SOLAR ENERGY - A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION TO RURAL ELECTRICITY PROBLEMS IN NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT
Lack of access to electricity is one of the major impediments to growth and development of rural economies in developing countries. Currently around 1.5 billion people worldwide live without access to electricity, and this number is not likely to go down without a concerted effort. Energy and electricity in particular is critical to achieving virtually all the Millennium development goals. Electricity can be used to support important development like access to education, improved health, communication and women empowerment. The main objective of this thesis is to find a sustainable way of bringing electricity to the rural communities in Nigeria.

The World Bank and other development organizations such as Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) have made access to modern energy, most especially electricity, one of their priority themes. These organizations have implemented hundreds of rural electrification projects around the world. I was recently involved in a similar UNDP funded project in Nigeria. The reports and lessons learned from these projects can provide insight on vital issues that must be considered in order to plan sustainable and replicable rural electrification projects for Nigeria’s rural communities.


It was concluded that grid extension to the poor, scattered, rural population is not economically justifiable at the moment. The least-cost method of getting electricity supply to the rural areas in the country is through off-grid electrification. The best technology option to be used for rural off-grid electrification is either a village mini-grid or different energy home systems, depending on several factors. Such factors are the type of loads, population concentration, resources and equipment availability, and income level. It is also important to consider the financial and organizational issues involved as they are critical to the success and long term sustainability of rural electrification programs.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1          Introduction
            1.1       Background
            1.2       Objectives of the work
            1.3       Methodology

2          Electricity in Nigeria
            2.1       Historical overview
            2.2       Current State of Electricity in Nigeria
            2.3       Nigeria’s Electricity Infrastructure

3          Energy Potential of Nigeria
            3.1       Coal
            3.2       Oil
            3.3       Natural gas
            3.4       Renewable energy
            3.4.1    Solar energy
            3.4.2    Wind energy
            3.4.3    Small Hydropower (SHP)

4          Energy Condition in Rural Nigeria
            4.1       Rural People
            4.2       Energy Consumption in Rural Nigeria
            4.3       Energy and Rural Development
            4.4       Finding Solution to Nigeria Rural Energy Problems

5          Use of Electricity in Rural Communities
            5.1       Energy Ladder
            5.2       Domestic Use of Electricity
            5.3       Communal Use of Electricity
            5.3.1    Health centers
            5.3.2    Water pumping

6          Rural Electrification and Rural Development
            6.1       Rural Electrification and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs

7          Benefits of Rural Electrification
            7.1       Health Benefit
            7.1.1    Indoor air quality
            7.1.2    Knowledge and fertility reduction
            7.2       Social Benefits
            7.3       Education Benefits
            7.4       Economic Benefits
            7.4.1    Reduction in energy costs
            7.4.2    Employment opportunities
            7.4.3    Micro home enterprises
            7.5       Safety
            7.6       Environmental Benefits

8          Rural Electrification Options
            8.1       Grid Extension
            8.2       Energy Home Systems (EHS)
            8.3       Mini-Grid
            8.4       Hybrid Mini-Grid Power Systems
            8.5       Mini-Grid Technology Comparison
            8.5.1    Diesel Generators
            8.5.2    Renewable Energy
            8.5.3    Hybrid Power Systems
            8.6       Village mini-grid
            8.7       Solar Home System (SHS)

9          Financing and Regulating Rural Electrification in Nigeria

10        Discussion

11        Conclusion
References


1 Introduction

1.1 Background

Nigeria is a country blessed with abundant energy resources that could be used to generate electricity, but its people live in total darkness. About 60 percent of Nigeria’s population has no access to electricity, and 90 percent of them live in rural areas.

Electricity helps to satisfy the basic needs of people, and is also an important catalyst for rural development. For rural Nigerians, lighting is the most expensive energy need and the second most important, after cooking. Majority of the rural inhabitants light their homes with kerosene lamps and sometimes with firewood. Kerosene lamps provide poor lighting and are expensive, inefficient, highly polluting and dangerous. Carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur oxide (SOx), nitrogen oxide (NOx), and carbon dioxide (CO2) are gases emitted by kerosene lamps and firewood. These gases are detrimental to health and cause chronic respiratory problems. Electrification of rural communities is therefore essential to prevent these and other problems.


Obstacles such as dispersed population, difficult terrains, geographical remoteness, low commercial energy consumption and limited income of consumers make extension of electricity network to rural areas economically inefficient for both public and private organizations. It is necessary to seek other ways of providing electricity to these rural communities. Off-grid electrification using solar photovoltaic (PV) or a hybrid combination of PV with other locally available energy sources offers the best solution of bringing electricity to rural Nigerians.

1.2 Objectives of the work

The aim of the work was to find answers to these three fundamental rural electrification questions.

I.            How do we provide sustainable electricity services to the Nigeria’s rural population, most of which have no purchasing power to pay for the services?

II.            What is the best available technology that offers the least-cost, clean and reliable electricity to off-grid communities?

III.How do we regulate and finance the infrastructure to provide these services?



1.3 Methodology

The work presented in this thesis consisted of theoretical analysis studies and documented personal experiences. I was part of a team involved in an electrification project in a rural community in Nigeria, hence the interest in the research topic. During the project, I had the opportunity to interview the beneficiaries of the electrification project as well as many inhabitants of the community to understand their problem of lack of access to electricity.

2 Electricity in Nigeria

2.1 Historical overview

Electricity production in Nigeria began in 1896, fifteen years after its introduction in England. In 1929, the Nigeria Electricity Supply Company (NESCO) was established and commenced operations in the same year as an electric utility company with the construction of a 2MW hydroelectric power station at Kurra Falls near Jos. NESCO, a private company was originally set up for the main purpose of supplying electricity to the Tin mines. It later extended its services to the people of Jos and the surrounding towns...


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