TCN MD resigns as weak transmission network leads to drop in power supply by 900MW

02 December 2015, Abuja – The Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mrs. Veronica Osuhor, has resigned her appointment following a protracted dispute among key leaders in the power industry.

*Babatunde Raji Fashola, Minister of Power, Works & Housing.

*Babatunde Raji Fashola, Minister of Power, Works & Housing.

This came as indications yesterday emerged that weak transmission network that cannot evacuate power generated by the power stations had forced a drop in power supply from the 4,883.9 megawatts new peak celebrated recently to 3,900 megawatts.

Osuhor’s resignation letter dated November 23, 2015, and addressed to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing,  signalled a new twist in the sharp disagreement between Manitoba Hydro International Limited (MHIL) and the Nigerian counterpart in the TCN management.

Osuhor who still has three and a half years left in her four-year tenure, stated in her letter that she opted to resign “following recent directive which indicates that my current role will be to understudy a MHIL designate at a lower level.”
MHIL, a Canadian firm, is the management contractor of the TCN.

Although her letter did not give further details for resigning from  TCN, sources confirmed that she was forced out of the system following the reversal of her appointment from Managing Director to Director.
Osuhor, who was appointed the Managing Director, Independent System Operator (ISO) of the TCN in May 2015, was recently directed to reverse to her former status.

It was learnt that the reversal order also affected 29 new executives of the unbundled TCN comprising Transmission Service Provider.
It was gathered that aside from the reversal of the appointments, the letter also ordered the disengagement of those brought from outside which formed the fulcrum of the team that ran both establishment.
MHIL was said to have given powers to pick a new Managing Director and it opted to appoint a junior officer  to replace Osuhor, with the later expected to work as his surbodinates.

Osuhor and other stakeholders in the power sector were said to have been shocked by  the development  as  the MHIL and the Nigeria electricity regulatory Commission (NERC) was said to have initially insisted that a Nigerian counterpart, ISO could not exist.
It is not clear if the humiliation of being answerable to her junior was the height of her disagreement with MHIL, but sources said she did not believe she could gain much if she stayed  back to understudy MHIL in the organogram that put her in the third level for the purpose of understudy.
The source recalled further that Osuhor had, over time, disagreed with MHIL over various issues, one of which related to tax payment, a situation that pitted the Canadian firm against her.
NERC sources also said Osuhor’s resignation was the climax of the sharp disagreements that trailed her appointment as the Managing Director by the administration of  President Goodluck Jonathan.

The disagreements were said to have been compounded by the terms of her job, which empowered her to interpret the MHIL contract and pay them their dues, but was still  expected to work under the contract management firm.

The  MHIL was alleged to have stopped paying her salaries and the entire workforce of the Market Operation, a situation which pitched  her against the workers.

Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that dilapidated transmission infrastructure has remained the weakest link in the electricity value chain as the TCN has increasingly demonstrated lack of capacity to evacuate any additional supply arising from improved gas supply to the generation companies.

As a result of the weak transmission lines, the new generation peak of 4,883.9 megawatts and maximum daily energy delivery of 106,288.48 Mega Watt Hour (MWH), recorded last week has since dropped to below 3,900 megawatts.
Before last week’s record, the previous peak generation was 4810.7MW attained on August 25, 2015 while the previous highest maximum daily energy wheeled was 104,794.26MWH on September 23, 2015.
The Managing Director of System Operation/Market Operation of TCN, Mr. Dipak Sarma, had attributed the achievement to the improvement in the supply of gas to the power generating stations and enhanced cooperation among all the stakeholders.
A spokesperson of TCN, Seun Olagunju, confirmed to THISDAY yesterday that generation has dropped from the 4,883 megawatts peak to 3,900 megawatts but blamed vandalism for the development.
She however could not clarify if it was the generation or transmission infrastructure that was impacted by vandalism but insisted that the drop in generation was not caused by transmission constraints.
But THISDAY gathered that each time generation exceeds 4,000 megawatts, the transmission lines will trip off, forcing generation to drop drastically.

The development, it was learnt, forced the National Control Centre (NCC) at Oshogbo, Osun State, to approve a certain amount of generation for each company and directed the companies not to exceed the approved limits to avoid the collapse of the transmission network.

By this directive, a power station that has six units is required to operate three or four units, while the other units will be lying fallow, even when there is sufficient gas to run all the units.

“NCC has made regular requests for mandatory load reduction because of what it describes as unstable transmission grid and this has resulted in heavy losses to the generation companies because the power we generate cannot be transmitted,” said an official of one of the generation companies.

“Many of our units are either placed on Full SpeedNo Load (with no generation done) for a record duration or an outright shut off as instructed. This has resulted to a mechanical stress of restarting units from zero speed, and loss of several megawatt hours of energy,” he added.

THISDAY gathered that the distribution companies are also heavily impacted by the weak capacity of the TCN to transmit generated power.

For instance, the Ikeja Electric, which used to get supply from both the 2×60MVA  132/33KVA Ikeja West Transmission substation in Ayobo, Lagos and the 132/33kV Alagbon Substation, Ikoyi, also in Lagos, is said to be currently relying only on Ayobo because of the bad state of the Alagbon-Aja  Line.

THISDAY gathered that the switch-room concrete pad at the 100 megawatt- capacity Alagbon  Sub-station had shortly before the privatisation programme suffered a structural failure, which led to the 33kv switch room floor caving in.

The incident had resulted in the collapse of the concrete lodge of the nine feeders at the station, submerging the floor to the water underneath.
Olagunju, however, told THISDAY last night that TCN was having technical issues with the Alagbon line but gave an assurance that the company’s engineers were handling the situation.
“We have technical issues with the one supplying Lekki but we are working on it. It is a new project but we have technical issues with it,” she said.

Investigations however showed that Eko Electricity Distribution Company’s inability to service the customers around Lekki, Aja, Ikoyi and Victoria Island areas is also as a result of the transmission challenges at Alagbon.

THISDAY gathered that Alagbon has a capacity of 120MVA but Eko has a load capacity of 380MVA.
To address this transmission challenge, it was learnt that Eko Disco plans to invest N1.7 billion to partner TCN to ensure that power is evacuated to Victoria Island, Ikoyi and parts of Lekki.

TCN has suffered funding challenges, thus making it increasingly difficult to rehabilitate the weak transmission network, which was originally designed to evacuate only 3,000 megawatts.

To help address the funding challenges, the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), operators of the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) had planned to reinvest $1.5 billion from the sale of the power assets under the NIPP to revamp the transmission infrastructure.

However, this plan was constrained by inadequate gas supply, which stalled the privatisation of the NIPP.


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