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SAO Energy & Okra Solar
96 households & 1 Primary Health Centre energised by mesh-grids
Omolege, Ondo State, Nigeria
SAO Energy, lead by Ayodeji Sotinrin, takes a holistic approach to improving livelihoods through energy access. They deploy renewable solutions for productive hubs like Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs), Digital Learning Centres (DLCs) and schools, whilst also energising surrounding households. SAO Energy has contracts with the Kwara and Ondo government to provide electricity for all of the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) and Digital Learning Centres (DLCs) within the state.
Previously, SAO was trying to use Solar Home Systems (SHS) to energise PHCs and DLCs. They would procure equipment from various vendors in China but often faced issues with quality control and delayed deliveries. Additionally, their previous SHS solutions struggled to supply sufficient power, all day long, to fully enable productive hubs.
SAO transitioned from SHS to Okra for their first mesh-grid project in Omolege. The project was implemented in what SAO termed a “keymaker” business model, where higher energy consumption by productive hubs like PHCs offset the tariff for surrounding residential off-takers. This ensured that the majority of energy consumption was paid for by revenue-generating customers. This was effectively enabled by the power-sharing ability of the mesh-grid, allowing the high power output (1.2kW) to be shared from the local PHC to nearby households.
SAO’s project model was optimised for:
A flat kWh tariff applied to each household with the goal of growing utilisation over time
An average daily load of 220Wh/day
Two days of battery autonomy
Due to the ongoing installation, the actual costs for the project are yet to be realised. These are the most recently updated figures for 200 households:
$98,844.51 (200 Okra Kits with shipping)
CAPEX cost per connection: $494.22 (pre-OBF subsidy)
8 year IRR
$8/month (₦5000/month) average revenue per user (ARPU)
12-year IRR of 13%
The number of medical patients that the PHC can attend to has increased as they now have reliable lighting (and energy) for treatments throughout the day and night. One major advantage as described by Dr. Kolawole (PHC manager) is the ability to deliver babies at night time.
52% of end users are consuming less than 150Wh/day, making it difficult for project economics since it is lower than what the system was designed for. However, the community’s income has decreased in the past year since the initial survey, making the energy increasingly unaffordable. Using data received through the Harvest platform, SAO has been able to draw the insights needed to help fine-tune their tariff structure.
SAO intends on lowering the tariff in their pilot project to try and boost energy consumption utility for the community, which will ultimately lead to higher revenues in the long term.
SAO Energy successfully developed Nigeria’s first fully fledged mesh-grid and created an opportunity to learn more about what implementing novel technologies looks like in the off-grid Nigerian market.
During the installation, operations and logistics difficulties and fuel shortages negatively impacted figures related to predicted deployment cost, reliability and estimated timeline. Among these issues, it was Okra’s first time shipping to Nigeria and there were unexpected delays caused by sea freight blowing out delivery and customs clearance times to almost 6 months.
A follow-up site visit for the second phase of installations is scheduled in February 2023 to Omolege to optimise the installation. This includes interconnecting standalone households and connecting an additional 100 households, bringing the total households energised by the pilot to 200. SAO has also been working to secure funding and agreements for scaleup across Ondo and Kwara state to an additional 100 PHCs and 30,000 households. Lessons from this pilot deployment will enable SAO Energy to reduce overall opex in subsequent deployments, as well as improve deployments of other mesh-grids in the future.