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Nigeria's outlook is bright as solar energy keeps its homeworkers powered up

At least a dozen solar energy companies have been competing to help fill Nigeria’s power gap.

LAGOS - In a hallway in Lagos, Gbemisola Olowokere taps contentedly on her laptop. The 23-year-old says the corner, underneath a sliver of window, has functioned well as a makeshift office since the coronavirus pandemic forced her to work from home.

But things didn’t start well.

“I had major problems,” Olowokere told Reuters. “I have deadlines and things I need to submit ... and I couldn’t, because I didn’t have power.”

Nigeria’s notoriously sclerotic power infrastructure means fuel-powered generators provide at least four times as much electricity as the grid.

Most locals have generators, but few run them through the day due to cost, noise and - a growing health risk since the respiratory disease started spreading - choking smoke.

Olowokere found her solution in a yellow box bought by her employer from solar company Lumos. Connected to a panel on her roof, it keeps her phone, laptop and WiFi running through the workday, as well as a music speaker.

Lumos is one of at least a dozen solar energy companies that have been competing to help fill Nigeria’s power gap, and COVID-19 has made the need for their services more acute.

Since Lagos’s lockdown began on March 30, Lumos has sold around 150 power units for home-based office workers for 100,000 naira ($280) each, half what it charges for its newest batteries.

Rival Rensource’s Keepwork unit retails for 180,000 naira. It runs on a solar panel small enough to be propped on a balcony, and can charge off the grid. Company founder Ademola Adesina said 600 have been sold since the start of April.

Arnergy Solar Limited, meanwhile, has installed solar panels at five medical facilities around Lagos state, and healthcare clients in other states have also purchased panels since the pandemic began, Vice President Azeez Onasoga said.

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