For an electricity distribution area, Kano Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) that gets between 250-360 Megawatts, on a day by day basis, many will dismiss the commissioning of the 10MW Challawa Kano Solar Power Project as inconsequential.
Yet, in terms of both significance and consequential impact, this power plant, the first of its kind in Nigeria, is a game-changer in many respects.
It is important to note that this is the largest grid-connected solar power plant in the country so far. Not only this, it is a pointer to growth in the power sector and a strong and unambiguous message that large-scale renewable projects can be successfully delivered in the country.
The plant is equally a personal goal achieved by President Muhammadu Buhari, a globally recognised champion of awareness-creation and the mitigation of climate change. He is a recognised promoter of biodiversity and a strong advocate of clean energy sources.
For him, the destruction of the natural environment, especially from uncontrolled carbon emissions, is an anathema; the reason for most, if not all of the security and socio-economic challenges, from terrorism to banditry, hunger and poverty that confront us.
The Challawa, Kano plant is built to generate energy that produces no greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels and reduces air pollution.
The intention is for the project to supply the Challawa Water Works, the backbone of public water supply to the city of between 4-5 million people, and the provision of unbroken power supply to streetlights in the state capital thereby helping with security.
The effect will be to ease pressure on the overstretched power distribution to the Challawa Industrial Estate, the city’s second but largest industrial layout, to help spur industrial production and motivate other companies to invest in additional capacity and allow them to reach full capacity utilisation.
We are also informed that the choice of contractors was done in a way that a local contractor must have a foreign partner and vice-versa, the reason being to ensure local participation, local job creation, value retention and knowledge (technical) transfer.
The goal is for the sector to grow into maturity to such a point where no foreign content is required to undertake similar complex technical projects in the future.
At the construction stage, the project created 300 direct jobs and indirect jobs (transportation, food and beverage, hospitality etc) in excess of 2,000.
The project is a demonstration pilot project, intended to stimulate investment in the Nigerian power sector. Kano wasn’t initially chosen for it. Another state among the country’s large number of states in the sun solar belt was chosen but its indecision and failure to meet deadlines cost the state this project.
To meet an irrevocable deadline, Kano State Government was challenged by an order of the President to respond to the requirements, and, in time. Could Kano Government respond in time, asked the Presidency? Happily, the Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his Deputy, Gawuna, did not disappoint.
In just one week, the Governor sent a duly registered Certificate of Occupancy covering a 24-hectare parcel of land, valued at N322 million at market value to the President, meeting thereby a strong requirement, for his approval.
An agreement was signed with an ownership structure in which the Federal Government has 80%, Kano State Government with 15% and Kumbotso Local Government, 5%.
Power generated will be directly supplied to the distribution system.
On January 4, 2019, following a directive from the President, the Federal Ministry of Finance instructed the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, to transfer the approved sum of N4.71 billion from the Development of Natural Resources Development Account to the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The President chose the NSIA to be the funds and project manager for the development and construction of this solar project because of the seriousness he attached to it.
The President chose NSIA because it has a record of adherence to transparency and known to go with the highest environmental and social standards. The Covid-19 epidemic and consequent lockdown, and the currency fluctuation, impacted negatively on the project’s execution but the good news is that the NSIA has, notwithstanding the delay, done its part by delivering the project.
Kano is home to 15-16 million people and is poised to overtake Lagos as the most populous state. With 60-plus integrated rice mills today in Kano, the city has transformed into the country’s rice processing hub in the seven years of the Buhari administration and, with this, a growing and voracious appetite for energy.
With this commissioning, President Buhari will put Kano on the front line of the combat against climate change. It will also mark the President’s big push on renewables to decarbonise the power sector and reduce air pollution starting with Kano on Monday.
All these put together will lead to a huge transformation of Kano from a semi-arid state to a solar state.
Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity)