Author:Ogunbiyi, Damilola

Damilola Ogunbiyi

Managing Director and Chief Executive, Nigeria's Rural Electrification Agency

Damilola Ogunbiyi talks to James Gavin about her efforts to support off-grid renewables and encourage the private sector to invest in the fast-growing sector.

What is the main focus of the Rural Electrification Agency(REA)?

Our main focus is off-grid renewables. Before the new management team arrived in 2016, REA concentrated on grid extension projects to rural people, but we realised this wasn't the most effective way of fulfilling our mandate of giving power to the people.

One of my roles is to encourage the private sector into the off-grid space. New data shows that it is the most vulnerable people who pay the most for electricity. For mini-grid and solar home-system developments, and energy education, we have raised $550m. Of that, $350m comes from the World Bank and $200m comes from the African Development Bank. Grant support is required to really grow the off-grid sector.

What are your key initiatives

We have a programme called Energising Economies, which is all about supplying sustainable power to large markets and economic clusters.

These markets are already paying a lot for power but this initiative delivers power to them at a willing buyer/ willing seller tariff. This has been a success and has told a good economic growth story.

The other thing about this programme is that it encourages 100% metering. Remote metering is key; people have to pay for power or they will be disconnected.

We have also recently completed an universal electrification access map for Nigeria. This addresses how many people are currently unconnected and is where the power of data really comes in. We spend a lot of time compiling data and creating development plans to get them connected. We see solar home systems and mini-grids as a low-cost way of connecting households. The model also gives data on about 12.5m households and how we can electrify them by 2024.

We have a young team and are very big on gender equality. If you apply for any of our programmes you have to show that 30% of your workforce, even at management level, are female. I now have 24 women working for me as project managers.

Why is it so important to have accurate data?

We cannot be successful without accurate data. We carry out physical energy audits in every community we work in, which is important if we are to adequately...

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