First City Monument Bank (FCMB) has urged stakeholders in the agriculture and power sectors in Nigeria to deepen access to renewable sources of energy for the country to take full advantage of the opportunities in these areas to fast-track and sustain growth. The Bank posited that this can be achieved by developing and implementing strategies that focus on efficiency, sustainability, accessibility and affordability with off-grid energy systems as drivers.
The Executive Director, Finance of FCMB, Mrs. Yemisi Edun, stated this in her keynote address at a conference organised by the Bank on Energy-Agric Nexus for Rural Economic Development, under the theme, “Stimulating the Agricultural Sector through Off-Grid Energy Development”, held November 26 to 27, 2019 in Abuja. It was in partnership with the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), The European Union, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP), Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS) Foundation and Power for All.
The conference provided a rare opportunity for operators in agribusiness and the power sector to engage in constructive and interactive sessions with industry experts and decision makers on harnessing and deploying alternative, renewable, clean and affordable sources of energy, particularly the Off-grid power systems strategy, to stimulate farming.
According to Mrs. Edun, the Bank’s decision to organise the conference is borne out of its strong and consistent commitment towards contributing to the improvement of Nigeria’s energy access. It is to engender a sustainable future for businesses, homes and individuals for overall national development.
She said off-grid power systems which are integral parts of solar, biomass, hydro and small wind power systems, offer veritable solutions to the challenges faced by most businesses, including the agric sector in Nigeria. This is because they utilise locally available renewable resources to provide electricity, particularly to the rural areas where bulk of farming activities take place. In addition, they are more cost-effective than extension of the national grid network.
The Executive Director averred that, ‘’the impact of off-grids as major source of energy for agribusiness has become profound, particularly at a period in which the Federal Government has demonstrated immense commitment and resources to the sector. The growing opportunity for renewable energy in Nigeria, evident in new grid technologies, such as concentrated solar power emerging as competitors to conventional, oil-based power generation, is a step in the right direction. As stakeholders, we believe that protecting the environment, conserving our shared scarce resources and responsibly utilising these resources, should be a collective effort’’.
Mrs. Edun informed that FCMB has taken the lead in deepening the renewable energy space through a three-prong approach, namely capacity building, providing access to funding and providing opportunity to connect renewable energy developers with end-users. She announced that the Bank has so far executed N16billion credit enhancement agreements to support mini-grid, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, among others, to ensure an improved supply and better accessibility to clean energy for customers nationwide.
Also speaking at the conference, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Rural Electrification Agency, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, said the agency has developed an off-grid electrification strategy, which focuses on decentralised off-grid solutions and captures several elements, such as solar stand-alone systems, solar mini grids, energizing economies initiative and energy database.
Mrs. Ogunbiyi, who was represented by the Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund, Dr. Sanusi Ohiare, stressed that, "we are committed to collaborate with other public and private sector bodies to harness and expand the opportunities in the energy and agric sectors. We are excited that FCMB has shown tremendous support in this direction".
The renewable energy sub-sector is one in which FCMB has been positioned to make significant contributions. The lender is a leader in the sector in the finance of energy efficiency projects, mini-grid renewable energy projects, off-grid (commercial and industrial) solutions as well as solar stand-alone solutions.
In addition, FCMB has been organising various capacity building programmes for businesses, in line with its commitment to go the extra mile to empower businesses with relevant knowledge and skills to boost their performance and contribution in national development. In June this year, the Bank organised a workshop and exhibition in Climate Finance Awareness in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), under the theme, ‘’Energy Efficiency and Solar Energy Solutions for Your Business”. The programme took place in Lagos, Abuja, Oyo state and Rivers state. It was a follow-up to the one held in August 2018 on Sustainable Energy Finance (SEFi).
In the same vein, FCMB hosted a seminar on tax matters, in collaboration with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in June this year. The lender also periodically organises a comprehensive programme, tagged, ‘’Business Enterprises and Sustainability Training (BEST)’’, as well as SME Clinics for business owners nationwide to equip them with management skills.