Closing the electricity gap with stand-alone solar
Nigeria’s population is estimated at 201 million,1 of which 77 million do not have access to any electricity source, which is an essential driver of economic growth. The Government of Nigeria (GoN) has been actively promoting SAS through various initiatives of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) such as the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), and the Solar Naija programme which aims to deploy 5 million new connections via solar home systems (SHS) and solar mini-grids by 2023. As SAS are not considered part of the traditional energy infrastructure, they are typically sold by private companies albeit with government encouragement and support. Government sets electrification targets and then ideally provides a favourable business environment for the companies to deliver.
The use of Stand-Alone Solar (SAS) in Nigeria has grown significantly in the last five years, as customers become more familiar with the technology and experience the benefits. In response to the growing demand, solar companies are increasing their product range, consumer financing options and expanding their distribution reach. Foreign and local investors are increasingly interested in the market opportunity of SAS which by one estimate can be up to USD 9.2 billion annually. Government and development partners have been ramping up support as well.
The UK-funded Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility (ACE TAF) commissioned a nationwide study to assess the extent to which vulnerable communities have access to SAS. It looked at trade and consumer segments in rural, peri-urban, and urban areas across 10 states (Abia, Ado Ekiti, Bauchi, Cross Rivers, Ebonyi, Edo, Kano, Kogi, Oyo and Plateau) in the country’s six geo-political regions. This study was carried out between June and September 2020 during the covid-19 pandemic, and also assessed the impact of the pandemic on traders and end users of SAS products.
- SAS products have become a reliable and affordable means of electrification, but despite government efforts, most rural areas especially the poor and vulnerable, lack access to electricity including quality SAS solutions. Government should encourage sales of SAS to lower-income, harder-to-reach rural communities especially areas not immediately attractive to traders.
- SAS is growing rapidly as an electricity solution for Nigerians – but cost is still a major barrier. Government should proactively address affordability constraints if it is to achieve inclusive national energy access targets.