Tuesday, 14 May 2024 04:31

Solar system receives boost as energy costs from public power become unaffordable for consumers on Band A

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Premium electricity consumers categorised as Band A customers are embracing solar power as an alternative source of energy following the recent tariff hike as well as the high cost of fuel, DARE OLAWIN reports

In Nigeria, the average person is gradually losing the ability to afford electricity as they still struggle to pay for other essentials of life. Since April, many people have seen an increase in their electricity costs of over 300 per cent, as a result of the government’s decision to stop providing subsidies for electricity in areas covered by Band A feeders. They are now considering solar energy as an additional source of renewable and sustainable energy as a result.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, in its supplementary Multi-Year Tariff Order for April, raised the tariff in Band A to N225 per kilowatt-hour from N68. In May, the tariff was reduced to N206.80/kWh, but Nigerians, including organised labour, insisted that the tariff in the 15 per cent Band A feeders be reversed to N68/kWh.

However, Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, argued that the tariff could no longer be reversed, as doing so would drag Nigeria into perpetual darkness.

According to Adelabu, the tariff hike is now attracting investors to the power sector, as the cost-reflective tariff is now bringing liquidity to the sector.

The government had insisted that customers on Band A were individuals who could afford the cost of energy without the need for subsidies.

But there are arguments that several indigent persons, including pensioners, traders, farmers, civil servants, artisans and transporters, also live within these Band A feeder locations.

Some of these individuals may get disconnected when they begin to find it hard to fund their electricity bills.

For civil servants and other low-income earners who fall into the premium customer category, electricity appears to have become a luxury in a nation where some state governors have yet to pay the N30,000 minimum wage.

Our correspondent gathered that Nigerians in Band A now get 4.8 units for N1,000 instead of 14 units before the tariff hike. With N30,000, an electricity consumer would get 145 units instead of over 400 units before the subsidy was removed.

Speaking about how much they have spent on electricity since the tariff hike, some Nigerians shared their experiences with The PUNCH.

Oduro Oladunni said: “Before the increase, my house prepaid meter was using an average of N60,000 per month, but since the heavy tariff increase for Band A this month, my household has bought a meter card of N129,00 in April. We now switch off the meter from 7.30 a.m to 6.30 p.m everyday. We now only use light late at night. As a result of the heavy expenditure, we have reduced many things in the house, like food and other household needs. May God touch the heart of this government to reduce this heavy burden.”

Another Band A customer, Adesayo Sulaimon, noted that he formerly spent N12,000 to buy 160 kWh of electricity that he used for 35 days.

“But now, N40,000 is needed to get the same units, which now lasts us for 30 days. In April, we have spent N40,000 for the electricity that we only needed N12,000 to get before April,” Sulaimon stated.

According to Obioma Ejimofor, she currently spends N5,000 every three days to purchase electricity units as a Band A user.

Aside from this, most areas not on the Band A feeders have continued to lament the lower power supply in their areas. While the premium customers are lamenting high tariff, others in Band B to E said they have been abandoned in darkness.

A customer expressed worry, “Since this new tariff regime on April 1 for Band A customers, it is clear that no DisCo has been able to meet up supply to this less than one per cent of Band A customers. The fact remains that DisCos have been pushing all the electricity away from other band users but still cannot meet up.”

On Monday, the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, led other Nigerian workers to the NERC head office in Abuja to protest the tariff hike. The nationwide protest halted business activities in various offices of distribution companies in Nigeria.

Speaking at the demonstration, Ajaero challenged the NERC to reveal to Nigerians which power plant it intends to build by the end of the year, claiming that the nation cannot exist on 4,000 megawatts of electricity. He mentioned that if the Mambilla plant was operational, it could produce more than 3,600 MW of electricity.

Ajaero further said that the NERC could not continue to charge tariffs without availability and accessibility to what they were paying for, adding that the commission was creating inflation, for which it would continue to charge Nigerians.

He called on the Federal Government not only to reverse the planned hike but to abolish all forms of tax that could further impoverish Nigerians.

In response to their increased financial burden due to the tariff hike, worsened by the rising cost of petrol and diesel, many Band A electricity customers are switching to solar as their alternative source of power.

Some Nigerians said they would have to review their partnerships with the power companies and opt for solar.

According to a social media commentator, Morris Monye, N65,000 now gives him access to 288 kWh instead of 812 kWh, announcing that he has opted for solar.

Monye posted on X in pidgin, “I don leave una. Solar is the best way to go. No more Band A.”

He explained that he got 20 panels and eight batteries for about N6m.

“I think everyone should go this route,” he advised other Nigerians.

Angel Thomas stated that with N2m he got four solar panels and two big batteries for his mother’s building, noting that his mother’s fridge and water pump were working perfectly.

Amid the desire for solar power lies the concern of affordability. Our correspondent learned that the costs of solar panels and batteries have been on the rise.

Experts have blamed it on Nigeria’s volatile foreign exchange rate.

Another challenge many tenants who have the financial strength to switch to solar have been having is securing the approval of their landlords.

Sulaimon, a resident of Abeokuta, said his landlord did not allow any tenant to install solar panels on his rooftop over fear that it might temper the structural integrity of the roof.

Speaking with our correspondent, the Chief Executive Officer of Pam Africa, a renewable energy company, Patrick Agese, disclosed that the demand for solar power had increased in the last few weeks, following the removal of electricity subsidies.

According to him, many Nigerians desire to have solar panels installed in their homes, but they lack the financial capacity.

He, however, said solar energy companies now offer monthly payment plans to lessen the burden on interested individuals.

“Since the tariff increase, we have recorded about a 60 per cent increase in call rates,” Agese stated.

He explained that calls were coming from Nigerians who wanted to know what it would require to have solar in their houses and offices.

The determination, he added, was to save the amount being expended on energy daily.

The Pam Africa CEO maintained that the majority of the callers had yet to make a final decision due to the cost involved.

Agese noted that ordinarily, a prospective customer would need about two months to conclude whether or not he wants to choose solar as an alternative means of electricity.

He remarked that the cost of installing solar was still more economical compared to the cost of electricity and fuel.

He told The PUNCH that some existing customers had added more to their solar power system after the tariff hike, while others were calling to save energy costs by going solar.

Instead of spending millions of naira on electricity every month, Agese suggested that businesses and individuals could partner with microfinance banks that would help in paying the cost of solar monthly.

The payment, he admonished, should be spread over four to five years.

He advised low-income earners to consider the cheaper alternative if they cannot afford up to N4m or more. With N700,000, Agese said a customer could get the capacity that could power his television set, a standing fan and bulbs.

Agese enunciated that the cost of solar panels was reducing In the international market, saying that the fall of the naira against the dollar was the major issue.

On durability and capacity, the Pam Africa boss pleaded with Nigerians to patronise only qualified service providers while following the instructions of the engineers on what could be powered with the solar system.

The PUNCH notes that streetlights and solar bulbs have gained popularity among Nigerians recently. Traders now use solar bulbs to light up their shops instead of spending money on fuel.

According to the International Energy Agency, solar photovoltaics is expected to grow rapidly, with an average rate of above 50 per cent per year over the next three years” in Nigeria.

In February, the Federal Government said it was planning the construction of renewable power plants to boost electricity generation across the country.

The power minister highlighted that the creation of renewable power plants would be one of his strategies to ensure incremental improvement in the national power supply.

Adelabu mentioned multiple times that areas that are underserved and unserved might require the use of renewable energy sources for power.

As Nigeria faces issues such as energy poverty and fluctuating foreign exchange rates, it is evident that solar power could be a sustainable and eco-friendly solution to some of these challenges.

By adopting solar power, individuals and businesses can reduce their dependence on the national grid, and take steps towards energy independence.

However, concerns about affordability remain a major obstacle, preventing many from accessing this environmentally friendly option.

 

Punch

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