
He added that, “It is this third Nigeria that we now want to face because eventually with the master plan and the blueprint for transmission expansion of that Mr. President has endorsed number two Nigeria will eventually get power completely but the third Nigeria will still take years if not decades to have electricity saturation to the point of functionality, that why we targeted them.
“And knowing that these areas are far-flung from the national grid we think that it is not going to be feasible to use gas fired turbines so we decided to go renewable so that the source of fuel is supplied by nature and we are emphasizing solar. So far it has been remarkable. For the past several years I have never seen the joy and euphoria we saw in these areas that we are working on now,” he noted.
The Minister explained that it is not true that consumers were no longer to pay the electricity bills with the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, even as he noted that the government and operators in the sector would devise suitable and sustainable ways to bill electricity users in the rural communities.
According to Nebo, “They (electricity consumers) are supposed to pay their bill as at when due. It was wrong information; some people believe that government should provide electricity at no charge to the people anyway.
“In these villages we are lighting up people are asking me how they are going to pay, we are trying to device a system which is digital and a scratch card, pay as you go. They are buying diesel, petrol, kerosene and candles. Some of them spend over N1000 a week on kerosene and how can they say they won’t pay for electricity we are giving them now which can enable children read at night, have better social life. The medical facilities are working business are thriving all over the place, so they can pay but we have to teach them that they need to pay.”