Will Nigeria’s initiatives on electricity work?

Geometric-power08 October 2013, Abuja – The development of a nation from experts’ view is often rated by how much resources it has committed to improve lives and how effective such efforts have been. Power outages in the Nigerian environment are no news even in the wake of myriad policies on electricity improvement.

Nigerians have literally continued to wail due to fluctuating electricity supply. Government has not been so candid on overhauling the ailing sector. Rather, a shoddy and berserk public power utility system mercilessly sucks the people dry at maximal efforts to get even the barest wattage of electricity supply.

The National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) was conceived in 2004 as a fast-track government funded initiative to stabilize Nigeria’s electricity supply with focus on generation. The federal government also incorporated the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) in August 2005 as a limited liability company to supervise the NIPPs.

The encomiums this development enjoyed at inception did not last due to political interruption following a change in government administration in 2007. It was however reawakened two years after and by 2010, contracts were awarded for the execution of 10 medium-sized gas powered generation stations in some states.

These plants which are now at various stages of completion include, Geregu phase II in Kogi State which is expected to generate 434 megawatts (MW) electricity; the 513mw Omotosho II plant in Ondo State; Olorunsogo II in Ogun State with 754mw; Ihovbor (Benin) plant with 451mw in Edo State; and the Sapele II 508mw in Delta State. The others are Omoku II with 265mw in Rivers State, the 1,131mw Alaoji power plant in Abia State, Calabar 634mw in Cross River, Gbarain 254mw in Bayelsa, and Egbema plant in Imo State with 381mw expectation.

Although one out of the 10 plants was commissioned last Thursday, the final completion stage is slated shortly before the provisional take over by private investors in June 2014. With the commissioning, Geregu phase II became the first of the 10 projects to be completed under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) initiative, despite being the last project that was contracted.

Managing Director of NDPHC, Mr James Abiodun Olotu, said contract for Geregu plant was awarded in April 2010 to Siemens Limited consisting three Siemens SGTS-200E gas turbines operating in a simple-cycle mode and with a designed combined site output rating of 434MW. The plant is designed to use the route from the switchyard of the already privatized (Amperion Power) 414mw Geregu I route to Benin substation. Geregu II had however acquired an additional route of 330/132kv substations in Lokoja and Gwagwalada with new transmission lines to connect Abuja. Mr Olotu further disclosed that the Omotosho power plant would also be ready for commissioning soon.

At the ceremony, President Goodluck Jonathan commended NDPHC’s efforts in handling Geregu II project despite apparent challenges. He reassured Nigerians of a fast coming era of adequate power supply. He said: “This is part of the great effort of this administration to provide regular electricity to the teeming population of our great country, Nigeria. With the commissioning of other NIPP power plants, we should have close to 5000mw in our generation capacity.”

The NIPPs are not the only interventions in enhancing the nation’s power sector. There are pockets of projects like the recently awarded and ongoing 700mw Zungeru hydroelectric project in Niger State as well as a planned Mambilla hydropower in Taraba State. Other efforts at generating power are in place from Independent Power Producers (IPPs), for instance, Geometric power plant in Abia State owned by a former minister of power, Prof. Barth Nnaji.

Challenges at hand
It may be justified that a lot is being done to salvage the nation’s epileptic power supply, the number of these generation plants when completed should help us to get it right this time. But one may ask if low electricity generation capacity has been the only bane to stable power supply in Nigeria.

Proper investigations and survey into power generation, transmission and distribution would reveal quite more than fathomed as there are other posers such as transmission system failures, low and poor personnel, pipeline vandalism and inadequate gas infrastructure.

System failures have accounted for several megawatts loss often times paralyzing business activities in hubs and city centres across the nation. Despite occasional upgrades of transmission infrastructures, incessant cases of system failure keep rising thereby raising concern that the transmission network is either being sabotaged by unseen forces or is too weak to withstand any additional capacity. There is hardly any parallel effort to rehabilitate aging transmission facilities of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) with a lopsided attention given to generation and perhaps, distribution.

President Jonathan while unveiling the power roadmap in August 2010 clearly noted that the transmission network was so weak that, “even with the completion of the extant PHCN and NIPP transmission projects, for which funds have already been provided, the gap between generation capacity and the capacity of the transmission grid is expected to widen considerably over the next three years.” He had also stated a 30% increase in evacuation capacity of 330Kv transmission network to move it from the then 4,500mw capacity. The only visible outcome of that was the added Geregu – Abuja transmission network, yet to be explored.

Even in recent times, frequent system collapse has put major towns in total blackout. For instance, Minister of Power Prof. Chinedu Nebo in June while inaugurating a 13-member Technical Investigative Panel on System Collapse after major collapse of 330KV towers and other electricity infrastructures, revealed that the ministry had recorded more than 15 power system collapses in the previous five months. They occured in Bayelsa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Gombe states, among other states and in Niamey, Niger Republic.

The panel after two weeks had blamed the collapses on weak system infrastructure, aged personnel and poor financing. There is thus an indication that as the country increased generation capacity, our transmission lines will continue to weaken with the additional load. However currently, government is making more investment in TCN and its consulting firm, Manitoba Hydro International, recruited more indigenous engineers to restructure the TCN. But as the Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr Sam Amadi has said, “government must complement its efforts with requisite corporate governance to achieve best practice TCN.”

The issue of gas and its infrastructure is another poser that ought to be checked instantly. Rising trend in pipeline vandalism which affected Afam IV, Afam VI, Rivers Independent Power Plant (IPP) and Olorunsogo power plants recently threw the power sector into coma when it recorded drastic grid reduction from a fluctuating 4000mw to less than 3000mw. Even some ongoing NIPPs like Imo State’s Egbema plant, Calabar plant, and Gbarain plant of Bayelsa State are already having varying issues of gas evacuation risks of which, pipeline insecurity is the highest issue.

As the nation’s power sector transforms into a private-sector situation, new transmission initiatives ought to be created. While most electricity generation and distribution facilities are being privatized, government is still holding fast to the mid-section, ‘transmission’ which is stirring more public concern. Many are still in a fix whether the better duo and a singly-ostracized transmission would satisfy the need of Nigerian electricity consumers waiting anxiously to enter the ‘Promised Land’ of reliable power supply.

– Daily Trust

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