Eleven years after the privatization of the power sector, the hydra headed problems of electricity in the country remain unabated. From 1999 to date, over N6 trillion combined has been spent by various administrations on power improvement, yet, there is very little to show for it, MUYIWA LUCAS and JOHN OFIKHENUA write.
Alloysius Iheanacho, Chief Executive Officer, Sahara chicken and Royale International Limited, a hospitality outfit in Akute, Ogun State, is worried over the continued parlous state of electricity supply in the country. His worries stem from the crippling effect the commodity is having on his business.
According to him, with the poor state of electricity supply in Akute, Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, he has had to incur higher cost in providing alternative source of power for his hospitality business. The development, he lamented, has further been compounded with the rising cost of diesel to power his business outfit. For instance, over the last five months, Iheanacho watched helplessly as the cost of diesel rose from a moderate price of N170 per liter to N820 per liter.
He said: “It is a difficult situation and we are running at a loss presently. I wonder when we will have an improved or steady electricity supply in this country.”
For those wondering like Iheanacho, a silver lining last week appeared on the horizon. The Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sanusi Garba, raised Nigerians hopes for an improved power supply when he disclosed that Nigerians will begin to enjoy improved power supply from July 1. He based his submission on what he called “renewed efforts by industry stakeholders”.
These “renewed efforts” Garba explained to be that NERC had facilitated a contractual agreement between the Gencos, TCN and the 11 DisCos that would guarantee the generation, transmission and distribution of an average of 5,000MW of electricity daily to customers effective July 1.”
But for several Nigerians and electricity consumers, Garba’s assurance may not hold water as it is seen as another empty promise from government. This is because notwithstanding the several efforts of government in times past and at present, there is nothing really impressive to show for it. For instance, between 1999 and 2021, government was said to have spent over N5.6 trillion on power, but the country has still remained in darkness.
Although the country was said to have generated nearly 36.4 gigawatt hours of electricity last year up from around 35.7 gigawatt hours in the previous year, the situation is on the decline this year.
Regrettably, 20 years after the 40, 000MW target, the power sector is bedevilled with several challenges. Even the target of the government’s Economic Growth and Recovery Plan to deliver at least 10,000 MW of operational capacity by 2020 did not materialise. The crumbling transmission network, marred by distribution losses has weakened the electricity value chain. It has also hindered the maximum operations of Generation and Distribution companies.
The World Bank blames the inability to meet the target on the absence of an accountability framework. Regardless, the Nigerian government has spent more than One major concern is the state of power infrastructure. Reports alleged that the national electricity grid has collapsed more than 200 times in the last nine years, resulting in widespread blackouts. This year alone, the grid has collapsed more five times. Factors responsible for this are said to include poor utility performance, theft of grid equipment, weather, gas supply, insufficient funding and the age of grid infrastructure.
The electricity grid is a network of generation companies (GenCos), distribution companies (DisCos) and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). The Federal Government is solely responsible for transmission of electricity generated by the GENCOS to the DisCos at a standardised voltage of 330kV and 132kV.
Technically, the grid trips off like a circuit breaker in the face of excess load. This is where the nation’s weak and obsolete transmission line has remained one of the drawbacks in the power production chain. Multilateral donor agencies multi – billion dollars intervention seem to have gone down the drain for higher propensity of outages. The Nigerian Consumer Protection Network, President, Barrister Kunle Olubiyo a power sector advocate, who is opposed to the management of power sector fund, especially in the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) argued that the finances are mismanaged in the procurement process. According to him, the fund that the Federal Government releases for grid expansion and reinforcement are being misapplied.
Olubiyo told The Nation : “It is a re-curing decimal of weakness of the grid, obsolescence and decadence of infrastructure and absence of system protective devices. If generation is low beyond the capacity of the threshold that is supposed to be taken: lower string of generation can all result in grid collapse. It is a collapse that is one too many. The issue is not lack of funds; it is more of misplaced priority and misapplication of funds. Our emphasis should have been on how to improve on technical investment of the grid and not application of high capacity transformers that will be a quick win. We have so many generations that are being stranded. We have many of these transformers that are to put money in individual’s pockets. But the grid itself is obsolete and needs to be tidied up. There is no way you have equipment you don’t service. If you have a generator you don’t service after sometimes your current will be low, it’s not because government is not releasing money, but we are not getting our priorities right. And for as long as we remain in that vicious circle, we will continue to have these issues of collapses.”
But for the Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, the national grid collapse that brought the energy generation in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) to the abysmal low level and nationwide outage can be blamed on factors including vandalism of gas pipelines, power lines and other equipment.
“On the recent collapse of the national power grid, a lot of factors caused the repeated crashes in the electricity system. The causes of the incessant grid collapses; include the vandalism of gas pipelines, power lines and other equipment, also inadequate water levels had also contributed to the disturbances to the national grid,” he explained.
Capacity / Performance
According to Kayode Oyedele, a public affairs analyst, between late February and this month, electricity generation has been erratic, primarily due to low rainfall feeding Nigeria’s major hydropower plants. He noted that there had been shortage of gas supply to power thermal gas plants. This is due to gas pipeline vandals and supply chain issues, including the fire outbreak at Egbin power plant.
Aliyu added: “Both Kainji and Jebba hydropower plants with combined capacity of about 1,300MW, were producing only 130MW to the national grid. We are just coming into the rainy season and the dams need flood and if we don’t have flood the water level will go down. Once the water goes down, it doesn’t have that energy to turn the turbines.
“Let me give you an example. Kainji and Jebba (hydropower plants) have installed capacity of over 1,000MW. Kainji has 700MW+, while Jebba has 500MW to 600MW.
“But right now, Kainji is only giving us 50MW to the grid because of some forced maintenance. Only one unit out of eight units is working in Kainji. So also is Jebba, which is giving us only 80MW, which has an installed capacity of close to 600MW.”
According to the minister, the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) is one of the key initiatives of President Muhammadu Buhari in partnership with Siemens and German government to improve and upgrade the power value chain so that Nigerians can enjoy stable electricity.
A look at the system performance since the previous Sunday when the system collapsed and its marginal restoration gives an insight to where the problem actually lies and the solution.
The Nigerian Electricity System Operator (SO) of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) sent out 78,202.37 MWh on June 15, 2022 to the 11 electricity distribution companies (DisCos). The output rose marginally from the 66,398.84MWh (2,766.5MW) and the 67,790.10MWh (2,833.08MWh) that was sent out on June 13, 2022 and June 12, 2022 .
Similarly, lowest energy generated on June 14, 2022 was 2,973.2 MW, rising marginally from 9Mw on June 12, 2022 to 1,490Mw on June 13, 2022. The SO stated this in its Operation Report of June 15, 2022. The report noted that on June 14, 2022 peak generation was 3,497.1Mw, while energy generated was 79039Mw, which is an average of 3,293.3Mw.