IEEE Smart Village, a long time program partner of GVE Projects, Ltd., Nigeria, commissioned 37Kw PV micro-utility in the village of Bisanti last October. This is the single largest mini-grid system to be developed in Nigeria, and the first of three 10% IEEE Smart Village seed-funded projects in Nigeria. The second and third micro-utility stations are scheduled to open late February.
Each system provides energy access to 200+ households and 25+ small and medium sized enterprises along with installation of extensive market-center street lighting. GVE is now in discussions with the Bank of Industry Nigeria to secure the capital allowing continue expansion this year into more villages. GVE reached an understanding with the Nigerian Ministry of Energy protecting it’s projects with exclusive territorial rights for their microgrid programs.
Below is a personal account from Ifeanyi on his work in Nigeria.
Business is going strong for my company, GVE Projects, Ltd., here in Nigeria. This summer, we signed a memo of understanding (MOU) with Nigeria’s Bank of Industry for a long-term loan of more than $675,000 USD at single-digit interest rates. IEEE Smart Village will provide GVE with $65,535.20 USD in matching funds as part of a seed-funding program.
At this point we have deployed a total capacity of 24 kilowatts (kW) of off-grid electricity at three sites. In the current phase of our work, we are deploying an additional 72 kW of capacity for off-grid communities across the country. The first phase of the new contract is nearly complete and it probably has been commissioned by the time you read these remarks.
From the pilot projects we have deployed, our business model has proven sustainable and scalable. Our fee structure is designed to give customers the best service at the lowest possible rate, making off-grid electricity provision reliable and affordable. Our ultimate goal, with the Bank of Industry’s financing and the support of IEEE Smart Village, is to light 200,000 homes to serve a million people over the next five years.
This ambitious plan will sustain GVE Projects, Ltd., if all goes well. One of our major drivers has been the satisfaction we take in creating value and the socio-economic uplift in the lives of the indigenes of our host communities. We are agents of change, for the common good. I asked one of my customers to describe the impact of reliable, affordable electricity on his life. How did he light his home at night? How did he charge cell phone batteries?
He told us:
“Before now, we relied on basic local means like kerosene lanterns, candles and, at rare times, ‘I pass my neighbor’ generators to provide light. Normally, we would go to the village market center to pay and charge our phones. Since GVE came in, these are struggles of the past.
“Before now, I spent about 450 naira (about $2.25 USD) daily for three liters of fuel, but now I spend about 200 naira for better value. I have longer hours of electricity, without generator noise and fumes. My children can read in the evening, after school. I do not travel to charge my cell phone, which allows me to spend more business hours at my shop. The benefits are so many to count. Compared to how much I spent on fuel and alternative sources before GVE came to our community, the service is really affordable.”
Our business and the positive impacts we’re having on off-grid communities in Nigeria has been made possible through my own membership and participation in IEEE and the support we have received from the Smart Village Initiative. My colleagues and I are grateful for IEEE’s support, which began when we were merely young students with lofty ideas for an energy access revolution in West Africa. And we are honored to be ambassadors for IEEE wherever we go.
I joined IEEE in 2009 as a student member and had the good fortune to lead a team that won an Outstanding Student Humanitarian Prize in the inaugural IEEE Presidents’ Change the World Competition that year for our “Project Spread the Light: Provide Electricity in a Small Settlement.” IEEE Executive Director Jim Prendergast personally alerted me to the Humanitarian Technology Network, which I joined, as it meshed with the objectives of my team’s project.
This led me to join the Community Solutions Initiative, which became today’s IEEE Smart Village Initiative, and to present papers at international IEEE conferences, including regular attendance at the annual IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference.
IEEE’s support provided me with credibility and led to collaboration with other organizations, such as the U.S.’s African Development Foundation that sponsors the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge. Upon an invitation from the U.S. Department of State I attended the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.
All of these factors contributed to the success of GVE and the credibility that GVE and its collaborators brought to our application to Nigeria’s Bank of Industry.
As with other start-ups, the process of establishing such a business has not always been rosy. We have encountered critical challenges, including severe financial constraints. We have made sacrifices. But the families we empower have been supportive and have bought into our dreams.
Now, on a daily basis, we are applying the electrical engineering education we learned at university as well as the experience we’ve earned through our field deployments, as well as through the support of IEEE PES, the IEEE Smart Village Initiative and the international conferences we have been enabled to attend. Today, GVE Projects, Ltd., has become one of the most well-known renewable energy providers in Nigeria.