Nigeria has an abundance of various renewable energy resources of which solar, wind, biomass and small hydro power (SHP) are the most ubiquitous. With foreign companies getting involved in the country’s power sector, most of them building renewable energy firms to contribute to the power generation in the country. One of such firms is Power For All. Power for All is committed to delivering access to energy for the 85 percent of the 1.1 billion people without reliable power that live in rural areas within 10 years. POWERUP NEWS had an interview with the Nigerian Campaign Director for Power For All, Ify Malo and she spoke extensively on her organization, her involvement in the Power Sector as well as the challenges so far amongst many others.

Ify Malo leads the Power for All campaign in Nigeria. She brings solid credentials with building, cultivating, and driving public, private partnerships for project delivery and implementation. Ify is the CEO of Clean Tech Hub and the Energy Innovation Center, Abuja. She was the immediate past Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Policies, Regulations and Partnerships to the Honorable Minister of Power in Nigeria, and advised the policy direction for large-scale grid connected and off-grid power. Ify held similar senior advisory portfolios with the Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission. Her prior work experience includes — special assistant to the Minister of Finance in Nigeria, a Counsel at Ashoka, Office of West Africa, and a wealth of other impressive experience in the clean energy sector. Ify’s focus lies with Global Policy; Project Design and Strategy. She has built up vast experience in Public Finance Systems; Project Management; Performance Monitoring; Deal Design, and in Mainstreaming Gender and Civil Society issues. Ify is a qualified attorney with graduate advanced degrees in Law, Business and Public Policy. She sits on several boards in Nigeria. She is a Desmond Tutu Fellow (2013) and a Dwight Eisenhower Fellow (2015). Enjoy the interview below.

Can we meet you?
My name is Ify Malo. I am a lawyer by training and an energy expert by profession with a focus on renewable energy. I am the Nigerian Campaign Director for Power For All, a global market development organization that advances distributed renewable energy solutions as the fastest, most cost-effective and sustainable approach to achieving universal energy access. I am also the CEO of Clean Technology Hub, an energy innovation centre incubating green businesses and technologies in Nigeria. As an incubator, we are specifically focused on start-up businesses from women and youth in the off-grid clean energy space. We are also driving impact investments in the clean energy and energy efficiency services for organizations and industries. I must emphasize that I am a strong advocate of women empowerment and one of the key areas Clean Tech Hub focuses on is promoting increased women participation in the clean energy sector.

Tell us about your organization
Power-For-All is a global campaign to accelerate the growth of Decentralised Renewable Energy, DRE for short, which we see as the fastest way to achieving universal clean energy access for all by 2025. The Power-For-All campaign promotes energy access, and addresses energy poverty. We believe that Decentralized Renewable Energy is the fastest and most cost effective way to advance energy access in emerging markets. Our campaign also serves as a collective voice for industry stakeholders, policy makers and civil society organizations with a bid to improve socio economic growth and sustainability of each country we are present in by advancing DRE solutions and markets.
Clean Tech Hub is a pioneering hybrid hub for the research, development, demonstration and incubation of clean energy technologies in Africa, and their validation for commercial stage development. It is an early start-up incubator for inventions and innovations in clean energy, a consultancy for sustainability and energy efficiency solutions for organizations, and a driver of clean energy investment into Africa. We are focused on addressing Africa’s energy poverty and increasing energy access through clean, renewable energy.

What has been the impact of your organization so far in the power sector?
About 60% of the Nigerian population is unconnected to the grid. My role as the Campaign Director for Power For All Nigeria is to catalyze and build a collective voice for the off-grid
DRE sector, and implement programs that accelerate the market. We do this through a number of market activation and awareness raising activities that get various stakeholders collectively invested in our campaign of driving electricity access through DRE. Since 2016 when the Nigerian campaign was launched, we have implemented two key Market Access initiatives – A Market Women Initiative, and a Faith-Based Initiative; helped incubate the formation of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) for the private sector; implemented a project for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) aimed at transitioning from the use of inefficient lighting sources to clean lighting technologies; and implanting a Scaling Off Grid Energy (SOGE) project in partnership with FHI360 and funded by USAID/Power Africa which aims to accelerate off-grid electricity access to off-grid communities across Nigeria. We have also contributed to the development of various policies and regulations for the sector including the recent Mini-Grid regulation.
With Clean Technology Hub, we have implemented several projects in the country’s clean energy market. In partnership with the Heinrich Boell Foundation, we implemented a project for standardizing best practices in the management of used lead acid batteries for the clean energy sector in Nigeria, which we did in collaboration with the Nigerian Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN). This was aimed at addressing the increasing illegal smelting and pollution from lead acid batteries in the country, which could potentially harm the sector. We are also currently implementing a Local Solution Lab project funded by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which is focused on looking at key local challenges facing communities across the country and developing clean sustainable local solutions for these challenges.

Starting out, what were the major challenges you encountered?
The first challenge was addressing the public’s negative perception of solar energy in particular and renewable energy in general due to the shoddy execution and high failure rate of public projects such as solar streetlights and boreholes. We worked in tackling this challenge by profiling key standard projects, creating awareness campaigns on quality and verified clean energy solutions, and sharing success stories. The second key challenge was the reportage in the country’s power sector by the media which was almost 100% grid focused with stories of the grid failures and low generation output. We organized trainings for the key media practitioners in the country’s power sector on the decentralized clean energy market, how it works, its impact, and showing them successful projects in communities which have been totally electrified by off-grid solutions across the country. This was very successful as we saw a significant growth in media reportage on the off-grid sector, with major newspapers having entire sections dedicated to the off-grid market. The third challenge I will also highlight was the non collaboration in the sector especially within
private sector players with everyone working in silos and no proper co-ordination in the sector. We saw the need for a proper industry association to foster this collaboration and drive the sector’s growth, as an act as an active voice for the sector in lobbying the government to provide the enabling environment for the sector. This led to us incubating the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria in November 2016. The association also helps in addressing the first challenge I highlighted as a standard association of credible companies the public can go to for renewable energy projects.

What is the motive behind setting up your organization?
Simple. Globally, we want to drive energy access to the over 1.2 billion people around the world living without any access to electricity and resigned to using expensive, dangerous and polluting fossil fuels as alternatives. In Nigeria we want to reduce and eventually eliminate the over 75 million Nigerians living in energy poverty across the country, and catalyze the country’s development through access to electricity for productive.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals, aims, vision and mission?
Through the focal components of our campaign,
• Opening up of new markets across the country for decentralized renewable energy solutions especially in last mile un-served communities, and accelerating the development of existing markets.
• Providing support to key stakeholders in the country including federal, state and local governments; private sector; donor community; development partners; civil society organizations; faith-based institutions; community groups; and women associations in scaling and creating the enabling environment for the off-grid market.
• Media and advocacy in order to boost consumer awareness on these clean, cost-effective and reliable solutions compared to the use of inefficient dirty fossil fuel.
• Stimulating markets through creating demand among those in need of constant power.

At what point do you think the government should be involved in the projects of your organization?
We have been working collaboratively with the government since the launch of Power For All in 2016 particularly the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing; the Rural Electrification Agency; and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission. We have contributed to the development of key policies for the sector, and the government has been positive in working with us with key government agencies pledging their support to our campaign during our Call To Action in March 2017. So far we have established a strong working relationship with the federal government and right now focused on taking it down to the regions and state governments. We expect the government to keep being involved in our projects especially
• By involving Power for All and other development partners in developing favourable policies that will accelerate the growth of the sector;
• By involving the private sector in its projects; being intentional about ensuring that there is huge local content in the sector and developing the human capital needed for the sector;
• Removing barriers to cost of DRE solutions such as import duties and tariffs, and implementing tax reliefs for assemblers and manufacturers of the equipment.

Looking at the Off Grid sector of the power industry which you’ve ventured into,
How successful has it been?
The sector has witnessed huge growth over the past four years with the sale of clean energy products and solutions increasing annually, more local enterprises springing up, and a lot of foreign investment coming into the country. Just recently, the World Bank provided a $350 million finance facility for the development of mini-grids across rural communities in the country. Power For All within its two years existence in the country has made huge strides in opening up new markets, creating awareness and bringing the sector together. There is a greater spotlight on Nigeria as a huge market opportunity for investors and companies in this sector thanks to our work and engagement on the global level. We have succeeded in getting the attention of policymakers to the decentralized renewable energy market, however while we have made significant achievement, a lot still needs to be done if we are to solve the energy poverty predicament in the country.
What have been the challenges so far to the organization and to the nation?
We have over 75 million Nigerians lacking access to electricity mostly in rural last mile communities and using polluting sources of energy for basic needs such as lighting. Our challenge is reaching out to these communities and reducing this number inspite of the country’s annual population growth. See, the problem is that as our population grows annually, so does the number of those without access to electricity thereby requiring us to triple our efforts if we are to start seeing a significant reduction in this number. Doing this require the right policies, government support, and level of finance, all these which are currently below the level required. This is our major challenge and that of the nation as well.

Would you boldly say #OffGrid is the solution to Nigeria’s Electricity problem?
It is a significant part of the solution. For last mile communities, it is the cheapest and most reliable electrification solution than grid extension projects which are very expensive and even when extended do not guarantee reliable electricity to these communites. Rural communities such as Gbamu-Gbamu in Ogun State and Bisanti in Niger State through mini-grids are now enjoying 24/7 electricity. These communities would have been waiting for the slow expansion of the grid to reach them, but with DRE, they now have access to electricity. For our industrial clusters that require steady uninterrupted electricity for productive uses, DRE solutions are much more reliable than the grid and cheaper than the current use of diesel and generator fuel sets. These solutions have their role in the country’s electricity sector and even complement the grid as they boost grid stabilization by reducing the grid load, improving efficiency, and enabling grid supply to be channeled to areas with huge power demand. Off-grid solutions are a vital part of the Nigeria’s power sector.

The journey so far, what are some of the key projects your organization has been able to carry out?
I had previously mentioned some of these. Power for All has carried out lots of impactful projects, key amongst which include,
• Incubating the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria
• Driving off-grid solutions to communities and markets across the country through its Market Access Initiatives – the Faith-Based Initiative in collaboration with faith based institutions and groups across the country; and its Market Women Initiative working with women trade groups and associations in collaboration with the Nigerian Women Trust Fund.
• Developing a multi-stakeholder Taskforce comprising the government, donor community, financiers, civil society, development organizations, private companies, and industry association working together to tackle the challenges of the sector under the USAID/Power Africa funded Scaling Off grid Energy (SOGE) project and working in collaboration with FHI360. Through this project we have also engaged state governments in developing off grid strategies and goals for their states and helping them implement these projects.
• A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) funded project aimed at transitioning from the use of kerosene lamps and other inefficient lighting sources to the use of clean lighting solutions such as solar lamps. We carried out extensive research on the use of inefficient lighting in the country and its negative health, economic and environmental effects; and also had demonstration projects across the regions in the counties engaging over 300 people from civil society, trade unions, faith based institutions, community representatives and government, opening new markets for clean energy solutions.

Any last words to the good citizens of Nigeria and the government?
To the Nigerian people, you do not have to suffer from lack of electricity, and the high costs, risks and harmful effects of dirty sources of energy like firewood, kerosene, petrol or diesel when you can have cleaner, cheaper and more reliable sources of energy through DRE solutions. It is very possible to have constant electricity within your means and that will not be injurious to your health and environment.

To the Nigerian government at all levels, investing in DRE through the right policies and programs will increase access to electricity in a fast, cost-effective manner while also attaining the country’s electricity target and Sustainable Development Goals. Power For All will always work collaboratively with the government in driving electricity access and eliminating energy poverty in Nigeria.