Idara Bethel Etukudor is Head of Projects for SunLight Energy Ventures, a company he founded with his wife Christie. He has over 13 years professional experience in the construction industry, having previously worked as Client Representative on a Hotel, 18-Hole Golf Course and Jetty Project for the Akwa Ibom State Government; and as Project Supervisor and Project Manager with Monimichelle Ltd. on two stadium upgrade projects in Bayelsa State, Nigeria and Benue State, Nigeria respectively. He has been extensively involved in project planning, procurement planning, project execution and interfacing with clients on project issues.
What is your off-grid energy business? Can you give a brief overview? How long have you been working on this business?
Sunlight Energy Ventures – a renewable energy business I co-founded with my wife, is an interesting deviation from what I have been involved in previously and presents an opportunity to learn something new and in the process, providing a vital human need to households and communities in dire need of electricity. I also see it as the future of energy generation and supply in the world; thereby presenting a possibly profitable business segment. I have been involved in the business with Christie from inception.
What inspired you to start working in off-grid energy? Are there any key people who inspired you to work in this area?
Basically the fact that it presented an opportunity to take advantage of a largely available resource – Sunlight; considering also the inconsistency in on-grid electricity supply witnessed in Nigeria. It also represented an alternative source from which peoples’ lives could be positively impacted upon and the chance to make a profit in the process. My inspiration to get involved in this area is first Christie, then the fact that I can also help to make a difference in peoples’ lives especially in rural communities.
Have you lived in a off-grid community? What is something you want people with reliable energy to know about growing up off-grid?
I have not lived in an off-grid community but I have been to several while working on construction projects in the past, as well as carrying out feasibility studies for SunLight Energy Ventures. From my observations of these off-grid communities, the people growing up in off-grid places – especially children are at a serious disadvantage as they are unable to use televisions, computers etc. These are common place amenities that make life fun and comfortable but which they are unfortunately unable to enjoy.
-What are the main things you have learned while working as an entrepreneur in off-grid energy? Your biggest success and biggest failure? Key epiphanies or turning points?
The initial expectation that it presented a very profitable business segment has been disproved by actual experience of execution; however, it is an option that still needs to be pursued for the sake of those who may never get connected to the grid but are very eager to have access and enjoy the benefits of electricity.
-What has surprised you most about working as an off-grid energy entrepreneur?
The large number of communities that are not on the grid, as seen in some of my travels and the vast opportunity presented by the availability of renewable energy resource – sunlight, through which government and capable private entrepreneurs can change the lives of millions of people. Unfortunately, much of the talk is not producing the desired results quick enough.
-What has been most difficult/most rewarding?
Covering long distances by road travel on several occasions, mostly in rickety vehicles in local communities. Getting to see places hitherto only read about, seeing the way in which the people live their lives is an education for me and is richly rewarding.
-If you could share some wisdom with yourself 3 years ago, what would it be?
Dreams are what they are, to make them reality, you need a lot of faith, belief in yourself and abilities, then be ready to put in all the work that’s needed. Obstacles are only stepping stones to greatness.
-Where do you hope to be 3 years from now?
Enjoying much more the emotional and financial satisfaction of making ideas work. The ones in which I am involved as a partner and those that are mine.