A Nigerian-based renewable energy provider, ICE Commercial Power, says it has entered into a partnership with Microsoft to embark on a power project that will benefit underserved communities.

A statement by the firm stated that Africa was facing an enormous energy challenge, with growing population and an infrastructure that were often unreliable.

It said modern renewable power options could bring electricity and development opportunities to areas that had never enjoyed those benefits, spur economic and industrial growth, which supporting increased growth across the continent.

ICE also noted that Nigeria had the largest economy in Africa and the largest Gross Domestic Product, but according to the World Bank, Nigeria’s electrification rate was just higher than 55 per cent, meaning that nearly half of the over 200 million people in Nigeria lacked access to reliable electricity.

The weak electricity infrastructure significantly hampers economic development.

The statement read in part, “Micro, small and medium businesses are the hardest hit by unreliable power, with self-generation for business operations accounting for most of the business running costs.

“Many of Nigeria’s SMEs rely on using generators to provide power, but these machines can be unreliable, and the fuel and maintenance costs are high.

“According to the African Development Bank, Nigerians spend about $14bn on generators and fuel yearly in order to avoid crippling downtime for their businesses.

“SMEs play a vital role in driving economic growth and job creation on the continent. Connecting SMEs to alternative energy sources helps to minimise downtime and maximise productivity.”

The project, ICE said, would allow small businesses and underserved communities to connect to reliable and affordable clean energy, monitor their energy usage online and better manage their power consumption.

It stated that businesses participating in the programme would see exactly how much power they were consuming and the associated cost.

According to the firm, before partnering Microsoft, ICE had deployed an early pilot project as a proof of concept for their new model for off-grid electrification at the last-mile.

For this work, ICE stated that it deployed 20 solar microgrids connecting 170 underserved micro-businesses across three communities.