The SUNGAS Project (Sustainable Utilisation of Nigeria’s Gas and Renewable Energy Resources) was a seven-year project to develop community-based energy initiatives, using natural gas and renewable energy, to help the many people that live in chronic energy poverty in the Niger Delta.

SDN was a key implementing partner for three years of this project. Between 2013 and 2014, SDN demonstrated that, with initial investment, a market for selling small solar lanterns as a commercial and sustainable business model would be possible to develop, free of distorting subsidies, to suit relevant community needs and income levels. SDN also undertook pioneering research into the feasibility of developing off-grid gas-to-power capacity in the Niger Delta, to utilise the huge quantities of gas flared as a by-product of oil extraction in the region.


SDN’s participation in this project sought to assess and demonstrate the market for solar lanterns in the Niger Delta, as well as the feasibility, and methods, to convert natural gas (flared as a by-product of oil extraction) to power.

Key activities

  • Developed a guide on the practicalities of, and right to, power in the Niger Delta.
  • Piloted solar panel installation as a case-study to assess feasibility for wider roll-out.
  • Surveyed target communities in the Niger Delta to assess energy use and perception of use.
  • Created a financially self-sustaining distribution model for solar lanterns in the Niger Delta.
  • Carried out a scoping study to assess the practicality and methods for creating gas-to-power infrastructure and markets.


The Niger Delta region fuels a significant part of Nigeria’s economy, accounting for a huge proportion of Nigeria’s export earnings and around 80% of the federal government’s revenue—yet the Niger Delta remains one of the least developed regions in Nigeria. The Niger Delta’s potential for socio-economic development has been hampered by a lack of access to modern energy services, despite rich energy resources and well-educated populations. The high supply and user costs, and current unreliability, of electricity access makes decentralised renewable energy a financially competitive option.

Since there is not enough on-grid power to meet demand, and grid access is still unavailable for many communities throughout the Niger Delta, off-grid generation remains a necessity for most people. An estimated 60% of all current electricity generation comes from off-grid sources. The primary source of off-grid power for individual households or businesses is from diesel and petrol generators. Relying on diesel and petrol generators contribute to local air pollution, with associated health implications, and are a source of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, this kind of power generation can cost between three and 20 times more than power supplied by the national grid. The prohibitive cost of maintaining and running generators means that lighting after dark is often rationed or absent, impacting development in many ways such as preventing small businesses operating after dark, or schoolchildren completing homework in the evenings.

Another potential source of energy in the Niger Delta are the huge quantities of natural gas flared (burned off), as a by-product of oil extraction, at more than 170 sites throughout the Niger Delta, equivalent to around 25% of UK domestic natural gas consumption in 2018. Just as the emissions from diesel and petrol generators are hazardous, gas flaring has been linked to the acidification of rain and waterways, while research has found a correlation between the presence gas flaring and respiratory problems in communities living nearby.

Project resources

Funders and Partners

Published: 11.12.2019