The United Kingdom (UK) has pledged to support Nigeria through the provision of a £10 million concessional aid on climate action, to boost off-grid clean energy infrastructure.
Richard Montgomery, British High Commissioner to Nigeria and UK Permanent Representative to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said this at a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum, on Thursday, June 22, 2023, in Abuja.
Montgomery, who featured at the flagship interview platform of the NAN Forum, spoke against the backdrop of UK’s 2022 announcement of concessional aid for Nigeria to scale-up domestic financing for the infrastructure.
According to him, King Charles III is not just passionate about climate change and environment, but also about Nigeria and had followed Nigeria’s challenges broadly on climate and environment for decades.
“In the UK, we have gone through a real shift, and he has been a huge leader on this; the UK is now a much greener public debate and population than it was even five to 10 years ago.
“The UK’s Presidency of COPP 26 helped with that. I am also passionate about climate action because when the UK was President of COPP 26, I was the UK’s representative at the World Bank Board.
“We need to promote climate transition, greener growth in urban and rural areas, in manufacturing and agriculture, so it is a huge agenda.
“Now the progress is very specific to a much wider challenge that we do want to work more on with our Nigerian partners, an attempt to show that how off-grid energy is possible and can reach more people.
“The £10 million is fully committed, where it is going to be spent and with which companies; the first project building off-grid energy would be launched by DARWAY Coast in August 2023.”
The envoy explained that the off-grid energy was designed to provide energy for 1,000 people, adding that such a development shows that the project is commercially viable.
Also, seed financing commercial companies showed they could run off-grid energy, service people and small businesses, and make profit doing so, which should be cheap for Nigerians, because they do not have to buy Diesel.
“Kenya has done this, and I am sorry to say Kenya is ahead of Nigeria on this. So, Kenya has developed these off-grids, mini grids, and green energy solutions for small communities and neighbourhoods.
“I am hugely optimistic that Nigeria can have a big boost in greener energy, including off grid solutions, but I also need to say that it does not solve some of the bigger energy constraints.
“If you are running a big mega city or you are running a big industry that is important for people’s jobs, then you need more energy, and you need it to be more reliable, and you need it to be cheaper.
“This is why we have a Nigeria infrastructure advisory facility to help the government reform the energy sector more broadly, improve regulation and provide technical assistance that unblocks difficulties in the sector.
“If Nigeria is to get green again, power sector reform is really important and we fully back what many of the champions of change in Nigeria are talking about getting the power sector going again.”
He advised that for Nigeria to develop its energy sector and beat Kenya in such regard, there is the need for energy reforms and proper investment, in terms of private and not just public.
“I think there was a move some years ago to boost partnership, so that there would be independent power producers like the zero power in Edo State.
“We have a lot of independent power producers but the whole system is not yet working for them, and they are not entirely enabled to grow their businesses and become commercially viable.
“We need to make sure these public-private partnerships work in the future. The change in the foreign exchange regime will attract more investment in the energy sector.
“This potentially is another big upside to big economic reforms being taken now. Yes, we understand times are tough and there is the need to debate about palliatives, to cushion economic pressures.
“In the medium term, we are really convinced that these big reforms and decisions that this government is taking will attract more investment, including into the energy sector.”
Montgomery, who had worked in different parts of the world including previously in Nigeria, took over from Ms Catriona Laing, who recently concluded a four-year term as High Commissioner in Abuja.
By Fortune Abang