Nigerian Universities Graduate to Off-Grid Microgrids

July 19, 2019
Four Nigerian universities will soon disconnect from the national grid with off-grid microgrids — part of a national program to bring microgrids to dozens of universities.

Four Nigerian universities will soon disconnect from the national grid with off-grid microgrids, as part of a national program to bring microgrids to dozens of universities.

A subsidiary of Greece’s Mytilineos, METKA Power West Africa is providing engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) for phase one of the four Energizing Education projects. The company was awarded a contract by Nigeria’s federal government in April 2018.

Consisting of solar power, battery storage and back-up diesel-power, the microgrids are designed to provide uninterrupted power that meets the universities’ electricity needs. The projects also entail construction of training centers to educate students at Nigerian universities about renewable and distributed energy.

Groundbreaking off-grid microgrids

Grid access is sorely lacking in Nigeria. Where and when it is accessible, it’s frequently of poor quality and reliability, as well as expensive. The off-grid microgrids will provide low-carbon energy more efficiently, reliably and at a lower cost than grid power, according to Mytilineos.

For Nigeria and West Africa, the microgrids are groundbreaking, said company spokesperson Antigoni Fakou.

“They will do a lot of good for a lot of people, benefiting Nigerian students and communities by improving educational facilities and opening up new opportunities,” Fakou said.

Taken together, the generation capacity of the four campus microgrids totals 7.5 MW. Two are already powering street lighting.

Complete commissioning of the Kano University of Science and Technology and Federal University of Petroleum Resources’ microgrids is expected by the end of July. The Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto and Nnamdi Azikiwe University microgrids are slated for full commissioning in September.

Build, own, operate and transfer

METKA Power West Africa will build, own and operate the microgrids for one year, then transfer operations, maintenance and ownership to the Nigerian federal government.

Its parent, Mytilineos, has been active in West and Sub-Saharan African countries via its subsidiaries for many years. “So we have gained lots of experience in countries across the region, such as Ghana,” Fakou said in an interview.

Just recently, Mytilineos subsidiary METKA EGN signed an EPC contract with ENI Tunisia to develop a 5-MW hybrid power system at the ADAM oil concession in the Tataouine governate of Tunisia.

Microgrids for 37 Nigerian universities

Looking forward, the Nigerian government plans to deploy similarly configured microgrids at 37 universities across the country via the Energizing Education program.

Developed by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and carried out by the Rural Electrification Agency, the program draws on a $550 million loan from the World Bank. The loan lays the foundation for a nationwide distributed energy system, market and industry centered on local, renewable energy and private-sector enterprise.

“The benefits of the Energizing Education Program are immeasurable, as improving the quality of education and ensuring safe and conducive learning environments, through access to reliable power, training centers and streetlights, would result in the churning out of excellent graduates, thus multiply the effects on all facets of society,” said D’Amilola Ogunbiyi, Rural Electrification Agency managing director and CEO, upon awarding the phase one EPC contracts.

National electrification goals

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A Power Africa program partner, the U.S. Africa Development Foundation (USADF), has helped fund off-grid electrification projects as part of investment readiness initiatives in six Nigerian states. “We’ve had some very successful solar-storage projects in Nigeria, many of which are minigrids, said Tom Coogan, USADF regional director.

Solar-storage microgrids, or minigrids as they’re known in Africa and other developing world markets, are proving themselves in the field, and in Nigeria in particular, Coogan said.

“Once they [renewable energy entrepreneurs] establish a business model and generate positive cash flows they’re able to access bank and other institutional sources of capital,” he told Microgrid Knowledge.

USADF has joined with national and international private and public sector organizations to help fund the development of more than 20 distributed, renewable energy entrepreneurs that are building rural, off-grid microgrids in Nigeria , part of the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge.

“We’re really seeing Nigerian banks develop products specifically around solar minigrids and solar energy now. They were just discussing it about three years ago, now they’re making loans,” Coogan said.

These include blended financing packages, made up of a mix of grant and private-sector equity and debt financing packages.

“There’s a mass market in Nigeria, and a mass of opportunity, along with a real entrepreneurial spirit among Nigerians,” Coogan said. “Coupled with a demand for energy, there’s lots of enthusiasm and actions being taken by and on the part of small entrepreneurs.”

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