How SON, donor partners fast-track off-grid energy projects


… As renewable energy sector gets boost with solar lab

Renewable Energy sector has been witnessing increasing focus in recent times due to challenging and changing circumstances of time. Actually, the demand for efficient energy in rural and urban areas as well as challenges posed by climate change has resulted to increasing need to Renewable Energy (RE) and Energy Efficiency (EE). Experts believe that RE standards and quality products would boost power demand, supply, capacities and reliability across the country.

Now, courtesy of its Lighting Africa Project, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has installed a solar laboratory which it recently handed over to the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) at a ceremony in SON laboratory complex, Ogba, Lagos. The commissioning of the facility was no doubt one of the gargantuan steps towards entrenching off-grid energy projects which would in turn tackle poor power supply and other energy problems in Nigeria.

IFC Senior Country Manager, Karim Shah lauded the partnership among the Nigerian government, SON, IFC and FCDO which led to the establishment of the solar laboratory.

According to him, everyone all share the ambition to develop the renewable energy market and capitalize a market base approach to adopt first grid solar electrification technology with a specific focus on high quality stand-alone systems. Universal access to clean and affordable electricity remains key to reducing poverty and sustainable solutions need be targeted at countries where access to renewable energy is low.

He further disclosed that approximately 760 million people are living without electricity or have access to them while hundreds and millions more live with insufficient and unreliable access to electricity. More than one billion people gain access to electricity globally over the last decade, adding that the economic impact of Covid-19 made electricity services unaffordable to 30 million more people. The majority of these unavailability is located in Africa, he stated.

Accelerating renewable energy solutions remains a viable path to meeting soaring global energy in nations. Additionally, energy makes possible investment, innovations and new industries thereby creating jobs and boosting economic growth. According to the World Bank, only 55.4 percent of Nigerians have access to electricity, leaving over 90 million Nigerians without access to electricity.

“Renewables like good solar can be a game changer to bridge this gap, therefore there is an urgent need to significantly scale up efforts in the countries, regions and states with the largest electricity deficits to achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030. IFC and the World Bank group are proud to be among the cooperating partners supporting the government of Nigeria in addressing access needs in the country. Working with the government and the private sector, we have focus on different aspects of the Energy mix in the country”, the IFC top official declared.

Statistics show that from 2014 to 2020 the IFC lightening Africa programme worked with manufacturers, distributors, financial intermediaries and the government to capitalize an off-grid energy market in Nigeria, in addition to laying a foundation for Nigeria’s off-grid solar market. The Lightening Africa Programme connected over seven million Nigerians to energy. Over 70 million Nigerians become aware about solar energy to solar products and supported microfinance institutions in giving out 203,000 micro-loans for solar products which is nearly eight million dollars with over 80 percent for women.

The World Bank’s 350 million dollars Nigerian electrification programme has been aimed at increasing access to electricity services for public educational institutions and smaller businesses. Nigeria electrification project has motivated one of the most ambitious off-grid energy projects in the country.

On his part, Director General SON, Mallam Farouk Salim said with the commissioning of SON Laboratories, challenges in the renewable energy sector are being tackled, calling on all stakeholders to patronize the facilities for quality products in the sector as well as meeting the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and growing Nigeria’s economy. He also appealed to International Organisations, relevant MDAs as well as business leaders in the renewable energy (RE) sector to put hands on deck to ensuring diligent implementation of the standards and optimal utilization of the laboratory facilities for the overall benefit of all.

Renewable energy standards would boost power demand, supply, capacities and reliability across the country. The SON solar laboratory project was started by the International Finance Corporation (IFC/Lighting Africa) in collaboration with Africa Clean Energy Programme (ACE) and CLASP. Apart from the official handover of the facility, the occasion was equally used to launch market surveillance and enforcement plans for the RE sector and presentation of certificates to trained laboratory engineers.

British Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria, Mr. Ben Llewellyn-Jones expressed delight over what has been achieved so far and commitment to supporting SON help Nigeria get access to global energy. He said significant strides have been made to enable access and utilization of good energy resources such as good solar. Efforts to meet energy access in the UK have been more than committed to driving good access to good solar energy. He said for a long time the proliferation of substandard solar products in the country has created serious reputation issues to the sector and have created market spillage, adding that this was a key and difficult issue which needs to be addressed.

“To recognize an important issue in the sector, UK government supports and shows its commitment to the Nigerian government and hence the adoption to international recognized standards of products and how these standards need to be adopted as international standards by the Nigerian government for standard way of selling products in Nigeria”, he stated.

According to him, quality is important and needs to be enforced to improve the RE sector and eliminate poor quality products hence UK government also commissioned setting up quality test laboratory that meets international standards to support standards enforcement and improve surveillance activities by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria. He said the laboratory was the first of its kind in West Africa that would help the enforcement of quality standards.

As for the Chairman of Renewable Energy Manufacturers Association, Dr.Segun Adaju said the launching of the laboratory would deepen investment and consumers’ confidence in the sector. He regretted that the members of the association have relied on lightening Africa Project approved manufacturers list for importation.

He urged SON to embark on an aggressive awareness campaign to educate users on how to support SON to flush out bad elements in the sector, stating that the association has adopted self-regulatory approach to discipline erring members.

Experts say the implementation of the standard and quality verification of the new laboratory would mitigate unwholesome business practices in the sector. RE and Energy Efficiency (EE) sourced from solar, wind, biomass and others.

To Engr. Akan Michael, National Chairman, Nigeria Society of Engineers / Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NSE/NIEEE), launching of the new laboratory means the road has been opened for new innovations, while thanking the donor partners and other stakeholders.

“We, as an institute have observed the progress and the successes recorded by SON and few months ago requested for an opportunity to honour the DG, SON who happens to be a hardworking man and have worked to enhance quality delivery of products across the country,” he said.

As fa as Chibuikem Agbaegbu, Country manager, Africa Clean Energy Programme is concern, implementing standards remain a collaborative effort among SON and organized private sector players adding that enforcement would be easy if standards are adapted to the needs of the various sectors.

“Working together, we developed this market surveillance and enforcement plan which basically articulates the step-by-step process and guide to which SON collaborates with all key stakeholders to implement an entire market surveillance activity”, he said.

This cuts across how it co-ordinates with the private sector and consumers, how it will operationalize the laboratory, working around the implementation of policy, and companies that have to do with improving standards, he re-stated.

He said the enforcement plan is more like a template and a guide specific for solar sector as SON works towards the implementation of standards.

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