About 15.3 million households have no access to grid electricity. Seventy-two percent of the population depends on traditional fuelwood for cooking. Contrary to the Federal Government’s National Energy Policy and Vision 2020, deepening poverty has forced a reversal in the transition to modern and efficient energy forms. Today, more Nigerians are climbing down the energy ladder – moving from electricity, gas and kerosene to fuel wood and other traditional biomass energy forms. If this trend continues, 28 million households will be without electricity in 2030 and 189 million Nigerians will be dependent on wood use for cooking.
The International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development (ICEED) in collaboration with Christian Aid has published a new report: “Expanding Access to Pro-Poor Energy Services in Nigeria”. The report finds a significant decline in political interest for expanding electricity services to rural areas. Even though Nigeria has embarked on ambitious power sector reforms, ensuring that electricity reaches the poorest has over the years taken a back seat. Not only is investments in rural electrification in decline, Nigeria has no history of providing annual budgets for cooking energy programmes. Today, 95,300 Nigerians, mostly women and children die annually from smoke coming from the use of fire wood.
According to Ewah Eleri, Executive Director of ICEED, “Nigeria must learn from South Africa. Even though South Africa had over 40,000MW installed capacity by 1994, only 34% of the population had access to the grid. It took a bold and ambitious programme to expand power to more than 80% of South Africans within a decade. If Nigeria’s power sector reforms fails to integrate rural electrification, expansion of access will be elusive”, says Eleri.
The report recommends a number of action points for expanding access to energy services that benefit the poor. It calls on the Federal Government to launch an ambitious national rural electrification programme; and establish a national cooking energy programme. The report urges the Central Bank of Nigeria to set aside 10% of the existing power intervention fund for pro-poor energy financing; and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to establish a clear framework for the utilization of the Consumer Assistance Fund. Other recommendations of the report include the use of a proportion of the Ecological Fund to finance cooking energy; establishment of a donor’s platform on pro-poor energy; and the mobilization of civil society in providing community-level energy services.
The Country Manager of Christian Aid Nigeria, Jane East, stated her organisation’s commitment to tackling the root causes of poverty. According to Ms East, “access to energy is critical to addressing poverty and ensuring that poor people become part of the solution to the climate crisis. The provision of clean cooking solutions are particularly important for women, in reducing respiratory health problems, and the physical and time demands on them in fetching firewood”, she emphasised.
The report is being launched at a time the United Nations declared 2012 as the year of Sustainable Energy for All. It seeks to support a new momentum to launch energy access on the national policy agenda. The report presents new evidence of the growing energy poverty in Nigeria. It analyses the level of government, private sector and donor funding for energy services that benefit poor people and reviews international best practices in expanding access to energy services.