The 4th in-person African Mini-Grid Community of Practice meeting was held on 09-11 November 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria. It brought together Government officials and practitioners from 10 African countries and focused on smart subsidy design for mini-grids on the continent (another blogpost to follow on the meeting).
The solar mini-grid is a 37.5 kW system established in 2015. It currently provides energy access to 340 households in the community, within a 1.8 km range. Because of the direct and indirect impacts of energy access, the number of connections has more than doubled since 2015. The mini-grid system uses pre-paid smart meters, with a network of local agents selling electricity vouchers. The total capital expenditure for the mini-grid system is approximately $250,000 funded by blended finance (a grant from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and a concessional loan and equity from the Bank of Industry in Nigeria). 40% of the total capital expenditure went into the distribution network while the balance went into the generation costs, with a large proportion used to finance lead-acid batteries.
GVE used an algorithm to prioritize sites for electrification in Nigeria. Subsequent to identifying the site, GVE worked in close collaboration with the Rural Electrification Agency in Nigeria (REA) to determine their grid expansion plans. It became apparent to GVE that there would be no grid extension within the next 10 years to the village. This meant no stranded assets because of the potential arrival of the grid.
At present, there are 10 commercial clients and three social institutions making use of the electricity from the mini-grid. The commercial clients include shops, a tailor and several mills. In order to build the daytime baseload, GVE has been engaged in activating demand within the community by sourcing, financing and providing energy-efficient mills. Payments for equipment and for electricity are bundled to facilitate revenue collection. Productive energy use has resulted in a significant increase in the daytime load, thereby enabling the mini-grid to generate more revenue and to stimulate socio-economic growth within the community in Minna.
During the visit, it became clear that the shop was a key meeting point within the village. Even on a hot Sunday afternoon, the area was alive with activity. Thanks to the mini-grid, the shop owner is now able to run the shop until midnight, significantly increasing her revenue. Moreover, access to energy has enabled her to provide cold water to her customers – an understandably high hitting item in the year-round extreme heat.
Energy access is transforming lives in significant ways. Mini-grids are making otherwise unattainable socio-economic opportunities accessible to marginalized people. In the local community, GVE provides direct employment for three local engineers who are responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting of the system. Thanks to the mini-grid, women have been able to establish small businesses enabling them to become successful entrepreneurs, able to their products far beyond their local community.
The day the lights went on in 2015 in the local community in Minna, an 80-year-old man, who has lived in the village since his birth, wept with joy. As a child, he had been promised electricity from the national grid that lies a mere 15 km away, and had since come to accept that this would never happen.