How obsolete transmission facilities worsens power supply

*Power transmission tower.

16 April 2017, Lagos – Operators in the oil, gas and power sectors have stated that poor transmission infrastructure remains the major hindrance to adequate power supply and urged the Federal Government to increase its investment in transmission, OKECHUKWU NNODIMwrites

Power generation and distribution companies as well as operators in the oil and gas sector have stated that the current electricity transmission infrastructure is the major limiting factor to adequate power supply in Nigeria.

The issue of weak transmission infrastructure has always been raised by the electricity generation and distribution firms, with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation voicing the same concern last Wednesday.

The corporation refuted claims that inadequate gas supply was responsible for poor power supply, but stressed that the real problem to steady electricity generation and distribution was the country’s poor transmission network.

The power generation companies recently stated that the Transmission Company of Nigeria directed them to reduce the quantum of electricity they were generating despite complaints of poor supply across the country.

The Gencos blamed the inability of the TCN to evacuate the power generated by them on the firm’s poor transmission network, and urged the government to intervene in the matter by investing extensively in transmission infrastructure.

Similarly, the power distribution companies argued that the many bottlenecks with respect to electricity distribution were as a result of the inadequacy in the transmission network.

According to them, many equipment in the transmission system are obsolete and as a result, incapable of effectively and efficiently transmitting electricity to specified locations.

The Executive Director, Association of National Electricity Distributors, an umbrella body for the Discos, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, said the power outages being experienced in many communities across the country were primarily due to the weak transmission facilities being used to evacuate power to the affected areas.

He said, “We want to implore the Federal Government to please increase its investment in the TCN. This is because we have TCN bottlenecks all over Nigeria. This is not to blame the TCN, but we should all know that the company is still being run by the government. Now, people should understand that saying things as they are should not be seen as blaming other stakeholders.

“On the outages and load shedding being experienced across the country, starting with Abuja for instance, in Katampe, Kukwaba, Gwagwalada, Apo and Central Area, we have serious capacity constraint, which is a transmission bottleneck. And as long as the TCN facilities are defective in those locations, the Disco in charge of the area will be unable to serve its customers effectively.

“So, we implore the Federal Government to please help the TCN to help us. Also, the constraint of the TCN in the Apo to Karu axis here in Abuja is causing poor or low voltage in those areas. This damages equipment of the Disco as well as those of the customers. The low voltage also makes the system to be accident prone and it is a TCN problem.”

The Discos, however, noted that they were aware of the new management at the transmission company and urged it to work proactively better than what was experienced in the days of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria.

Oduntan said transmission bottlenecks were also witnessed in areas like Ibadan, Ogun, Enugu and Onitsha, adding that there was a need for an urgent intervention in the electricity transmission sub-sector.

He further stated that Nigerians needed to know that the TCN was in charge of the high tension lines, while the Discos manage the lower tension poles, and that the interface between both bodies was solely controlled by the transmission company.

Confirming the position of the power generation and distribution companies, the NNPC recently absolved gas producers from the blame of being responsible for the poor supply of electricity across the country.

The national oil firm’s Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru, argued that contrary to the impression that the poor power situation was caused by poor gas supply, the real problem was inadequate transmission capacity.

Baru, who spoke in Abuja at an event, stated that there was enough gas to generate 8,000 megawatts of electricity but the transmission grid could not support such quantum of power without complications.

He, however, stated that the ongoing reforms at the NNPC were aimed at transforming it from an oil and gas company into an integrated energy outfit, with interest in power generation and transmission.

Baru said the NNPC had identified opportunities in the power sector and was ready to take advantage of them to transform the corporation from a gas supplier to the power sector to a major player in the industry.

He said the corporation was already working on a project to generate 4,000MW of electricity, while also exploring the possibility of investing in the transmission segment of the power sector.

The GMD explained that the corporation’s decision to diversify into the power sector was informed by the need to bridge the huge energy gap in the Nigerian market.

Also, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Copperbelt Energy Corporation, one of the core investors in the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Mr. Emmanuel Katepa, told our correspondent that the reason why some Discos engaged in load shedding was because the transmission company had failed to supply the product to specified and clearly articulated areas of need.

He stated, “They (TCN) send power to where there is less demand for it with respect to payment of bills. Let’s put it this way, when you look at the network, the characteristics are actually very varied across the AEDC. If I take the FCT for instance, my ability to collect money from Wuse, which is at the centre here, is fairly different from my ability to collect from Gwagwalada.

“For some other Discos, I think it is much worse than our situation. So, the Discos always ask the TCN to deliver power to very specific substations and when the TCN fails to do that, the power firms load-shed because they cannot take power to a place where they will not be able to collect their money. This is another issue that the TCN needs to address by revamping its infrastructure.”

But the TCN refuted the allegation that it lacked the wherewithal to transmit the quantum of electricity generated by the Gencos across the country.

“This year, the highest generation level stands at 4,650MW, while the wheeling capacity of the TCN is 6,500MW,” the company’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Mrs. Seun Olagunju, explained in an email statement to our correspondent in Abuja.

While reacting to claims by the power generation companies that they were directed by the TCN to reduce the quantum of electricity they were generating, Olagunju explained that the directive was given in order to control the high system frequency (more than 50Hz) in the nation’s power grid.

This, according to her, is to avoid an imbalance in the system and to forestall a collapse of the power grid.

She added, “The options to bring down the frequency to 50Hz are for the distribution companies to absorb more load or for the generation companies to reduce generation. The first option is the appropriate line of action. However, due to inexplicable reasons, some Discos failed to take more load as generation increases.

“This has left the System Operator with no other option than to ask the Gencos to reduce generation in order to ensure grid stability. The directive to the Gencos to reduce generation is imperative to maintain the integrity of the grid, as a frequency higher than 50HZ can result in system disturbance.”

 

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