04 December 2016, Abuja — Governors from the northern states in Nigeria want to tap into the abundant solar radiation of the region to industrialise and improve the livelihood of their residents. They signed a fresh pact to generate 500 megawatts (MW) of solar energy with globally acclaimed power firm, General Electric (GE).
Perhaps coming to the understanding that Nigeria’s dependence on fossil fuel power generation was no longer reliable and that the world was also fast pivoting to renewable and clean energy generation modes, governors in Nigeria’s northern states recently hopped onto the moving renewable energy wagon to find solutions to the chronic electricity shortage that has come to define the region and indeed Nigeria.
According to a media statement, the governors under the Northern States Governors’ Forum, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the General Electric International for the construction of five solar plants in some parts of the region.
It’s coming just days after Nigeria formally ratified its commitment to the climate change terms the world drew up and agreed to follow during the Conference of Parties (COP -22) in Marrakech, Morocco. The five solar plants are expected to generate 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity that could help industries and small businesses in the region regain their hitherto lost productivity.
Also, the development follows the recent bold steps of the Federal Government to diversify Nigeria’s energy mix, by having 14 solar farms built majorly in states in the north by solar power promoters who signed power purchase agreements (PPA) with the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) to build and generate 1125MW of solar power.
The Solar MoU
According to the statement signed by Isa Gusau, the spokesperson of the Borno Governor, Mr. Kashim Shettima, who is also the chairman of the forum, each of the plants is expected to generate 100MW of the 500MW planned electricity output.
The electricity from the solar farms, Gusau said would be used to stimulate economic activities and social services in the states, with special attention given to agricultural food processing, small scale businesses and stable electricity supply to schools and hospitals in the region.
He quoted Shettima to have said at the MoU signing ceremony with GE that, “The 19 Governors of the North jointly created this approach. We want to go beyond lamentation to provide solutions and we all know that power is key to industrial development.”
Shettima further noted: “With power, we can create jobs, stimulate our economies and make life better for our people. The General Electric has over 120-year experience in energy solutions and they have been operating in Nigeria for over 50 years, we cannot have a better partner than GE.”
“We shall do our part as governors, this I will assure you. We are deeply committed to this agreement,” he added at the ceremony which reportedly held in Abuja.
Change of Approach
Just like turning a new leaf, Shettima explained in the statement that the challenges of poverty, unemployment, and poor access to education, poor healthcare amongst other underdevelopment indications were threatening the north, hence the decision of the governors to take a new approach to curb such underdevelopment.
Coming at time when Nigeria may likely go through another round of power supply failures as generation from its largest power plant, Egbin station reportedly crashed to a record low of 172MW on Tuesday, the governors may have perhaps initiated a bold move that could create a positive ripple effect on the business of power generation and supplies in the country.
According to industry data, eight of the nation’s 26 power plants were idle on Tuesday while the nation recorded a total system collapse on Thursday, November 24, the second time it would happen this month and for as many times as possible this year.
Shettima had stated that the governors would no longer complain about the current electricity challenge of the country, but concentrate on finding solutions to the peculiar challenges of the region.
He said power could provide a vehicle for the North to reposition itself for a better future, adding that the Northern Nigeria Global Economic Re-integration Programme, a newly created platform by the forum would coordinate the 500MW solar project, which is also a pilot phase.
The programme would serve as the vehicle for the economic recovery of Northern states through international relations on infrastructure, manufacturing, as well as stimulation of the agricultural value chain and trade.
It would equally seek to make the region a global player in agricultural export in line with the vision of its late Premier, Ahmadu Bello.
Tanimu Kurfi, the former Chief Economic Adviser to late President Umaru Yar’Adua has reportedly been engaged as the Chief Executive Officer of the Programme and would, with his reported wide contact with leading development companies and financial institutions across the world, help nurture and stabilise the plan.
Similarly, the statement noted that both the Senior Executive, Western Europe and Africa for GE, Mr. Pineda, and its President/Chief Executive Officer for Nigeria, Dr. Lazarus Angbazo, in affirming the commitment of the company to the MoU, explained that they would work to realise the project.
Although no details as regard the projects’ costs and execution period was provided by the forum, it was not clear if this was part of GE’s existing commitment to help Nigeria grow her power infrastructure over the next 10 years.
GE in 2009 signed a Country-to-Company (C2C) agreement with the Federal Government to support the financing, design and building of infrastructure and capacity across key sectors of the economy, including rail, power and healthcare.
The agreement was however renewed for another five years, with the pledge to help Nigeria through its partnership with the Ministry of Power, develop up to 10,000MW of power over the next 10 years.
* Chineme Okafor – Thisday