Nigeria: Again, nationwide power generation grops by 1,585.7MW

Students resort to use of candles over power outages.

*Students resort to the use of candles over power outages.

27 April 2016, Lagos — Total power generated by Nigeria’s power stations for transmission and distribution to homes has again dropped by 1,585.7 megawatts (MW) from 3,701.7MW that was achieved as peak generation last Monday evening.

It was gathered from the daily generation report of the Nigerian System Operator which was published yesterday that as at 6a.m. on Tuesday, the country only had 2,116.0MW to transmit to the 11 distribution companies (Disco) for onward distribution to homes and offices.

The report also showed that there was a time on Monday that just about 301.3MW was generated into the system. This, a Disco source said, was because of a partial system collapse which was recorded in the evening last Monday.

The source also stated that generation gradually began to come up early yesterday morning. It was also learnt that the Abuja Disco, for instance, had only 135MW to distribute in the morning, some increase from about 50MW that was given to it last Monday.

The source’s claims were buttressed by that of another source in the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) who disclosed that the generation companies last Monday reported that they were short of gas to power their plants.

The Managing Director of the System Operation Department of TCN, Mr. Dipak Sarma could not be reached to confirm the situation.

His phone numbers were switched off and no response to the text message that was sent to him either.

The TCN which reported a partial system collapse last Saturday due to poor gas supplies had earlier stated that once power generation goes below 3500MW, the possibility of a system collapse would be inevitable owing to the fact that Nigeria currently has no spinning reserve again to jump-start the system.

This development is even happening at a time the government is having issues with electricity workers union, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), over the outstanding settlement of disengagement benefits owed to former workers of defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) as well as government’s recent takeover of PHCN corporate headquarters building in Abuja which the union has frowned at.

While workers of the TCN is Abuja headquarters have been locked out of their offices since last week, NUEE last Friday night directed its members in all of TCN offices across the nation to commence strike.

The strike was however called off at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.

However, it was learnt as at the time of filing this report, that the union was in a meeting with both the ministry of power and labour to settle the disputes.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s electricity transmission system collapsed last Monday, bringing the number of collapses to three within a short period of four weeks and raising concern for the overall integrity of the country’s transmission network.

It was gathered that before the latest collapse, there was a total collapse of the system on March 31, 2016, and a partial collapse on April 23, 2016.

The development has fuelled calls for the privatisation of the transmission grid, as the commitment of the Manitoba Hydro International of Canada to effectively manage the grid has been called to question.

The previous data from TCN showed that there were 22 collapses in 2013, nine in 2014 and six in 2015.

A source close to the distribution companies has also pointed fingers at the former staff of the defunct PHCN, who have issued a threat over non-payment of their severance packages.

The spokesman of the Nigerian System Operator, Mr. Clem Ezeolisa, could not be reached for comment as his phone was switched off as at press time yesterday but another official of the company confirmed to that the system breakdown occurred around 3p.m. last Monday.

“There was system disturbance around 3p.m. yesterday (Monday) and supply dropped to zero. Initial efforts to restore the system before 12 noon failed but our engineers have been working round the clock since that time to address the situation and restore supply,” the source, who opted not to be quoted, said.

However, power supply was yet to be restored as at press time yesterday.

The official said the system collapsed after a 330kv transmission line tripped with the sudden loss of over 200 megawatts of electricity from the grid.

The source could not disclose the transmission line that was affected.

The current transmission capability is 7,000MW but the network operational capacity is 5,500MW.

It was also gathered that generation was 3,393 megawatts before the latest collapse of the system.

This has fuelled suspicion that the transmission system is becoming weaker and weaker as the system collapses in the previous years occurred when the generation had exceeded 4,000MW.

According to the operational report obtained from the Nigerian System Operator, generation as at 6a.m. on Monday was 3,659.7MW.

The report also showed that the peak generation on Sunday was 3,902MW, while the lowest generation was 3,282.1MW.

A source close to the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), the umbrella association of the 11 distribution companies, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested that the federal government should urgently privatise the transmission grid.

“Government should privatise the transmission because this idea of concession has failed. I am also suspecting sabotage on the part of former PHCN workers, who had issued a threat over non-payment of their entitlements. Out of the 50,000 ex-staff, the government has not paid about 5,000MW because of the slow verification process and yet the Permanent Secretary wants to take over PHCN headquarters. There were about 5,000 pensioners but only about 3,000 have been paid,” he explained.

It was gathered that the payment process stopped after the verification team complained that the approval they obtained had expired.

It was however learnt that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola has given a new approval but the slow verification process has continued to delay payment.

TCN had explained that the March 31 system collapse was caused by the tripping of Osogbo/Ihovbor and Ihovbor/Benin 330kV transmission lines, which resulted in the loss of 201megawatts (MW) of electricity generation from Ihovbor power station.

Also, the April 23 partial collapse of the system was caused by a sudden loss of 200MW of generation due to technical reasons.

It was further also gathered that 47 transmission projects will be completed in 2016 budget.

Meanwhile, Fashola yesterday said that only 50 of Nigeria’s 140 power generating turbines are currently working and generating electricity because there is no gas to power some of them that use gas.

Fashola spoke on a Channels Television Talkshow, Sunrise which was also monitored in Abuja.

He stated that even though the country has 140 power turbines installed in its electricity system, a majority of them are gas fired.

He said before now, 78 of the turbines were generating power but the number went down to 50 as gas supply to most of them continued to drop.

“The first problem is that there is not enough power. Today we have 25 power plants. Three, Shiroro, Jebba, Kainji, are hydro-power plants while the rest are gas-fired plants.

“We have an installed capacity of about 12,000 megawatts. Also, we have about 140 turbines installed, but available capacity is about 8,000MW,” he said.

He further said: “Now the power being generated comes from only about 78 turbines out of 140 and they are largely fired by gas.

“Now that power has gone down because we had a gas outage due to the failure of a pipeline. And as a result of that, 78 turbines dropped to maybe about 50 because there was no gas.”

The minister, however, noted that the current challenges affecting power production in the country can be resolved, adding that the ministry of petroleum resources has agreed to provide more gas for power generation.

ON this, he stated: “But let me be very clear, this problem can be solved. It just needs somewhat detailed and methodical approach.”

“So, the first work to do is to supply more gas, for without gas we can’t have power. The ministry of petroleum resources is working on this and we have agreed to provide more gas to all the struggling power plants. So, there are errors of the planning of yesterday, but they are errors that can be corrected,” explained Fashola.

*Ejiofor Alike & Chineme Okafor – Thisday

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