The Federal Government on Thursday in London boosted its power programme with the signing of an agreement with the United Kingdom on the use of solar energy to provide electricity to rural people.
Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo (SAN), who led Nigeria’s delegation to the event at the Facebook Headquarters, signed on behalf of the Federal Government, while the UK Minister of State for International Development, Grant Shapps, signed on behalf of the UK government.
The event was performed shortly after the launch of the Africa Energy Campaign initiated by the UK Department for International Development.
Osinbajo said his presence at the launch was to underscore Nigeria’s commitment to the national and regional effort to improve accessibility to power, especially solar power, for Nigerians.
According to him Nigeria will do its best to ensure that the campaign to boost supply and consumption of solar energy is invigorated and gave an assurance that the Federal Government would work closely with the DFID.
He said the programme was an opportunity for Africa, adding that the advantage of the launch was that the partners could bring universal access to energy.
He said: “With the cost of solar power 20 years ago that would have been impossible; the combination of innovation in technology, the low cost of solar power has made this all the more possible.
“This is an incredible opportunity in Africa, especially Nigeria, with over 96 million people who do not have access to power.”
Osinbajo noted that the use of kerosene had created a lot of safety and environmental issues, adding: “A default energy source should be solar and the option was not available for so long, but now it is cheaper, safer, and more environmentally friendly.”
He observed that the campaign was an opportunity for investment, which could get a boom such as was experienced in the telecommunications sector in the country.
Osinbajo said the Nigerian market provided the greatest opportunity for the use of small scale solar solutions, adding that the country would be the ideal base to push the solar solution in the continent.
He said: “But the challenges are probably as clear as the prospects but thankfully enough they are surmountable.”
The VP urged those who would drive the campaign to also determine the effective cost that would not further impoverish the poor.
He noted that there could not be one particular solution to the need for power adding that the alliance being created by the partners was important.
According to Osinbajo, Nigeria’s partnership with DFID was successful with the application of solar power technology in over 100 schools, hospitals and many primary healthcare centres in Lagos State alone.
In his speech Shapps said the Africa Energy was a campaign to bring justice to more than 600 million people around the continent without access to electricity.
According to him, many Africans did not have light in their homes and their children unable to do their homework, while others die of household pollution from use of kerosene and charcoal.
He said the situation was unacceptable and that the campaign needed a group of coalitions and alliances cutting across the business and political boundaries and people with technological capabilities and civil society movements to make it work.
“We have a cause and we have a challenge but it is achievable,” he said.
Also speaking, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, said it was incredible that the global community had taken the challenge of providing cheap and friendly energy for the people.
While noting that over 620 million Africans lack access to electricity, Anan added that 300 million would still lack access by 2040, a decade after the UN target of developmental goals for universal energy.
“This is intolerable, avoidable and profoundly unfair. It leaves the world’s poorest people to pay the highest prices for power,” the envoy said.
The former envoy said the African Progress panel of the UN, which he chairs, would help to address the issue of easy access to affordable energy.
Anan said African leaders have no choice about tackling the region’s chronic deficit in energy generation and access.
He said: “Where the leaders and investment partners do have a choice is in deciding how to tackle the region’s energy crisis.
“Africa does not have to follow the carbon-intensive pathway of the energy practices of the rich and emerging countries, which has brought the world to the brinks of catastrophe.
“Africa is rich in untapped energy potential, including renewable sources such as sun, wind and hydro, all of which had advantage of speed and scope to decentralization.”
Anan said low carbon development had the potential to enhance economic development of the continent.
According to him, the harsh effects were felt by households and investors, while countries were losing out from failure to harness productive technologies to broaden their developmental base.
Annan said African leaders had the unique opportunity to deliver on the promise of energy for all and called on the nations to set their respective timetable to achieve universal energy access.