Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE)

Energizing Agriculture Through Productive Uses of Energy

The REA-RMI Nigeria Energizing Agriculture Programme (EAP) is revolutionizing the way rural communities use electricity in agriculture.
Project Highlights
The EAP is scaling productive uses of distributed energy resources by building a pipeline of agriculture-energy projects and upercharging agriculture-energy business models through our Innovation Accelerator.

With the world’s largest unelectrified population, Nigeria has a huge need for new electric generation capacity. In the rural areas that have the greatest electrification needs, mini-grids are often the lowest-cost solution. However, continued expansion of mini-grids depends on overcoming a key rural development trap.

Without significant demand for electricity, mini-grids are unprofitable and financially unsustainable. Without a reliable supply of electricity, it is hard to justify investing in the kind of industry that consumes large amounts of power. Thus, agricultural communities with the greatest need for electrification are caught in a vicious cycle, where power cannot be developed for lack of demand, and demand cannot be developed for lack of power.

The Energizing Agriculture Project (EAP) by RMI and the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency (REA) is demonstrating a solution.

Within the EAP, an Agriculture-Energy Innovation Accelerator is helping to pilot agriculture-energy solutions at mini-grids throughout the country.

The Innovation Accelerator helps teams of private sector actors develop, demonstrate, and prove the commercial viability of equipment and business models that stimulate demand for electricity and drive productivity. This program aims to spur a virtuous cycle where new agricultural industries improve the economics of local mini-grids and the incomes of local residents, catalyzing more investment in mini-grids and machinery and accelerating local economies.

EAP is piloting several types of projects. For example, Nigeria loses an estimated 40% of annual food production in part due to poor storage practices. The introduction of cold storage, via electric refrigerators and freezers, will dramatically extend the life of perishables, reducing waste and enabling producers to sell their agricultural goods and seafood for better prices. EAP is working with cold storage providers and mini-grid connected communities to identify cold storage needs, design scalable business models, and source equipment.

A second group of pilot projects is targeted to help the 80% of Nigerian rice farmers who are smallholders. Rice needs to be processed, and these farmers depend on local processors who typically use expensive and polluting diesel-powered mills. Microfinance institutions are generally unfamiliar with the value proposition of upgrading to electric mills, making these investments difficult to finance.

EAP 2030 targets


Jobs created and improved 4 million livelihoods impacted

1.4 million

tCO2 carbon avoided

EAP is helping commercial rice mill manufacturers, processors, distributors, and women’s groups to test improved technologies. These projects will help reduce waste in Nigeria’s $3 billion per year rice industry, empower local women and farmers, and improve the economics of mini-grids.

EAP is also working with oil palm processing companies to electrify and improve the processing of crude palm oil. Smallholder farmers produce up to 80% of Nigeria’s palm oil, but poor traditional processing techniques result in low oil yield and quality. These pilot projects will explore the standardization of processing equipment and test offtake-driven financial models for processing businesses. With Nigeria already ranked the fifth largest palm oil producer in the world, this added efficiency could produce enormous economic value in rural communities.

“I really enjoy riding the electric two-wheeler, it saves me money on fuel and oil changes, and it is more comfortable to ride. I do not want to use petrol bikes anymore. Some of my peers are already interested in the bikes”.​ – Kabiru Adamu, One Acre Fund field officer and electric two-wheeler driver
Yahaya Mohammed’s EAP-supported rice mill runs on a PowerGen minigrid in Niger state.
Coldbox Store CEO Uzochukwu Mbamalu examines a crate of fresh fish ready for cleaning and cold room storage. The company offtakes and sells the premium fish to higher value markets. They source 93% of these premium fish from their local women fish trading agents.

In already-existing agricultural processing centers, fossil-fuel engines are used to process cassava, maize, sorghum, cowpea, soybeans, and other crops into flours and meals. These engines are typically expensive to fuel and maintain, as well as loud, polluting, and unreliable. Electric motor retrofits offer a promising alternative, however these are costly investments that are poorly understood by processors and providers of capital. EAP is developing pilot projects to establish the efficacy of these investments, spread awareness, and make them easier to finance.

Finally, EAP is also experimenting with electric transportation (e-motos) to replace gasoline-powered vehicles used for agricultural services such as seed and fertilizer delivery. The economic viability of mini-grid charged electric vehicles in Nigerian agriculture is unproven, and EAP intends to establish whether these investments are worth making.

Emeka Ogbu is a proud owner of a Koolboks freezer that he uses to keep medicine, vaccines and provisions cool. This freezer was deployed with support from the EAP.

How it works

Through these productive use of energy (PUE) interventions, EAP anticipates boosting rural economies and establishing new market-led solutions. Successful pilot projects will lead to replication across approximately 10,000 Nigerian mini-grid sites by 2030.

An Agriculture-Energy Innovation Accelerator will also help the project align closely with the needs of local businesses, facilitating greater trust and a faster pathway to scale. These investments will jump start rural development on both the supply and demand side of agricultural markets.

Alliancing with GEAPP

Expected Results

If implemented at scale, these PUE activities in Nigeria are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 million tons of CO2 by 2030 and 7.4 million tons over the full life cycles of the supported electric machinery.

The program could lead to the creation or improvement of over 150,000 jobs and positively impact the livelihoods of nearly four million Nigerians. If successful, EAP will help prove a new scalable model for rural development.

Revolutionizing the way rural communities use electricity in agriculture

Learn more about how the Energizing Agriculture Programme combines mini-grid electricity supply with end-user supports to improve rural livelihoods and lower the cost of power.

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