Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA) touted its success at the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the group noting it has deployed more than 100 mini-grids over the past few years—including its first interconnected hybrid solar installation—to support electrification and economic development in Nigeria. The group also announced it has commissioned a new control center at REA’s headquarters in the capital city of Abuja, a facility that will host data from all of the country’s mini-grids. Nigerian officials at COP28 said they wanted to promote what they called the nation’s “data-driven energy transition journey,” while also highlighting growth in renewable energy installations across the country and their impact on Nigeria’s economy.
1. Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency is deploying mini-grids across the country, primarily using solar power as a distributed energy resource to help increase access to electricity in areas not served by the power grid. Courtesy: Rural Electrification Agency
Mini-grids, in essence small microgrids in remote areas typically without access to a power grid, utilize software to control distributed energy resources, often solar power (Figure 1) paired with battery energy storage. The REA in October of last year said it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Africa Mini-Grid Developers Association (AMDA) in an effort to speed development of mini-grids across the country. Colorado-based Husk Power has said it wants to deploy 500 mini-grids in Nigeria by 2026. The company in October announced it had received another $43 million in funding to support development of mini-grids in Africa and Asia.
The REA, established in 2005 under the country’s Electric Power Sector Reform Act, is an Implementing Agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, directed by the country’s Federal Ministry of Power. The group’s primary mission is to bring electricity to rural and unserved communities in a country that has a population of about 214 million, only about 60% of whom have access to power, according to government data. The group at the COP28 meeting said its deployment of more than 100 solar hybrid mini-grids serves more than 1.6 million solar power home systems. The REA said the deployments support about $9.2 billion in economic development annually.
“The agency’s presence at COP28 is a testament to our dedication to delivering sustainable and equitable energy access interventions. We believe that renewable energy is not just a source of power but a catalyst for transformative change, touching every aspect of society and economy,” said Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, CEO and managing director of REA, in a statement. Nigeria currently receives most of its electricity from natural gas-fired power plants (about 70.5% in 2022, according to Statista) and hydropower (about 27%, per Statista). Non-hydro renewable energy, primarily solar power, accounts for less than 1% of the country’s power generation. Government officials in October 2023 said the country’s installed power generation capacity was about 14,000 MW, up about 1,000 MW from 2022, mainly due to the $1.3 billion, 700-MW Zungeru hydroelectric plant that came online last summer. The Zungeru plant, on the Kaduna River in northwestern Nigeria, is the country’s second-largest hydropower station, behind the 760-MW Kainji hydropower facility on the Niger River.
The REA during COP28 said it wanted to highlight “groundbreaking initiatives and technologies that are bringing renewable energy solutions to remote and underserved communities in Nigeria, positively impacting lives and fostering social equity.” The group also said it is promoting economic growth through renewable energy, while noting the importance of a resilient power system “in the face of climate change.” The group in a document highlighted an objective to share “lessons on data-driven and home-grown sustainability mechanisms designed to aid project ownership, targeted at the optimization of clean energy interventions in Nigeria.” The REA in November of last year announced commissioning of Nigeria’s first interconnected hybrid solar mini-grid in the Toto community of Nasarawa State. The agency said the 352-kW mini-grid was the result of a collaboration among the REA, Powergen Nigeria Limited, and Abuja Electricity Distribution Plc.
The group also noted the importance of its collaboration with the AMDA, designed to increase access to sustainable electricity for Nigeria and other African countries through mini-grids and the use of decentralized power generation. The groups have said they want all of Nigeria to have access to electricity by 2030. Lamidi Niyi-Afuye, CEO of AMDA, in a statement said, “Mini-grids have the potential to transform the lives of millions of Nigerians, and this partnership is a step in the right direction. AMDA is committed to working with all stakeholders to create an enabling environment for the mini-grid sector to scale and achieve sustainability.” Ahmad, the REA leader, said of the agreement with AMDA: “We are excited to partner with AMDA to further improve the development of mini-grids in Nigeria while deepening the impact of REA solutions for socio-economic growth. This MOU will further aid the accelerated deployment of mini-grids and provide clean, sustainable, and affordable electricity to more Nigerians.”
The control center in Abuja, operated by the REA and the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology, was built during the first phase of the Korean Energy Project. That program is a bilateral partnership between South Korea and Nigeria. The REA said partners in the project include Iljin Electric, S&D Powernics, Korea Smart Grid Association, and Technology University of Korea. Adebayo Adelabu, who serves as Nigeria’s Minister of Power, in a statement said the collaboration “will help bridge the gap” between those with access to electricity in Nigeria, and those currently without access. “In Nigeria, we have a unique history that has taken us through varying phases of this journey toward the desirable change we strive to see in the energy sector,” said Adelabu. Abubakar Ali-Dapshima, Nigeria’s director of Renewable Energy and Rural Power Access, in announcing the control center, said the facility is “not merely a technological innovation; it is a testament to our collective dedication to progress, efficiency, and the empowerment of our people.”
The Korean Energy Project also announced construction of four mini-grids in areas of what is known as the Federal Capital Territory, a region that includes Abuja. Two of those installations, a 900-kW solar mini-grid in Rubochi and a 100-kW solar mini-grid in Ikwa, are expected to come online by the end of March. The other two facilities, with combined capacity of 600 kW, are expected online by year-end. Ali-Dapshima in a statement said, “I celebrate with the people of Rubochi, Ikwa, Gada Biyu, and Kugbaru as the beneficiary communities of this impactful support,” which he said is “transforming the socio-economic status of the people.” The REA, along with developing mini-grids, is implementing several programs in Nigeria, including the Rural Electrification Fund; Nigeria Electrification Project; Solar Power Naija; Energizing Education Programme; Energizing Economies Initiative; Energizing Agriculture Programme; and the Energy for All—Mass Rural Electrification and Research and Innovation Hub.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).