11 October 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has sought to allay the fears of Electricity Distribution Companies, popularly called Discos, over government’s growing investments in solar energy plants.
Fasola, who was speaking at the 20th Monthly Power Sector Stakeholders’ Meeting hosted by Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) in Owerri, acknowledged that the Discos expressed their fears in a letter to his office about some government’s initiatives on power generation and distribution.
The minister explained that some government’s initiatives which included provision of meters to consumers by meter suppliers, provision of more power to consumers through licensing of eligible customers and promotion of more solar power through mini-grids had prompted the fears of the Discos.
He said Discos had nothing to fear about solar, stressing that all government’s initiatives were targeted at improving services to the people.
He said, “It is my understanding that you fear that you will lose some income or some customers if government proceeds and on the question of meters, you seek to have technical compatibility with what the licencee will operate.
“In respect of possible investment in distribution equipment, you seek that government should route the investment through the Discos.
“While your concerns about business viability, financial stability and cost recovery are well understood and indeed supported by the Electric Power Sector Perform Act of 2005 (EPSRA) which government will respect, I must point out that government’s focus is also strong on the issue of service to the people.”
Fashola added that, “As far as the promotion of solar and other sources of independent power are concerned, please note that not only are they supported by the ESPRA, they are consistent with our Paris Climate Change Agreement Obligations and with emerging global practice.”
The minister said that ESPRA did not contemplate a monopoly for any licensee unless it was expressly stated in the licence.
Fashola said the monthly meeting was to review the progress made from the last monthly meeting held in Lagos in September and to collectively engage the challenges that lied ahead in the roadmap to incremental, stable and uninterrupted power supply.
He said that in the last month, the sector recovered 100mw from the damaged Afam IV power plant which had been inoperative since January 2015.
The minister said that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) had energised the Jebba-Kainji 2nd 330KV line and the 2nd Ajaokuta-Abuja 330KV line both of which were inoperative since 2015.
According to him, the Federal Executive Council on October 4 approved the verified sum of N25.9 billion Federal Government MDA debts and its payment by setting it off against debts owed by the Discos to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET).
The minister further pointed out that the sector was also making progress in recovering debts due from international customers.
He said the sector was equally working to expand the distribution network of the Discos so that they could take additional 2,000 mw of power now available for supply
Fashola said that debts of ministries, departments and agencies would be paid through their debts to Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET).
He said that one of the challenges to overcome was how the Discos could quickly increase their capacity to take power and distribute to consumers.
The minister commended the critical role of the judiciary and the law enforcement agents on the strict enforcement of arbitration clauses in the power sector.
“We welcome this judicial support to stop corruption in the power sector, enforce the law and promote liquidity in the sector. We also welcome the intervention in the Court of Appeal in the case involving the tariff review,” he said.
Mr Paul Okeke, the Acting Managing Director of EEDC, commended the minister for his unrelenting efforts to improve the power sector.
He said EEDC was also committed to the improvement of power supply in the country.
Okeke also spoke on some progress made by the company, adding that there were ongoing schemes to improve service delivery in the sector.