Heavy Electricity Market Debt Choking NDPHC –Ugbo

Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) recently cried out over an estimated N100 billion debt owed it by the electricity market. Despite the debt, the company is still intervening  in transmission and distribution assets. 

In this interview, the Managing Director of the company, Chiedu Ugbo, said that without tgovernment interventions in the power infrastructure, Nigerian would have been thrown into total darkness by now.

Ugbo  made other revelations in this chat that is capable of blowing the mind of any well-meaning Nigerian.

Apart from the eligible customers and bilateral initiative, before now,  all our electricity was sold to Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET). NBET is a government-licensed bulk trader that sells electricity to distribution companies. Most generation companies sell their electricity through NBET.   I know that NBET sells the electricity to distribution companies and NBET pays exactly what it gets from the distribution companies. From generation side, all we know is that they sold electricity to NBET.  The ultimate debtor is the distribution companies and the ultimate ultimate is the consumers. 

Who are these eligible customer

Eligible customers are those we can serve directly without going through the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET).

So, we serve our customers and collect our money. We also have some resistance from distribution companies. What we decided to do is to work directly with distribution companies under the bilateral arrangement. We signed some agreements to work together with a number of distribution companies such as Eko Distribution Company, Benin Distribution Company, Enugu Distribution Company, Kano Distribution Company. We have been working with them. We are supplying Eko DisCo 100 megawatts. We also have bilateral arrangements with Aba Power. Aba Power is carved out from Enugu Distribution Company (ENDC). We are supplying Aba Power on bilateral basis because they (Aba Power) have taken over Aba. So, we have to take  advantage of that. We have other eligible customers that are being served from Aba Plant

Why did you choose Niger Delta as your name?

The electricity generation plants are predominantly in the Niger Delta states. The nine Niger Delta states are Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Imo, and Abia but it’s only in Akwa Ibom that we don’t have plants. 

But starting from Calabar, we  have a plant in Calabar. That’s Cross River State. The Rivers State Plants  is still under construction. We have at Abia State, Alaoji Power Plants. We have in Bayelsa. We have in Imo State (Egbema) which is under construction. We have in Sapele, Delta State. We have in Benin, next door to Azura. We have in Omotosho in Ondo State. We have in Olorunsogo in Ogun State and then we have in Ndorogun near Ajaokuta. That’s why we are called Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC). However, the company is owned by the federation because it was funded from the federation account—- from Excess Crude Account (ECA). It’s the money belonging to all the states and and their local governments and the federal government. So, we belong to the whole country. For that reason, not only have we delivered 4,000 megawatts in terms of installed capacity. In terms of generation,  we have also done transmission work all over the country. 

The transmission lines are the ones you call high tension wires that travel a long distance. For instance, we have transmission lines running all the way from Calabar to Ikot Ekpene and joining the Ikot Ekpene line all the way to Jos, Enugu to Makurdi, Makurdi to Jos——-all done by Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC).

Of course, we have transmission substations. What substations do essentially is to transport the electricity on a very high rate. Transmission goes as high as 330 KV. It transforms into 132 KV. It further  transforms  into 33 KV. It’s at 33 KV that  the distribution companies can now come and pick. It’s highway and feeder roads. 

That’s how it works. Like I mentioned we have delivered over 4,000 megawatts in electricity generation. We have delivered 9,200 MVA in terms of transmission capacity. As at today the company can make  available to transmission company about 7,000 megawatts. In terms of transmission capacity, from NDPHC alone we have substations that can convert or step down and make available for electricity distribution companies over 7,000 megawatts all by NDPHC alone. So, when you hear that NIPP was meant to stabilise the provision of electricity in Nigeria, it’s not correct.

How important are government’s investments in NIPP  

If the government did not invest in NIPP the country would have been in complete darkness because what would be available might not be able to sustain the grid which may not  be able to make available electricity to serve Nigerians. So, NIPP had been able to provide the transmission capacity of over 7,000 megawatts…… that’s about 9,000 MVA in terms of transmission.

NDPHC has done 239 KV line, 132 KV line. It’s a self-circuit substation. That means we have 230 KV line twice in and out of that substation. And from that 630 KV line all the way. NDPHC built the state-of-the art station in Enugu. NDPHC recently completed the Lafia substation. Some of you were there to transform 230, 132.   The Calabar plant was commissioned by this government in 2017. It’s a 12-circuit substation which means we have twelve 230 KV lines in and out of that substation. And from substation, 630 KV line all the way. 

NDPHC has a state-of-the-art substation in Enugu. NDPHC recently completed the Lafia substation to transform 630 KV to 132 KV to 33 KV. At least,  Lafia alone can give us 100 megawatts for Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) to pick and serve the entire area. So, we continue to work not just in terms of generation but also in transmission. And we are also doing a whole lot in distribution. You can crosscheck the facts. I don’t think there’s any local government in Nigeria that we do not have our footprints in distribution projects. We should not be shouting for doing our work. It’s our work. It’s what we were mandated to do. They have given us the people’s money. That’s the people’s trust and we must use it to serve the people of Nigeria. We are virtually in every local government. If there’s none, you can bring it to me. The distribution substations are countless in the country. Our 32 KV lines are everywhere. Unfortunately, some of them, for some reasons, the distribution companies have not been able to put them into service. But the infrastructure is there.  The NIPP has brought in a countless number of projects for the improvement of electricity in the country. As it stands today, for it not for government’s  intervention in NIPP, we would probably have more  darkness than we have in Nigeria. That’s not to say that there’s no work to be done. There’s more work to be done. 

What are your challenges so far?

There are challenges. Our responsibility is to light up Nigeria  and provide electricity to Nigerians. So, infrastructure is nothing if there’s no electricity to homes and businesses. We will continue to strive to do that. In generation, we have delivered about 4,000 megawatts. That’s what we put on ground. As I said, there are challenges. Calabar plant  is a massive project. It’s a 625  megawatts plant. We did the transmission line. Operating transmission depends on  a number of factors. It’s dependent on generation and also dependent on transmission. And even the transmission itself is dependent on the quality  of  infrastructure across the country because it’s one network. So, they have a lot of other issues which could impede the generation not reaching the target customers who are Nigerians. 

Apart from transmission companies most power plants will have bad supply issues in terms of the availability of the network. 

In Calabar we have full gas. Our major problem in Calabar is transmission. But Calabar is one of the best performing plants today. We thank God and we are doing all we can to keep the plant running for the benefit of Nigerians.

I will appeal to all Nigerians  to regard these projects as theirs and protect them from theft and vandalism. Within the last one month we have witnessed some setbacks. One gas pipeline was damaged and also transmission pole was pulled down and the company’s  parts carted away somewhere in Rivers State. 

I have mentioned gas constraints  in generation. I have mentioned transmission constraint. Another challenge in generation is market liquidity. This is impacting  seriously. The power sector is dynamic. Challenges come from several fronts but the regulator has been on its toes. It’s been working with the operators but each way we meet challenges.

Today, we are being owed over N100 billion from electricity generated and out in the grid. Sometimes, it’s attributable to tariff issues and sometimes it’s attributable to what we call market issues. At the generation end, particularly the NDPHC,  it’s that we are being owed. As I said,  this debt was up to N150 billion at a time but it’s coming down gradually. But we are still being owed. Just imagine a company being owed N100 billion  and the company is still standing on its feet.

Without blowing our trumpet there must be something the company is doing right particularly,  out of this low remittances from electricity trading we are still able to intervene  in transmission and distribution assets for the benefit of Nigerians. With support of my management and my board we believe that this project was set up for the benefit of Nigerians and that in every state, every local government should have the benefit of this project, in fact, everybody. And that takes me to our new initiative. I will call it our new initiative because it started in 2017, 2018. That’s our renewable energy department to ensure that every Nigerian has access to electricity. We started the solar home systems. We did the first 20,000 and it was well received.

The under-privileged people who are the beneficiaries of this project are paying for it. We completed the 20,000 and they’re paying.  We are now in the 100,000 phase.  Because of the success of that, the Federal Government mandated us, under the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) to also work on the Solar Home System Commission and we are doing another 100,000 Solar Home Commission  to Nigerians and so far we have done over 40,000 or thereabout. It is well received and people are paying for it. We are doing all these because of our conviction that everybody is entitled to access to electricity in Nigeria. We are doing our best. Nigeria is a big country. So, the impact might not be felt immediately but sooner than later the impact will be felt.

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