Resolving Electricity Grid Collapse Conundrum In Nigeria

Like a recurring decimal, the nation’s national power grid collapsed recently, throwing the entire country into total darkness before it was restored by the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

The collapse was for the second time in less than a month, worsening the blackout being experienced by households and businesses in parts of Nigeria.

Two of the electricity distribution companies in the country confirmed that the collapse occurred around 1:00pm on Monday

The grid had last month suffered a total collapse, which the Transmission Company of Nigeria attributed to the loss of 611 megawatts at two power stations.

Eko Electricity Distribution Company, in a message to its customers on its Facebook page, said: “We regret to inform you of a system collapse on the national grid that’s causing outages across our network.

“We are working with our TCN partners to restore supply as soon as possible. Please bear with us.”

Kaduna Electric said: “We sincerely apologise for the power outage in our franchise states which is due to a system collapse from the national grid. Supply shall be restored as soon as the grid is back up.

“We regret any inconvenience this may cause all our customers.”

The grid, which is being managed by government-owned TCN, has continued to suffer system collapse over the years amid a lack of spinning reserve that is meant to forestall such occurrences.

Spinning reserve is the generation capacity that is online but unloaded and that can respond within 10 minutes to compensate for generation or transmission outages.

Regrettably, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has disclosed that subsequent collapse of the National Grid cannot be totally avoided in the country.

The company explained that as National Grid is still being operated with zero spinning reserve, system instability like the partial system disturbance might not be avoidable and the reoccurrence of Thursday shut down is inevitable.

In the last seven years the grid had disturbingly collapse for over in the country puncturing the so-called efforts of the Federal Government to lighten up Nigeria in line with its industrialisation drive

Data from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Company showed that the national grid collapsed 12 times in 2018, 10 times in 2019, and five times in 2020.

According to the recent report by the World Bank, Nigerians lose N10tn annually on account of perennial electricity constraints in the country.

The Brettonhood institution also classified Nigeria among the worst countries with access to electricity.

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and other Organized Private Sector in the country have lately expressed disgust over power hitches forcing them to explore alternative power to run their operations amidst huge overhead cost which is indirectly borne by consumers or average Nigerians.

With the campaign for ease of promoting business in Nigeria, it was evident that Nigeria was not up notch given the unimpressive power sector and other variables that have constituted Frankenstein monster to investors in the country.

The government is indeed trying to nip in the bud the power conundrum with the signing of ambitious deal with Siemens and other ambitious projects to deepen power infrastructure in the country.

There are suggestions for the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to be unbundled with a view to enabling it perform effectively

Stakeholders in the power sector have also proffered ways to free the nation’s grid from frequent collapses, which has turned to national embarrassment lately.

Goody Duru-Oguzie, the Managing Director of PowTech Power International Limited, said the solution lies in embracing communications technology towards making the nation’s grid smart

Smart grid communications enables utilities to achieve three key objectives: intelligent monitoring, security, and load balancing, he said.

According to him, using two-way communications, data can be collected from sensors and meters located throughout the grid and transmitted directly to the grid operator’s control room.

This added communications capability provides enough bandwidth for the control room operator to actively manage the grid. The communications must be reliable, secure, and low cost.

He said: “The sheer scale of the electrical grid network makes cost a critical consideration when implementing a communications technology. Selecting a solution that minimises the number of modems and concentrators needed to cover the entire system can dramatically reduce infrastructure costs. At the same time, the selected technology must have enough bandwidth to handle all data traffic being sent in both directions over the grid network.

“In concrete terms, a smart grid is an infrastructure that puts emphasis firmly on active rather than passive control. A good analogy is in the control of traffic on a busy stretch of motorway. During off-peak periods, cars can drive freely with no speed restrictions other than the maximum speed limit.

“But, in the rush-hour the warning signs on the overhead gantries are used to impose speed limits on specific lanes.

“So, by restricting the speed of movement of individual streams, congestion is avoided, optimising the flow of all traffic. More intelligent control of power flows in the transmission and distributions systems will allow higher utilisation even during high demand periods.

The management of such a complex grid power system will depend on real-time and secure communications and highly adaptive control systems.

These will provide utilities and their customers with real-time information from across the network on the performance of grid installations, power flow and consumer demand.

They will allow intelligent automated devices to react to imbalances in the system and also improve asset management by enabling improved predictive maintenance programs and faster emergency response times.

He attributed the frequent collapse of the national grid to Nigeria’s lack of adequate two-way communications which is critical to effective and efficient grid management.

He added that the absence of this is responsible for the frequent grid failures and system collapses that has characterised the noted disruptions in power supply to consumers leading to expanded scope of power outages more than ever.

Afolabi Akinrogunde, a renewable energy expert and Investment Manager at All-On, said looking at the grid problems and climate change issues, Nigerians should seek renewable off-grid power solutions rather than generators.

He noted that on a comparative basis, renewable energy was more cost-effective than running the home or business on fossil fuels like petrol or diesel.

“Life-cycle costs of renewable energy solutions are currently between 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than fossil fuels,” he said.

He said: “As Nigeria begins to adopt cost-reflective tariffs on grid power, it is expected that many more Nigerians will find it more appealing to produce their own power. This is already the case in some parts of the world where private citizens generate for themselves and some even sell any excess power into the distribution grid, making money from it.

“It is also key to note however that the average Nigerian who is fully on renewable power will pay less on a unit cost basis compared to a person who is blending generator and grid power.

“The difference in costs will differ depending on the number of hours a person’s generator runs daily, but my rule of the thumb is that once you use up to seven hours of generator-fueled power daily, you’re better off running with renewable energy.”

He said that the biggest challenge most Nigerians faced was being able to put the capital together to acquire a renewable energy solution.

He said the monthly cost savings from adopting the solution would ensure that it paid for itself within 18 months on average.

Nigerians hope that the government would hearken to suggestions on how to save the national grid from frequent and embarrassing collapse


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