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On the worsening power failure


powerWith the relentless assault on gas pipelines by the Niger Delta militants, it is not surprising that the entire country has been plunged into darkness as a result of the massive shortage of gas to the power plants.

The 2000 megawatts (MW), which the Federal Government intended to add to the national grid by July, 2016, is threatened. The operations of the power generating (Gencos) and distribution companies (Discos) have been hampered. Electricity consumers are left in desperation and hopelessness.  

The militants have, so far, blown up 23 pipelines, as the national grid recorded eight system collapses in one month. There is shortage of gas supply to 25 thermal stations across the country, which has drastically impacted on power generation now put at about 2,903, as against the installed generating capacity of 10,000 MW.

The estimate by the Discos that the country requires an estimated140, 000 MW generation output may now be .a dream beyond fulfillment. Already, the low output manifesting in national blackout has crippled businesses across the country and this has worsened the quality of life for the citizenry.

There is no doubt that the gas-to-power strategy remains a daunting challenge. The end to militancy is not in sight. The only way out is to devise alternative power plan that places less premium on gas.

Surprisingly, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is reportedly working on a new gas scheme that is expected to deliver about 70 per cent of the feedstock required by the power plants. The scheme is expected to add a total of 855 million standard cubic feet of gas to the domestic gas supply projects.

But is the gas not coming from the same Niger Delta? What is the rationale for doing this? Is it not a blind adventure to still bank on gas?
According to the Director of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Sunday Oduntan, concerns are high that the spate of attacks by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) may jeopardize the plans upon which all projections were made.

For instance, the 11 Discos are already lamenting the poor power generation, which has adversely affected delivery. They blame the near total power outage on the low energy from the national grid even as consumers lament. The Discos suffer shortfall in their revenue, as most consumers refuse to pay the outrageous electric bills.

Whatever may be the case, the. Government must seek other ways of making power available in the country. The development of hydro energy would greatly boost power supply but this, however, requires political will on the part of the government.

Unfortunately, the three major hydro power stations at Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro, have been poorly managed. The dams were virtually abandoned without maintenance for a long time leading to gross reduction in their output. That explains why the dams could not provide minimal power in the face of failure of the gas plants.

Apart from hydro power, the other alternatives include solar, wind and coal. Government has also expressed interest in energy from biofuels. Anyway, a well structured power supply mix is needed to stem the problem.

The assertion by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, that solar energy is more expensive than the other types of energy however needs to be interrogated.

Many industrialized countries have installed large solar capacity into their national grid to supplement conventional energy. The three largest solar power systems, with capacity to produce 1,477 MW are located in Southern California’s Mojave Desert in USA.

Several other countries in Asia, Europe and North America have also adopted solar power as a viable option. In sub-Saharan Africa, only South Africa is in the league of solar energy countries, gearing to reach an installed capacity of 8, 400 MW by 2030. Sadly enough, Nigeria has none and is showing little or will to adopt the energy as an option.

Solar energy cannot be the most expensive source of energy and yet has worldwide acceptance. It is high time that Nigeria reorders her priority, especially, on this matter of energy supply.

Blowing up gas pipelines has become the pasttime of the militants and the political under-currents of the assaults need to be addressed. It’s a problem that has arisen because Nigeria is a wobbly federation.

Even as immediate solutions are being sought to the energy challenges, the government of the day must re-examine the structure of the country and put in place a system that works.

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  • Basil Ogbanufe

    It is very erroneous and wrong to say or imply that the blowing up of gas pipelines is responsible for the darkness the country is experiencing today. Nigeria was plunged into this darkness since the early nineteen eighties, and successive governments have failed to solve the problem. The electricity power problem in the country that has gotten the country to this present stage of complete darkness across the country is the result of government’s incompetence and ineptitude. The governments of Nigeria since the time of Sir Tafawa Balewa have failed woefully in managing the country’s economy and treasury. The way forward? Government should hands off the economy. Government should hand the economy over to the citizens by outright privatization and liberalization of the economy through the NSE (Nigeria Stock Exchange) by way of IPO (Initial Public Offer). As at today no one knows what goes on at NNPC except the government of the day. Thus encouraging corruption. But if NNPC is sold (privatized) to Nigerians through the NSE by way of IPO, becoming NNPC Plc, every Nigerian will know what is going on there. This will reduce, if not eradicate, corruption at NNPC. It will bring about transparency, accountability and productivity which will naturally translate to improved electric power generation and distribution. Other establishments that should also be sold to Nigerians through the NSE by way of IPO are, Ajaokuta steel, Kaduna refinery, Warri refinery, Port-Harcourt refinery, Eleme petrochemical company to state a few. Let Nigerians manage and operate the economy while government concentrates on regulation.

    • emmanuel kalu

      That is exactly what should be done. Even the JV should be publicly traded, so that the government is not responsible for funding it. I have being saying it for a long time. it is lack of leadership that is killing Nigeria.

  • emmanuel kalu

    lack of gas is the problem, the problem is pure lack of leadership. gas can be transported via barges, train and even trailers. There is no leadership to make the change. where is the mandate that Gencos store gas supply within their site to last for at least 2-3 months. This way they are not affected by pipeline destruction. Where is are the alternate pipelines that act as backup to the main one, the investment in more gas procession and exploration. To build more hydro and coal plan cost money and take time. That money can be immediately invested in residential solar financing for homes and small business. Germany with a huge lack of sunlight is generating 10-20% of it power from solar. Nigeria has abundant sunlight and has the ability to generate a huge amount of its power from solar. where is the wind turbines, that are easier to install and operate, yet provide good amount of power. we have a leadership problem, and we can see it when the minister of power says solar is more expensive that gas.

    • Bd

      You right on point on the household solar panel .ln the short run solar is expensive but in the long run it pays off really

      • Tosin Otitoju

        Truly an opportunity for private sector. We can solve our problems.

        For me as an individual, although I wish for the “NEPA” problem to end and so on, I have not suffered a lot from these problems in the past 5 years plus. Why? Inverter + very low consumption at home. I don’t even own a generator. The only problems were crazy billing and about twice a year when there would be an unexplained, unexpected, very long, and unapologized-for power outage aka “transformer” matters. When it happens, that is usually enough to chase me out of the house.

        What am I saying? I am saying the same as you: we don taya nah. Time for solutions.

        There are independent power solutions that combine solar and inverters. The price is high but ok compared to funding generators. You can expect technical challenges too, installation and repair issues, a lot of problems and unexpected costs or scrapping, for the first few years until it’s popular. If only private players can freely move in to solve the power problems 80%, and leave the rest of the burden to the ministry.