EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW! It is time to adopt solar, national grid has failed Nigerians- MD, GVE Project Limited

Founder/ Managing Director of GVE Projects Limited, Ifeanyi Orajaka

Ifeanyi Orajaka is the Founder/ Managing Director of GVE Projects Limited. Orajaka has over seven years’ experience in renewable energy systems design, installation/ maintenance, business development, project management, GIS-based rural electrification planning, policies/ strategy formulation, conflict resolution. As the founder/ Managing Director of GVE Projects ltd, he is directly involved in the development of strategies/ policies geared towards positioning the young company as a leader in Nigeria’s renewable energy industry. In view of this, GVE Projects Ltd has attracted the collaboration of several national and international organizations (which include United States Agency for International Development, German-GIZ, United States African Development Foundation, General Electric, Institute of Electrical Electronics Engineers- USA, United Nations Development Programme, Bank of Industry Nigeria, Deliotte- Nigeria etc.) in her bid to contribute towards solving Nigeria’s electricity poverty. Orajaka holds a B.Eng in Electrical Electronics Engineering from the Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria. He is a certified Project Manager and has had professional experiences in leading multinational companies (ExxonMobil, Shell Nigeria & NIIT). He has participated in trainings on Corporate Finance, New Venture Finance, Operations Management, Public Private Partnerships and Marketing. He is a member of the Global Shapers Community, Port-Harcourt Hub (an initiative of the World Economic Forum). Orajaka is also a member of Junior Chamber International Nigeria an international NGO aimed at grooming young leaders and entrepreneurs. He has attended and presented papers in several international conferences.

In this interview with the Editor of BrandInfo, OLUWAGBENGA BANKOLE, Orajaka speaks on the power sector in Nigeria, how government can encourage use of solar power in Nigeria and other typical issues. Excerpt !

Kindly briefly tell us about GVE Project Limited

GVE Project Limited is a leading and most innovative PV solar solution provider in sub-Sahara Africa. We provide solar power solution for residential, commercial and most importantly rural communities using varieties of solar technology PV solar, mini grid and stand alone solar home systems.

What is the target of your company when it comes to solar power supply in Nigeria?

We actually started as University undergraduate and along the line we got to realise that power is actually a very big issue in Nigeria. As much as 60 percent of the population have no access to electricity. And in line with that we are currently working on a shorter medium target of impacting 2 percent of Nigeria population which is about 3.6 million people by the year 2022.

Tell us some of the job you have done in the past?

We have deployed a lot of stand alone solar home systems across the country particularly in major cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. Equally we are more like a micro utility in about six rural communities where we fully generated electricity using solar to settle inhabitants in these communities. One of the communities has been enjoying an interrupted power supply for as much as two years which has had very huge impact on social economy and standard of living in that community.

About two years ago, your firm in partnership with Schneider Electric, Arnergy Solar Limited and Bank of Industry commissioned pilot low-cost, off-grid solar energy solutions in some states in Nigeria. How far about the project and what is the latest development regarding it?

In 2015 precise we entered into a partnership with Bank of Industry, Schneider Electric access to energy division and through the partnership we deployed PV solar mini grid in rural communities in various region of the country. At the moment we have six operational sites in four different states and currently we are also implementing 11 additional projects in six different states of the country. Cumulatively the operational projects are impacting over 2000 households and those ones that are under construction when they are completed will be impacting about 12,000 households.

What is your assessment of usage of solar power in Nigeria? Do you think it is encouraging at all?

  Over the past few years, the use of solar technology has significantly improved. Initially one of the major issues that we had was the negative perception of the ability of the technology. Through some of the projects we have been able to implement in various cities and rural communities in the country people are now beginning to understand and realise that the technology actually worked. It is a very viable solution than using generators, kerosene or lantern.  We are gradually seeing an incremental growth in the adoption of the technology both for the rural and urban clients.

Do you think solar power is the solution to the problem of epileptic power supply in Nigeria?

I have been active in the power sector for as much as seven years and have studied the trend and body languages of all the stakeholders that are active in the sector, I must say boldly that solar is the way to go. If we rely on the grid, the grid will not get us stable electricity supply in Nigeria. Even all our power generating plants are running at full capacity and our transmission is feet. 60 percent of Nigerians are not connected to the grid. So even if we solve all the gas issues, over 100 million Nigerians won’t even have access to power from the national grid. The government cannot bear the cost of expanding the grid and the private sector may not be willing to do it because of some certain issues. Solar is indeed one of the ways to provide or improve energy access in Nigeria.

The truth of the matter is that solar is very cost compare to other forms of energy. What can government do in order to make it affordable for Nigerians?

I am an advisory board member of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN). And I would say in the past few months a lot of advocacy and discussion has been on going on how government can help to unlock solar utilization in the country. One of that is through providing dedicated intervention fund which will help people to actually get the solution and pay over a period of time. Base on that, we actually have meters installed in communities we have solar deployed. Each of the house is on pay-as-you-go basis. For instance, it cost an average household between N50 to N200 depending on the appliance they are using. If you compare that to the cost of using kerosene or generator is about one third of what it would cost them. Through innovative financing and technology we have been able to demystify the high initial offer. We are also in collaboration with Bank of Industry; we are currently doing something similar for SMEs. This is because we discovered that 40 to 60 percent of their expenditure actually goes to self generation of power. Through Bank of Industry SMEs solar scheme, you can acquire this system and pay over a period of five years at very minimum interest rate.

How can you assess the power sector under present administration in the country?

I must commend the government of the day that they have been doing a lot. I must also opine that the problems of the sector are very complex. There are issues ranging from all the segment of the value chain, from gas supply to power generation, transmission, distribution, down to collection and billing. Although it is very complex but the government has been tackling it. Most importantly the government has beginning to recognise the impact of solar power in helping Nigeria get to where it want to be in terms of energy sufficiency and reliability. In line with that they have been streamlining a lot of initiatives and policies that could actually help to ensure that solar help to solve our energy problem. One of such initiative is the launching of renewable energy roundtable whereby people from government interface with players in the renewable energy sector to see how to unlock the challenges of the sector.

What are your future plans for GVE Project Limited?

For us as a company, by the end of this year we are going to have 20,000 households using solar through our solution. The medium term from now till 2020 we want to have as much as 3.6million Nigerians who are using our solution to have reliable and affordable clean energy.


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