Generating and Distributing Electricity in Rural Areas of Nigeria

Did you know that around 51.4% of Nigeria’s population lives within a rural area?

Rural areas in Nigeria are defined as locations that have a population less than 50,000. They are also classified as areas where there is a group or collection of less than 2,500 to 50,000 people. Living in rural areas presents a unique set of challenges that citizens who live in larger cities don’t often face.

This is especially true when it comes to utility services like electricity.

While some of these areas benefit from energy deregulation, many do not. In addition, utilities often cannot justify providing services to rural areas because of low profitability and the high cost of development. Utilities that do provide service to these areas often need to charge rural customers much higher rates.

In order to give people living in these areas reliable access to energy, it was clear that something had to change. The answer was the creation of the Rural Electrification Programme.

Rural Electrification Programme.

The Federal Government’s Rural Electrification Programme was initiated 24 years ago, in 1981, and has not been met with much success, since inception. This programme had the target of connecting all existing Local Government Headquarters and select neighboring towns and villages to the national grid. It was called the Nigerian Rural Electrification Programme (NREP). The programme was initiated by the Federal Ministry of Power and Steel (FMPS) and was executed by the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).

The programme was plagued by inadequate funding, poor performance on the part of contractors and procurement difficulties. In the late 1980’s, the programme was resuscitated, with the establishment and Implementation Committee and bulk procurement arrangement. Although these resulted in greater access to electricity by Local Government Headquarters and fortunate consumers in the immediate vicinity, a majority of rural households did not see much improvement in the availability of electricity services.

The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) was established in 2006, via section 88 (1) of the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act-2005. The Act established the Rural Electrification Agency and the Rural Electrification Fund. The Act stipulated that REA should have the following main modes of delivery: (i) Expansion of the main grid to rural areas (ii) Development of Isolated and Mini-grid systems and (ii) Renewable Energy power generation.


Rural Energy Challenges

While the Retail Utilities Service continues to push for improvements and development of electric services within rural areas, they also face several challenges.

Modernize VS Rising Costs

The cost to modernize existing electricity infrastructure or even to implement newer, clean electricity technologies can often come with a hefty price tag. The challenge is in the great distances rural living puts between customers as well as areas where energy services are made up of a hodge-podge of different solutions.

System planners who attempt to work in and for rural areas also often find it challenging to truly understand the specific issues these locations face.

Climate Change

Climate change might have a different impact on rural areas compared to urban areas. There are many reasons for this such as:

  • Common Occupations
  • Poverty
  • Demography

The climate gap is an issue that is of most concern to many. It addresses the problem that rural areas face when it comes to their ability to adapt and change, as well as their current economic framework. In particular, research shows that rural areas within the Northeast and Northwest might see significant problems in the future due to water scarcity and rising electricity rates.

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