This past Saturday marked a new era for residents of Bishop Kodji, an island-based village off the Nigerian coast: they had electricity for the first time ever. The event also marked the kick-off of a rural electrification project by the country's Lagos State government that will provide solar installations to a total of nineteen villages previously without power.
''The tropical climate makes solar energy the most viable alternative source of renewable energy in Nigeria. Harnessing the sun's energy to produce power is an imperative for rural areas where the hope of being connected to the national grid is very remote and extremely expensive,'' Kadiri Hamzat, Lagos State Commissioner for Science and Technology, said in Ikeja, capital of Lagos State, in June. He was briefing journalists about the activities of his ministry in the past one year.While villagers are still adjusting to their new circumstances (they've overloaded the system once already), they're already enjoying watching the village's one television in a community hall, and look forward to providing classrooms with electricity for their children, many of whom must canoe to the mainland to attend school. Additionally, the solar array provides more consistent power than the national grid, which was largely ignored by military rulers that controlled the country for much of the last two decades.
Hamzat said the solar energy technology is less expensive than electricity generated by the new Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) that replaced the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), though power supply has gone worse since its establishment. In principle, only the name has changed, NEPA staff still run the new company.
Hamza said: ''It costs about 150 million naira (around 1.2 million dollars) to connect each village to the national grid, while the solar energy project costs only about 10 million naira (around 83,000 dollars) per village.''
A similar project launched in 2002 by the Nigerian government, through the assistance of the Japanese government, has lit 200 rural communities in Imo, Ondo and Jigawa states as well as in Abuja, the nation's capital.
Renewable technologies such as solar and wind power seem ideal for developing countries, as rural residents can power up without having access to grid infrastructure. We hope the idea catches with other governments eager to raise the quality of life for citizens, but who may not be able to finance larger, nationwide systems. ::Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS) via the World Business Council for Sustainable Development