Advancing electricity beyond seasons!
Nigerians have managed to live their lives around the avoidable anomaly of darkness, over the years, by individually powering their lives and livelihood just so as to maintain a semblance of civilization!
The heavy price paid by Nigerians in powering their lives and livelihood has resulted in an increase in the cost of living. The net effect being the asphyxiation of artisanal/small scale businesses and the ‘atilogwu’ dance steps of the Naira that presently discourages foreign and local investors.
There are so many reasons for this stubborn darkness but as the reasons consolidate, so does the cost of doing business escalate with the quest for living a decent life by the average Nigerian, looking more like a mirage! For over a month now and without let-up, the electricity distribution companies across the country generally referred to as DISCOs have stepped up their game which in turn translated to an appreciable improvement in distributed power across a larger section of the country. Much as this development is a commendable relief to Nigerians, a lot still needs to be done to advance the course of distributed electricity across Nigeria.
Taking the matter further in terms of the viability of sustainable improvement across metered consumers, DrillBytes’ sought the opinion of a United Kingdom based utility expert with reasonable investments in Nigeria who prefers anonymity. In his words, “Most of our power plants are gas driven and the pipeline vandalism has adversely affected power generation. We have 12,000MW generation capacity with an evacuation infrastructure for 5,000MW. Since our transmission lines are not adequate to do so at the moment, the technical losses are immense.
The DISCOs are not investing in new distribution lines or upgrading the existing infrastructure as they should because of the debts of over $420 million weighing them down and the loans used to acquire them are being recalled by the banks. Furthermore, the present foreign exchange challenges are not helpful because it makes it difficult to get a lot more meters and some of our so called meter manufacturers are assembling imported meters from China.
Some automated meter infrastructure supply agreements were cancelled because the technical partners were not comfortable with the financial risk Nigeria’s current foreign exchange issues present. Kainji, Shiroro and Jebba Hydro power plants generates more electricity during the rainy season for obvious reasons.
It should however, be noted that the seeming lack of new transmission and distribution lines and upgrades has increased the technical losses. Generation in the medium to long term is an issue and more power plants need to be built. In the short term, we need to address the challenges negating the supply of the 12Giga Watts generation capacity we presently have. We need to address the issue of pipeline vandalism (Kano DISCO recently lost N108 million to vandals in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states last month), we need to build more gas gathering facilities and gas pipelines, the public sector needs to pay its debt to the various DISCOs (The Federal Government of Nigeria alone is owing Egbin Power PLC a whopping N86B), meter bypassing needs to be discouraged and consumers need to pay up, the DISCOs need to resuscitate stagnated embedded power generation bid processes due to gas/fuel challenges, government needs to further unbundle the DISCOs by divesting from the sector to raise needed funds to invest in the antiquated grid network, micro grid solutions needs to be explored and encouraged for pockets of developments especially in commercial and industrial hubs, the regulators needs to resuscitate the stagnated embedded power generation processes.
An embedded power generation is a generation plant dedicated to an electricity distribution company and on generation, the power is injected into the distribution network for consumption. DISCOs like Ikeja, Ibadan, Eko and Enugu can get an equivalent of a total of 600MW to 2,000MW if these embedded power plants are completed. Due to the huge debts owed the DISCOs by the government, they have been managing to stay afloat only marginally!”
About 40 per cent of Nigerians are not connected to the national grid and so, a lot needs to be done to bring them on as well as improve on the present rate of electricity consumers are currently enjoying. The transmission company of Nigeria, TCN has promised to increase its transmission line capacity to 8,600MW by the end of 2018, they also need additional $7.5 billion to upgrade the lines to 10GW by 2019 and the Federal government has pledged to pay its debt to the DISCOs but it is hoped words can be matched with action. If we can achieve this feat, artisanal businesses will thrive, small and medium scale businesses will flourish, the cost of doing business will travel south, the cost of living will depreciate, the standard of living will travel north, the rate of criminal activities will reduce, the anger level of the average Nigerian will drop appreciably thereby empowering more people to take control of their mental faculties and not vice-versa! Tackling the foreign exchange and other fiscal problems that discourages investment flow will also help in improving supplied electricity. If this happens, more investors and investments will flow into the country with the Naira and the economy being better for it. This is the only way electricity distributed to Nigerians can be advanced beyond seasons.
Adeoye is an energy expert in Lagos