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Nigeria: Irony of a power producer

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Nigeria: Irony of a power producer

While Nigerians continue to suffer gross insufficient electricity supply, government raked in $64.63 million from power sale to Benin and Niger Republic. ADEOLA YUSUF looks at the acclaimed Africa’s biggest economy and its epileptic power sector

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, used one stone to kill two proverbial birds penultimate Monday. At the Power sector stakeholders’ meeting –the 11th in its series this year – the minister who declared that Nigerians should be expectant of marginal reduction in power due to gradual exit of the rainy season, also announced the recovery of $64.63 million electricity debts from international customers in Benin Republic and Republic of Niger.

Nigeria is a riddle when it comes to power transmission. A country of over 170 million, according to government estimates, which generates an average of 3,500 Mega Watts (MW) – a grossly insufficient electricity for teeming population, also engaged in power sale to other countries “for regional development.” The transmission network, which the country sold the power through however, remains an embarrassment that keeps reoccurring . As at the last count, the power grid collapsed 39 times in 30 months while the minister expressed his happiness “to announce that we have recovered $64,630,055 from our international customers in Benin Republic and Republic of Niger.”

One grid collapse too many

The national power grid suffered a total System Collapse on September 28, 2017, worsening the epileptic power supply rocking the country.

Before this, Nigeria’s electricity transmission grid had suffered 39 cases of partial collapses in the last 30 months.

The incident, which climaxed with four partial collapses, is already fueling fear of imminent total system collapse. The last time the nation suffered total system collapse before the event of last September was in January.

Although the Federal Government has privatised the generation and distribution strata of electricity and handed their assets to new owners, the grid is still under government’s control due to its ownership of the transmission system. The Federal Government is still engaged mainly in maintenance of the national grid, which is due for overhaul.

Before this, another system collapse occurred on May 8, 2017, culminating into a significant drop in generation, transmission and distribution of electricity to many parts of the nation.

The nation, investigations showed, also recorded two system collapse incidents last April, which also affected supply to consumers.

The grid, which was built with capacity to retain about 4,000 Mega Watt (MW), an engineer with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) told this newspaper, is “currently over-laboured” by the new peak in power transmission.

“One of the measures put in place to shift the doomsday for the national power grid is the advice given to power generation firms to reduce generation anytime they attain their peak production,” he said.

Postponing the doomsday

The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) had said that it, for the first time in the last 20 years, maintained grid frequency stability within the operating band of 49.5Hz to 50.5Hz for 24 consecutive hours.

Interim Managing Director of TCN, Usman Gur Mohammed, who said this, maintained that this milestone, which was achieved on the 14th of June, 2017, was a key pointer to the gradual and consistent improvement in the stability of the nation’s transmission grid.

The TCN management, the engineer said, was, however, aware of the danger to its achievements in the last three weeks and had deployed engineers “to ensure that the good news on the power transmission is not short-lived.”

TCN confirmed that the grid had, before the latest four cases, earlier suffered 35 failures in two-and-a-half years. It, however, said that the collapse was majorly caused by gas supply and not necessarily transmission constraints.

The transmission company said in a statement to relay the incidents that the company only suffered four system collapses in the first two quarters of 2015.

Two of the four incidents, the company said, occurred in May and resulted in low generation of about 1,400 megawatts (mw). It also explained that most of the collapses came from shortages in gas supply and not necessarily from transmission constraints.

“It is public knowledge that the frequency of system collapses has been going down drastically following several equipment and infrastructure upgrade by TCN besides aggressive capacity building of the system operators,” TCN said in a statement.

“In 2013, there were 22 instances of system collapse and in 2014, this was drastically brought down to nine.”

Immediate past spokesperson for the company, Seun Olagunju, who signed the statement did not, however, disclose the details of the spinning reserve contract, especially the particulars of the generation outfit that had been contracted for the spinning reserve.

But she said the TCN would continue to work at enhancing the transmission capacity and reliability of the national grid in order to provide improved and sustainable power delivery to public electricity distribution companies in the country.

Temporary measure

Mohammed, in a statement by Olagunju, also stated that the entire management once again expressed appreciation to the generation companies nationwide for complying with the Grid Code rule, which requires them to maintain the required frequency control.

According to the statement, the Free Governor Control action agreed and implemented since May 22, 2017, has helped in stabilising frequency and, in turn, enabled the company achieve a very high level of stability and reliability in the grid – amid operational challenges posed by stormy weather.

Having achieved this milestone, TCN said it is working assiduously to maintain the trend and also to further improve and stabilise grid frequency at 49.75Hz to 50.25Hz.

The company reiterated its commitment to diligently executing its grid expansion and stability plans in the short, medium and long terms as well as working closely with the GENCOs and DISCOs to grow the load capability and deliver quality and stable electricity supply to consumers nationwide.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government had, notwithstanding the threats to power grid, set aside $25 billion (about N4 trillion) for investment in power sector in Nigeria.

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who announced this at the 4th Niger Delta Development Forum in Asaba, added that part of the investment would cover the transport sector.

Exit of rains …

The Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader, (NBET) will work out the modalities for distribution,” Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said. Fashola, who spoke at the power sector stakeholders’ meeting in Warri, Delta State, maintained that the ministry “must work now to keep all the gas stations well maintained and operational,” in a bid to make up for the imminent shortfall in the hydro-power generation.

“Now that the rains are coming to an end, we expect some minor, not major reduction in the production from the hydro and we must work now to keep all the gas stations well maintained and operational, the minister said.

“I am sure that we can do this, if there is peace in the gas producing areas and gas supply is not interrupted.”

Fashola said that the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has completed the guidelines for the operation of the rural electrification fund that will help vulnerable groups and communities gain access to funding to support their electricity development programme.

The Rural Electrification Fund was, according to the minister, created by Section 88 of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) of 2005 to promote support and provide rural electrification access.

“The fund will provide a partial single payment capital subsidy and or technical assistance to eligible private Rural Power Developers, NGOs or communities to invest in options such as hybrid mini grids or solar home systems to scale up rural access to electricity, he said.

“Those who will be served are the unserved and underserved rural communities.”

Giving details of the funds’ disbursement, Fashola said: “What they are likely to get are minimum amounts of $10,000 (N3.5 million) and maximum amounts of $300,000 (N106 million) or 75 per cent of project cost, whichever is less.

Fashola gives himself pass mark

Looking back at what he described as achievement in the power sector under him, Fashola said: “Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week and month by month, we have not only gained momentum, we are seeing progress that inspires us not to flag, progress that inspires us to continue, because the power problem can be successfully managed by Nigerians.”

He, however, took a swipe at his critics, saying: “Our work is certainly not driven by a quest for acknowledgment; on the contrary, it is driven by our belief in our collective abilities to change what we do not accept.”

Last line

Government made the $64.63 million through the power transmission; it is only ideal that the revenue be re-invested in making the transmission stronger and better. While the playing of big brother role through sale of power to neighbouring countries “for regional integration and development” is commendable, government should first provide solutions to the gross power insufficiency and incessant collapse of national grid rocking the country.

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