2013: Efficient electricity services still a mirage

The power sector privatisation programme was largely implemented with the successful sale of 11 distribution and five generation companies. However, long standing systemic issues cave continued to ensure that Nigerian remain in darkness. CHIDI UGWU reports.

On May 23,2013 the sacked minister of state for power, Hajia Zainab Kuchi, had projected that power generation would increase to 6,000MW in July and rise further to 10,000MW by December (this month) this year.

Kuchi’s projection came less than two weeks after Vice President Namadi Sambo forecasted that power generation would rise to 20,000MW before the end of 2014.

Also, the Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Power, PTFP, Mr. Beks Dagogo-Jack had last November, two months after he assumed office as PTFP Chair, announced that electricity generation, which stood at 4,000MW, would rise to 10,253MW this year, to hit an all-time high of 16,000mw by 2015.

He made the disclosure at the West African Power Industry Convention, WAPIC, which held in Lagos.

The power task force chairman had also disclosed that government had spent about $3.8 billion on the rehabilitation of some power plants, while “$175 million had been expended on gas infrastructure upgrade.

Similarly, the minister of power Professor Chinedu Nebo recently announced to electricity- starved Nigerians that by the end of 2013, the country’s power generation would rise to between 7,000MW and 10,000MW.

Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi, had also corroborated the ‘targeted 7,000MW’ by December this year. He also added that the government was determined to ensure that by 2014, the country would be able to provide 14,000MW of electricity.

But from all indications that projection was a mere pipe dream as the power situation appears to have worsened across the country as the year 2013 winds up.

At the conclusion of the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN assets this year, the Presidency said that over N360 billion has been spent on the payment of severance benefits to the former staff of the company.

The President’s Adviser on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati stated that the Bureau for Public Enterprise, BPE, has been the agency supervising this payments and that this is in accordance with the agreement on the settlement of the severance benefits of the workers.

Despite the unprecedented level of investment in the power sector and increase in electricity tariffs, power supply situation in Nigeria is getting worse.

National Mirror monitored the electricity situation in parts of country during the yuletide season and reports that though were reports of improvement few areas, the tales of blackouts appears to be a resounding echo as majority of Nigerians lament non availability of electricity.

In Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, kano and other major cities across the country the story was the same raising fears that the coming on board of the private investors into the sector might not yield the desired results anytime soon.

President Goodluck Jonathan had on assumption of office, in May, 2010, made a solemn promise that his priority would be to tackle Nigeria’s decade long electricity problem and ensure that Nigerians enjoyed steady power supply.

Following the unveiling of a detailed power sector roadmap as part of the implementation of the reform process, which legislative groundwork was laid by the Electric Power Sector Reform, EPSR, Act of 2005, the sector witnessed unparalleled level of investment and unprecedented enthusiasm from local and international investors to invest in the Nigerian economy.

Government’s efforts to increase power supply paid off initially, especially in 2011 and 2012 as power supply first hit an unprecedented peak of 4,321.3megawatts at about 9.15am on August 31, 2012.

Power generation also continued to hover around this figure throughout the remaining part of 2012, hitting an all-time peak of 4,517mw on December 21, 2013; thus setting a new record in the country.

However, since the beginning of this year, the power situation has been characterised by a cyclic hope and despair, a development, which has been blamed on frequent system collapse and several man-made factors.

A sharp drop in power supply was first noticed in January 2013 when Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, shut down the Okpai Power Plant in Delta State for repairs, reducing generation by 460mw before it rose again to 4,286mw peak for the month. Although it hit 4,350mw peak in February, by March 26, 2013, the figure had dropped to 3,670megawatts.

Generation was also poor in April as it decreased further to 2,987.6mw on April 6 due to inadequate gas supply to the thermal stations, before it ramped up to 3,443mw on April 9.

After a slight improvement, the situation worsened further to 2,866.4mw in the same month as a result of general system failure, which was very rampant during the first half of 2013.

Today, power outages have metamorphosed into complete darkness in most parts of Nigeria, while many urban cities and towns across the country hardly enjoy three to four hours of uninterrupted power supply.

Ironically, power technocrats are never short of excuses for the unending power crisis, which has become a major threat to Nigeria’s quest to become one of the top industrialised nations of the world by 20-20-20.

Inadequate gas supply, shortage of water in the dams, vandalism or theft of power equipment, poor funding and presence of “demons” or “mafia” as claimed by the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, have been identified as major causes of the power woes.

At a point the power minister said the cause of the blackouts being experienced across the country were due to increased rainfall, excessive growth of vegetation along transmission highways and challenges of weak electricity transmission assets. Specifically, he once noted that the increasing frequency of collapse of the power transmission network, which had officially reached over 15 times since the beginning of this year, was “caused by rainfall and vegetation”.

The minister claimed that the research he conducted showed that power supply situation was usually at the worst between the period of April and July due to rainfall, which causes outages and system failures. “It is important to mention that such disturbances to the national supply systems usually peak at the commencement of the rainy season across the country.

This is usually a natural phenomenon owing to our geographical peculiarities. The ministry is fully aware of the constraints and limitations of the nation’s transmission network, but wishes to assure Nigerians that the Transmission Company of Nigeria is repositioned and being funded to meet with the expectations and requirements”, Nebo said.

He added: “Like the system failure in Bayelsa, which knocked off the entire Bayelsa State for over two weeks and we had to put in everything to restore that, was caused by very huge tree falling and destroying to the very foundation, one of the transmission towers.

The one that happened in Birni Kebbi affecting three different states was also caused by a big storm that occurred and knocked out three transmission towers. So, this is the time that this thing occurs and we are doing our best not only to take care of these things at this time but also to make sure that the occurrences don’t repeat next year”.

A recent statement issued by head of media to the Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Power, PTFP, Mr. Beks Dagogo- Jack, noted that the trend of blackouts was due to the fact that Nigeria’s current available peak power cannot satisfy the demands of its population of 160 million people.

The PTFP’s Awele Okigbo, who sighed the statement had argued that “current generation, transmission and distribution capacity of the country were simply not enough for its population, hence the blackouts”. Dagogo-Jack had also blamed repair jobs on key installations for failure of Nigeria to attain the 5,000MW electricity generation target by the end of December 2012.

He said: “There were projects behind these projections and if we don’t have those projects in place, we cannot have power and so if you were supposed do a particular line that was overloaded, you would have to deliver it in time and some of those projects slipped and didn’t come when we wanted them, they didn’t vanish but are behind schedule and so we will not have them now but later”.

While weak transmission network had also been identified as a major cause of frequent drop in electricity supply, the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, claimed that the massive load shedding experienced nationwide this year had been caused by vandalism of two major gas pipelines supplying gas to eight power generation stations in the country.

The power generation stations, which include the Egbin/AES Thermal Stations; Olorunsogo, Omotoso, Geregu NIPP, Afam IV and VI Thermal Power Stations as well as Rivers State Independent Power Station, had been affected, resulting in drastic reduction of power supply by 1,598 megawatts.

In a statement by the company’s General Manager (Public Affairs), Mr. Dave Ifabiyi, TCN explained that one of the vandalised gas pipelines took supply from Okoloma gas plant, while the other took supplies from Escravos.

Ifabiyi said with the disruption of gas supply through the lines, the Nigerian Gas Company, NGC, was unable to move gas to Afam IV, Afam VI as well as the Independent Power Plant in Rivers State, resulting in generation loss of 593MW.

He said the second vandalised gas pipeline from Escravos to Warri caused a cutback of 1,005MW in power generation from Egbin/AES power generating station, Olorunsogo, Omotosho and Geregu NIPP power generating plants.

According to him, with the total generation loss of 1,598MW, the total power generation as at that day was 2,290MW. Nigeria’s electricity generation capacity has declined from the peak generation level of about 4,517.6 mega watts, MW, recorded last December, 2012 to about 3,781.80 MW in October, according to the power generation fact sheet of the Presidential Task Force on Power as at October 20.

The electricity generation report showed that though the country’s peak demand level forecast was 12,800 MW of electricity, energy generation capacity stood at about 3,559.46 MW hour per hour (MWH/H), while actual electricity sent out into the national grid was 3,487.85 MWH/H.

The Chairman, Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation, NCP, Atedo Peterside, said at the handing over of the newly privatized successor companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, to their new owners that the nine former PHCN generation companies (including Omotosho and Olorunsogo) only had available capacity of 2,692 MW as at September 10, as against a total installed capacity of 6,976.40 MW.

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