Managing Director of Kaduna Power Supply Company (KAPSCO), Dolapo Popoola is a Siemens-certified power distribution and renewable energy systems specialist who leads a young team that has been actively increasing access to electricity in the state. In this interview, she explains how
Can you give a brief summary of what Kaduna Power Supply Company (KAPSCO) is doing? Is it Kaduna state’s equivalent of a power distribution company like the privately-owned Kaduna Electric Distribution Company (KAEDCO)?
No it is not. As you mentioned, KAEDCO or Kaduna Electric is licensed to supply power in Kaduna State whereas the Electric Power Sector Reform Act removes the direct participation of any state government in NESI (Nigeria’s Electricity Supply Industry).This is why KAPSCO was created. KAPSCO is a company fully-owned by the Kaduna State Government and functions as a corporation which vests the interests of the State Government within the power sector. As such, if the Kaduna State Government wants to undertake any energy initiative, it will be done through KAPSCO.
For example, KAEDCO being a private company, is understandably purely motivated by commercial interests and is therefore unlikely to invest in the extension of electricity supply to rural communities. They feel – wrongly so, as we are proving – that rural communities cannot afford to pay their electricity bills. The Kaduna State Government through KAPSCO in partnership with solar developers can provide power to areas where KAEDCO does not supply (unserved) or only partially supplies (underserved).
Secondly, more often than not, industries and investors who are looking to site their factories or warehouses in Kaduna get discouraged by the lack of uninterrupted power supply so they approach the Government for help. KAPSCO is developing power solutions to support the Green Economic Zone in Maraban Jos, Damau Household Milk Farm in Kubau Local Government and the two largest water treatment facilities in Kaduna – Malali and Zaria.
We also provide 24-hour sustainable solar energy solutions to critical public facilities such as hospitals. In partnership with the UK Department for International Development and the European Union, KAPSCO has installed over 2MW of solar power across Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) and General Hospitals in the state as part of the Kaduna Solar for Health Program. The Honorable Minister of Power and Her Excellency, the Deputy Governor recently commissioned a 46.8kWp solar system at Doka General Hospital &Emergency Center on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway to serve accident victims along the popular expressway. The Kaduna Solar for Health Program has helped to significantly improve access to healthcare for over 250,000 people, has helped ensure safer night-time deliveries and has provided a more conducive environment for patients, doctors and nurses alike.
Finally, KAPSCO manages and maintains streetlights in the state, as well as manages the state’s electricity bills. We centrally manage over 100 accounts with Kaduna Electric and we intend to add on all state government accounts (over 1,000) before the end of this year. By doing this, KAPSCO works with KAEDCO to ensure that all public facilities are properly classified, metered, are run energy-efficiently and that bills are paid promptly. Over the last three years, we have been able to save the State Government almost N900millionusing our Bill Management System.
You mentioned something about KAPSCO providing electricity for rural areas. When KAPSCO does that, do the people pay bills to KAPSCO, or to a privately owned power distribution company?
KAPSCO is driving awareness through Local Government Chairmen in each Local Government for everyone to understand that electricity is not free. There are several costs associated with the production of power and operation of power infrastructure. Therefore to get reliable and sustainable power, we have to pay a fair cost. In cases where the government (state or federal) has purchased and installed solar systems for communities who consume the power free of charge, we have found that less than two years later, all the solar panels are either missing or have deteriorated due to a lack of maintenance.
The model we are adopting ensures that there will always be a company or a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), through which we provide solar power to a community and charge them just enough to keep the systems up and running. This is particularly important for the batteries which need to be changed every few years. The communities will be expected to pay their bills to such companies while KAPSCO ensures that the companies have the requisite permits from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
Is KAPSCO undertaking this huge responsibility alone? You talked about your partners a while ago, who are these partners?
We partner with Kaduna Electric very closely. We have also partnered with the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK-DFID), European Union (EU), Skipper Seil Nigeria Limited to name a few. More importantly, we are looking to partner far and wide to attract investors to Kaduna state. The ultimate goal is to be energy self-sufficient and we will explore both on- and off-grid options to achieve this goal. We want to be able to ring-fence communities and generate power locally to ensure 24-hour power supply. We are ready to partner with anyone who is willing to support us in that vision.
Under the previous arrangement, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) was expected to outfit the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) with the solar systems and Kaduna state government is supposed to fund their maintenance. Has the arrangement changed?
The arrangement hasn’t changed. Kaduna Solar for Health Phase 1 has been completed with operational systems for two years and an MOU has been signed for Operation and Maintenance (O&M). The systems for Phase 2 have also been installed and are currently undergoing testing and commissioning while the O&M is currently undergoing procurement as we speak. The solar systems for Phase 3 are in the design stage.
How many PHCs are currently operating with Solar Power?
A total of 2.4MW of Solar Power has been installed and is operating at 34 PHCs and 13 General Hospitals. We are currently designing standardized systems for 221 PHCs and we hope to have them all installed in 14 months. Once installed, we would have achieved our goal of ensuring that the 255 wards in Kaduna State can each boast of a healthcare center that has electricity 24 hours of the day.
As I mentioned earlier, outside of the Kaduna Solar for Health project, KAPSCO is developing sustainable power solutions for Kaduna State’s water treatment plants. Reliable and adequate power supply is critical to the operation of water treatment plants and solving this problem is important to the government for two reasons – first, because potable water is indispensable in every society, and second, steady water supply would serve as a source of revenue for the government.
Apart from hospitals that are being kitted with these Solar power systems, is there any conscious effort to sensitize individuals and homeowners on the need to use solar power rather than petrol or diesel generators which constitute noise and pollution?
We are currently working on setting up an energy calculator on our website. We want people to be able to go there and in two or three clicks, know how much it would cost them to get a solar system for their home and see how much space they would need. We believe this will help to inform people about alternatives to petrol generators.
So you do not provide solar systems for individuals?
For now, we do not provide solar systems for individuals, because it is a large market with enough incentives for private businesses. With about 6-10 million people living in Kaduna, KAPSCO cannot provide this service alone. Instead, we need to be an enabler. There are quite a few Solar businesses operating in Kaduna and we do not aim to monopolise or own the industry. In fact, a company called Blue Camel regularly trains energy entrepreneurs who would like to start their own small solar business. Solar home systems are built such that they are relatively easy to install; they come like a TV set or a small generator set with panels, batteries and an inverter.