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Green Energy Pioneer from Sierra Leone Jeremiah Thoronka Wins Inaugural $100,000 Chegg Global Student Prize

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Jeremiah Thoronka

Jeremiah Thoronka, a student from Sierra Leone who invented a device that uses kinetic energy from traffic and pedestrians to generate clean power, has been named the winner of the Chegg.org Global Student Prize 2021. Jeremiah is the first winner of this new $100,000 award, which is given to one exceptional student who has made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and on society beyond.

Jeremiah, a 21-year-old student from Freetown, Sierra Leone, was selected from over 3,500 nominations and applications from 94 countries around the world.

Actor and humanitarian Hugh Jackman announced Jeremiah as the winner of the inaugural Chegg.org Global Student Prize as part of a virtual ceremony broadcast from UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.

The Varkey Foundation launched the Chegg.org Global Student Prize earlier this year, a sister award to its $1 million Global Teacher Prize, to create a powerful new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere who, together, are reshaping our world for the better. The prize is open to all students who are at least 16 years old and enrolled in an academic institution or training and skills program. Part time students as well as students enrolled in online courses are also eligible for the prize. This year also saw US teacher Keishia Thorpe named as the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2021.

Jeremiah Thoronka was born amid the fighting of the Sierra Leone civil war and grew up with his single mother in a slum camp for displaced people on the outskirts of the capital Freetown, having to burn charcoal and wood for lighting and heating. Jeremiah saw with his own eyes how, in addition to the photochemical smog making respiratory problems commonplace, his young contemporaries fell behind in their schoolwork because of a lack of decent lighting.

Energy poverty is a major issue in Sierra Leonne – with just 26% of the population having access to electricity. In rural parts of the country, only 6% of people have electricity access, with most turning to solar lanterns and dry-cell batteries. As a result, it’s led to the destruction of forests as people chop down trees for firewood, which leaves Sierra Leone highly vulnerable to extreme events like flooding and landslides. Families’ reliance on firewood and cheap kerosene generators also lead to frequent house fires.

These life-threatening disadvantages and hardships fuelled Jeremiah’s passion for renewable energy and climate change advocacy. At 17, when studying at the African Leadership University in Rwanda, he launched a start-up called Optim Energy that transforms vibrations from vehicles and pedestrian footfall on roads into an electric current. It is different from established renewable energy sources including wind or solar because it generates power without relying on changeable weather. At the same time, no battery and no electricity connection to an external power source is needed.

Optim Energy ran a successful pilot program in Jeremiah’s neighbourhoods, Makawo in the northern part of Sierra Leone and Kuntoluh east of Freetown. With just two devices, the start-up provided free electricity to 150 households comprising around 1,500 citizens, as well as 15 schools where more than 9,000 students attend.

Jeremiah is currently developing plans to expand into the healthcare sector, which needs power to chill medicines and vaccines and create sufficient light for treating patients after dark.

Jeremiah is a United Nations Academic Impact Millennium Fellow and Optim Energy was voted the most Innovative Energy Start-up 2020 by United Nations Major Group on Children and Youth (UNMGCY), and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 Youth Constituency. Jeremiah is also one of the World Wildlife Fund’s top 100 Young African Conservation Leaders. Should he win the Global Student Prize, Jeremiah will use the prize money to expand Optim Energy to reach 100,000 people by 2030.

The other top 10 finalists for the Global Student Prize 2021 were Amisa Rashid from Kenya, Ana Julia Monteiro de Carvalho from Brazil, Kehkashan Basu from Canada, Lamya Butt from the UAE, Elliott Lancaster from the UK, Matine Khalighi from the US, Mirko Cazzato from Italy, Oluwadamilola Akintewe from Nigeria and Seema Kumari from India.

Actor and humanitarian Hugh Jackman said: “Students everywhere are fighting for their very future. They are part of a generation that are on the frontline of the greatest challenges of our time – from climate change to global inequality. So, we must listen to their voices and shine a light on their stories.

“Congratulations Jeremiah. You have made an enormous difference to your community and far beyond. I am sure that you will now use this incredible platform to make an even bigger impact.”

Chegg.org has partnered with the Varkey Foundation to create the new Global Student Prize. Dan Rosensweig, CEO & President of Chegg, said: “My warmest congratulations to Jeremiah. His inspirational work in pioneering clean, affordable energy makes him a thoroughly deserving winner of the inaugural Chegg.org Global Student Prize. This prize honors students everywhere. While many stakeholders are busy debating, students like Jeremiah are busy doing. They truly are the changemakers our world needs. 

“And congratulations to Keishia for her incredible work in opening up access to college education for low-income, first-generation American, immigrant and refugee students.”

Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “Congratulations to Jeremiah for becoming the first ever winner of the Chegg.org Global Student Prize and to Keishia for winning the Global Teacher Prize 2021. Their incredible stories show the vital role education plays in tackling the great challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, said: “Congratulations to Keishia for winning the Global Teacher Prize 2021 and Jeremiah for winning the Global Student Prize 2021. UNESCO was proud host to this year’s Global Teacher Prize ceremony at our headquarters in Paris. Inspirational teachers and extraordinary students alike deserve recognition for their commitment to education amid the learning crisis we see today. Now more than ever, we must honor and support our teachers and students as they look to rebuild a better world in the wake of COVID.”

Applications and nominations for this year’s Global Student Prize opened on Tuesday 2 February 2021 and closed on Sunday 16 May 2021.

Students who applied for the Global Student Prize were assessed on their academic achievement, impact on their peers, how they make a difference in their community and beyond, how they overcome the odds to achieve, how they demonstrate creativity and innovation, and how they operate as global citizens.

The winner of the Global Student Prize was chosen from the top 10 finalists by the Global Student Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals who have a history of mentoring students in their studies or careers, having campaigned on behalf of student issues or having expertise in education and young people.

If students were nominated, the person nominating them was asked to write a brief description online explaining why.  The student being nominated was then sent an email letting them know they had been nominated and inviting them to apply for the prize.   Applicants were able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. To join the conversation online follow @TeacherPrize and @cheggdotorg

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Federal Government Announces Free CNG Conversion for Commercial Vehicles

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The Federal Government declared on Thursday that the conversion of petrol and diesel-powered commercial vehicles to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) will be free of charge.

The announcement came after the government signed agreements with several companies specializing in the conversion of petrol and diesel vehicles to CNG.

Michael Oluwagbemi, the Programme Director/Chief Executive of the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas Initiative (P-CNGI), disclosed the details of the program to journalists in Abuja.

“Today we’ve just signed with five partners here in the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) participating in the Conversion Incentive Programme,” Oluwagbemi stated.

“The program is tackling the barrier to Nigerian commercial transport operators to convert from PMS (petrol) to gas. Most of them have said that the cost of conversion is expensive, and so what we are doing here today is basically to respond to that concern.”

Benefits for Commercial Transport Operators

The initiative primarily targets commercial transporters under various unions, including the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), and the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO).

According to Oluwagbemi, these unionized operators will receive conversion kits and installation services completely free of charge.

“This is going to be done through certified conversion workshops that we are beginning to identify. We’ve identified about 123 of them, and five are here with us today in Abuja. As we expand across the country, we will activate more of them,” he said.

Ride Share Operators Included

In addition to unionized commercial transporters, ride share operators such as those working with Uber, Bolt, Lag-Ride, and Move will also benefit from the program. These operators will receive a 50% discount on the conversion equipment and free installation.

Furthermore, the arrangement allows them to pay for the remaining costs in installments, eliminating the need for upfront payments.

“We hope to add more ride share operators soon. Lag-Ride has already signed up, and we are going to send the agreement next week,” Oluwagbemi added.

Impact on Transportation Costs

Through this program, the government aims to reduce transportation costs for Nigerians. Oluwagbemi highlighted that over 20,000 kits will be available in the next three months, distributed across 25 states with existing CNG capacity.

This initiative is part of a broader palliative program funded by the National Assembly, which has allocated additional resources for the acquisition of more kits later this year.

“The agreement we signed today ensures that the savings from the conversion will be passed on to ordinary Nigerians. We will begin to see some impact in terms of reduced transportation costs,” Oluwagbemi noted.

Monitoring and Enforcement

To ensure the success of the program, the government has implemented a robust monitoring mechanism.

The Nigerian gas vehicle monitoring system will oversee the conversion process and ensure compliance with agreed pricing reductions.

“We have a very strong monitoring mechanism around conversion and the enforcement of reduced pricing for Nigerians. The framework of the agreement includes significant pass-on of savings to ensure the purpose of the palliative is achieved,” Oluwagbemi emphasized.

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CNG to Save Nigerians 40% on Fuel Costs, Says NNPC

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Oil and Gas

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) announced on Thursday that the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in automobiles will be 40% cheaper than using Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol.

The announcement was made during the inauguration of 11 new CNG stations across Abuja and Lagos, part of an ambitious plan to establish 100 such stations nationwide within the next 12 months.

The NNPC’s initiative aims to provide Nigerians with an affordable alternative to petrol, leveraging the country’s abundant natural gas reserves of approximately 209 trillion standard cubic feet.

Huub Stokman, Managing Director of NNPC Retail Limited, highlighted the significance of this development, noting that the expansion of CNG stations represents a major step in diversifying Nigeria’s energy mix and making fuel more accessible and economical for the populace.

“Adding CNG to NNPC stations provides Nigeria with an affordable alternative to existing fuel products. CNG will be about 40% cheaper than petrol in Nigeria. And with continued investments, it could become a significant part of our energy mix,” Stokman stated during the inauguration event in Abuja.

The NNPC has committed to launching over 100 CNG sites within the next year, supported by the establishment of two mechanical training centers combined with conversion centers in Abuja and Lagos.

These centers will facilitate the transition to CNG by providing necessary skills and resources for vehicle conversion and maintenance.

Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC, underscored the company’s dedication to enhancing CNG infrastructure.

“We are constructing six CNG mother stations across the country between now and December, and we are also building three LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) stations in Ajaokuta. This initiative aims to bring gas closer to consumers, reducing transportation costs and making fuel more affordable,” Kyari said.

The rollout of CNG stations aligns with President Muhammadu Buhari’s initiative to promote sustainable and locally sourced energy solutions.

The new CNG facilities are designed to meet global best practices, ensuring safe, reliable, and efficient service to all customers.

The Executive Vice President of Cleanergy Innovation Ltd, Shettima Imam, emphasized the importance of this collaboration in achieving significant milestones in Nigeria’s energy sector.

The deployment of CNG is expected to provide substantial financial relief to car owners, who have been benefiting from government petrol subsidies ranging between N6 million and N9 million per annum.

With the switch to CNG, an average car owner could save approximately N12 million annually.

“This initiative is not just about providing cheaper fuel; it is about utilizing Nigeria’s natural resources to create a more dynamic and inclusive energy sector,” Imam added.

“The CNG stations are a testament to what can be achieved through collaboration and innovation.”

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IKEDC Revises Tariff for Band A Customers to N209.5/kWh

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Electricity - Investors King

The Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC) has revised its electricity tariff for Band A customers, increasing the rate from N206.80/kWh to N209.5/kWh.

This new tariff, set to take effect on July 1, 2024, is in accordance with the service-based tariff regime.

In a statement posted on its social media platforms, IKEDC assured customers that the adjustment is necessary to sustain and further enhance the improved service delivery currently being experienced across all feeder bands within the Ikeja Electric network.

The company, which provides electricity to parts of Lagos and Ogun states, said the revision applies only to Band A customers, while tariffs for Bands B, C, D, and E will remain unchanged.

“We have undertaken this tariff review to ensure the continued improvement and sustainability of our service delivery,” IKEDC stated. “Customers can be rest assured that this development will further sustain the improved service delivery currently being experienced across all Feeder Bands within the Ikeja Electric network.”

The service-based tariff regime, under which this revision falls, is designed to reflect the quality and consistency of electricity supply provided to consumers.

Band A customers typically receive the highest quality of service with fewer disruptions, hence the adjusted rate is intended to support and maintain this level of service.

IKEDC’s announcement comes amidst ongoing efforts to improve the reliability and efficiency of electricity supply in the region.

The company has been investing in infrastructure upgrades and maintenance to reduce outages and enhance customer satisfaction. The slight increase in tariff is seen as a step towards achieving these goals.

Consumers have been urged to stay informed about the changes and to reach out to IKEDC’s customer service for any clarifications or assistance.

The company also reiterated its commitment to transparency and responsiveness in handling customer queries and concerns.

“We understand that tariff adjustments can be a concern for our customers,” the statement continued.

“However, we want to assure you that this revision is necessary for the continued improvement of our services. We are committed to ensuring that our customers receive value for their money through reliable and consistent electricity supply.”

The reaction from customers has been mixed, with some expressing concern over the increased cost, while others acknowledge the necessity for such adjustments to improve service delivery.

“As long as the electricity supply remains consistent and reliable, a slight increase in tariff is acceptable,” said a resident of Lagos.

As the new tariff takes effect, IKEDC will be closely monitoring its impact on service delivery and customer satisfaction, promising to make further adjustments as necessary to meet the needs and expectations of its customers.

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