Providing Renewable Energy In Rural Communities

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WITH the worsening environmental degradation brought about by factors such as climate change, the world is shifting its focus from traditional energy to renewable energy, particularly in efforts to meet the energy needs of rural dwellers.

Analysts note that most rural communities in Nigeria are not connected to the national electricity grid, compelling them to depend heavily on traditional energy sources such as kerosene lamps, palm oil lamps and candles for lighting.

They, however, observe that a few privileged ones in those communities rely on small petrol generators, popularly called “I better pass my neighbour’’, to meet their energy needs.

Experts, nonetheless, insist that many rural dwellers contract respiratory disorders because of their continuous inhalation of harmful gases emitted by these unsustainable energy sources.

They note that the rural dwellers are also vulnerable to domestic fire outbreak which could lead to the loss of people’s lives and property.

An energy expert, Mr Etiosa Uyigue, said that the use of renewable (sustainable) energy products had the potential to increase the living standards of people in the rural areas and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“The use of renewable energy has the potential to increase the people’s income in rural communities, thereby boosting the development of rural life.

“Through this way, much income, skills transfer and manufacturing opportunities for small businesses would be injected into the rural communities,” he said.

However, Uyigue said that the Global Environment Facility-UN Development Programme (GEF-UNDP) was implementing a sustainable energy project in some selected communities in Nasarawa State, as a pilot scheme.

He stressed that the project would provide renewable energy sources, while facilitating energy efficiency in Roguwa, Lower and Upper Uke communities in Karu Local Government Area of the state.

He said that GEF-UNDP was implementing the project under its Energy Efficiency in Nigeria scheme, adding that this was in conformity with the objectives of the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

Uyigue said that the project would be executed in collaboration with the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA).

“GEF-UNDP will spend N21 million on the project in the selected communities.

‘No fewer than 400 households in the communities would benefit from the replacement of incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

“We are going to give five CFLs, which are energy saving lamps, to each household in the selected communities.

“The project will also include the provision of solar-powered lighting systems for selected households in the areas that are not connected to the national grid,’’ he said.

Besides, Uyigue, who is the National Coordinator of GEF-UNDP’s Energy Efficiency in Nigeria Programme, said that a solar water pump would be installed at the water borehole in Roguwa community.

He also said that at least 50 solar panels would be installed in strategic locations in the three benefiting communities.

He said that the solar panels would generate at least seven kilowatts of electricity for the households in those communities

He added that the solar panels would generate four kilowatts of electricity in Upper and Lower Uke neighbourhoods, while generating three kilowatts of energy in Roguwa community.

Dr Akindeji Falaki, a climate change expert, who spoke at a recent sensitisation workshop on sustainable energy in Roguwa community organised to inaugurate the project, urged the community members to adopt best practices in efforts to promote energy efficiency.

Falaki, also the Team Leader (Climate Change and Environment) at National Orientation Agency (NOA), said that the promotion of energy efficiency was of one of the ways of mitigating the impact of climate change.

He, however, urged the members of Roguwa community to embrace environmental friendly behaviour in order to protect their environment.

“We are doing everything in partnership with you and we want you to work with us to achieve success in implementing the project.

“We will learn from you and you will learn from us so that you can take the message to other neighouring communities,’’ he added.

Similarly, Mr David Kusimo of the GEF Office in the Federal Ministry of Environment, urged the communities to imbibe best practices in order to protect their environment.

He pledged the Federal Government’s commitment to providing energy, especially renewable energy, for the citizens.

“This project will enhance development in Roguwa community. As you know, this project is funded by GEF and the ministry is in charge of facilitating GEF projects in Nigeria.

“It is the wish of the government for us to come together and see how we can develop this community as part of the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration,’’ he said.

The Village Head of Roguwa, Alhaji Abdullahi Mohammed, thanked the Federal Government and other partners for their timely intervention in the community’s infrastructure.

Abdullahi stressed that his community was not connected to the national grid, forcing the villagers to rely solely on kerosene lamp and generators.

He also noted that the residents of the community were hitherto getting water from a well, which was almost drying up at the time of the visit by the GEF-UNDP team.

“We are happy that our community has been selected for this project and we believe that it will enhance our wellbeing and development.

“We are ready to cooperate with the GEF-UNDP team to sustain the project; they have already presented a sustainability plan and we will ensure its implementation,’’ Abdullahi added.

On the sustainability of the project, Uyigue said that the project had inbuilt mechanisms to ensure its sustainability, adding that a Local Regulatory Committee (LERC) would be set up to oversee its maintenance.

“The community leadership will be allowed to nominate those that will serve on the committee and the members will be given additional training on the maintenance and installation of solar panels.

“ The LERC members would ensure that people pay some fees for the services, while the proceeds will be used by the LERC to maintain the facility.

“In Roguwa community, a metering device called ‘Current Limiter’ will be installed in each benefiting household. This is to ensure that community members pay for the electricity they consume.

“It will also prevent them from drawing electric current more than what has been allocated to each household,’’ he said.

Uyigue stressed that LERC members would be responsible for managing the facility with proceeds accumulating from the charges on behalf of the community.

All the same, environmentalists say that Nigeria will be in a better position to meet the energy needs of the rural dwellers if the potential of solar energy is fully exploited.

Insisting that solar energy has many comparative advantages over other energy sources, they stress that the rural population, who constitute a greater percentage of Nigeria’s population, will have steady, hitch-free access to electricity via solar power applications.

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