Energy for all in Nigeria

by Madeleine Gleave

Nigeria’s energy poverty crisis

Like many developing countries, Nigeria is facing an energy poverty crisis. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that nearly 1.3 billion people globally lack access to electricity, and about half of these people live in Africa. Energy poverty has crippling side effects; no electricity also means no access to safer and healthier electric cooking and heating, powered health centers and refrigerated medicines, light to study at night, or electricity to run a business. In Nigeria, the average level of access is only 53%.

Despite being rich in natural resources required to produce energy, such as oil and gas, Nigeria’s energy infrastructure is lacking. Many people live near power plants and transmission lines, but aren’t yet connected to the grid. Others are in very remote areas where off-grid solutions, such as solar panels, may help them generate their own electricity long before a power line reaches them.

To explore this problem, I created a StoryMap in ArcGIS that shows the highly disparate levels of electricity access, energy demand, and infrastructure across Nigeria.

Check out the full StoryMap here:

screenshot storymap
[Click to view StoryMap]

Identifying the best electricity access solution

As Nigeria and its development partners look for energy access expansion solutions, how can they choose the best intervention for the best region? Where should they target grid connections, grid expansion, or off-grid solutions?

Selecting the best approach from this set of solutions depends on the context of the specific geographic area, and is influenced by existing levels of access, proximity to existing lines and power plants, level of urban development, demographic characteristics, and income levels. I developed a composite energy access index, mapped using a kernel density heat map, to evaluate an area’s suitability for each type of access intervention. The higher the index score (the red areas on the heat map seen here), the more suited the area is to grid supply. The lower the index score (pale yellow), the more suitable for off-grid power. Mid-range scores (the orange and dark yellow areas) are good candidates for grid expansion.


Madeleine Gleave is a Public Policy and Management student in the Heinz College at CMU. She is particularly passionate about using data to improve planning, management, and evaluation in international development policy and programs.

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