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Power grid fails 126 times in 7 years

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
08 December 2020   |   3:50 am
Nigeria's Osogbo-based national electricity grid has failed electricity consumers more than 126 times since the nation’s power sector was privatised in 2013...

[files] Osogbo-based national electricity grid has failed electricity consumers more than 126 times since the nation’s power sector

Govt justifies failure, says grid collapse global issue
• ‘Privatise TCN, decentralise grid’
• GenCos, DisCos count losses

Nigeria’s Osogbo-based national electricity grid has failed electricity consumers more than 126 times since the nation’s power sector was privatised in 2013.

Although the Federal Government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) describes the situation as a normal global occurrence, the collapse of the power supply, each time it occurs, comes with a huge economic loss for consumers, especially commercial entities.

World Economic Forum’s data that measured grid-related performance under the Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI) for 2017, however, ranked Nigeria 110th among 127 countries. African countries like Congo, Namibia, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, and Sudan were ranked far better, in terms of system performance, than Nigeria.

Data from the TCN indicate from November 1, 2013, to December 2020, the number of recorded total grid failures was 84, while the grid partially collapsed 43 times.

Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), the umbrella body of distribution companies, had decried repeated system collapse, blaming the situation on the obsolete, analog system being used by the TCN.

Dr Joy Ogaji, Executive Secretary at the Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC), decried the impact on power infrastructure and the chaos it creates in the form of monetary setbacks for activities in hospitals, airports, and others.

Already, the development has left huge distrust in the electricity market, as most corporate bodies now deploy off-grid solutions, including power-generating sets to escape the impacts of persistent failure, especially on critical equipment.

Although the rate of collapse has reduced post privatisation, as statistics from TCN’s System Operator (SO) showed that 109 grid failures occurred from 2010 to 2013, stakeholders insisted that there was no justification for grid failure whatsoever.

They stressed the need for government to either privatise TCN or unbundle it to create room for investment, as they blamed the prevailing situation on poor infrastructure and failure to leverage modern technology.

In the midst of the outcry from stakeholders who had voted for a decentralised grid, Nigeria’s electricity grid yesterday experienced multiple tripping, leading to another system collapse, the reason for which is usually a blame-shifting situation between TCN and the DisCos. TCN had particularly accused DisCos of dropping the allocated energy load. Experts link the reasons to an imbalance in the load system, poor infrastructure, and lack of maintenance.

Director of Research and Advocacy, at ANED, Sunday Oduntan had noted that lack of standard power protection equipment across transmission substations remained the major cause of the collapse.

There is an alleged imbalance between power generation and supply, meaning that the level of load being generated remains higher than what can be wheeled to end-users. The struggle demands constant checks to keep the system in control.

Ogaji said technical, commercial, and economic effects of frequent grid collapses not only damage units, but also increase maintenance cost of machinery, close to three times the normal costs.

“The GenCos in signing the contracts for their machines also signed the number of times their machines will make stops, which is an average of 20 stops in a year, as recognised by the Multi-Year Tariff Order and Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company. Unfortunately, due to the current system collapses, ramp up and ramp down instructions of the System Operator, the machines makeover 365 stops in a year with sometimes more than one stop in a day,” Ogaji said.

This development, according to her, leads to extra investments for damaged units without an increase in plant capacity, defective gas control valves due to wear and tear, more downtime of the generating units, cracks on exhaust sleeves, irregular heating and cooling cycles of hot gas path components that is fatigue damage, cracks on ceramic tiles of the combustion chamber, malfunctioning of Electrical controls and protective relays and others.

Speaking on the situation in Abuja, the Acting Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of TCN, Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz said grid collapse occurs in every country, insisting that Nigeria’s case should not be overplayed.

“Since I came to office, we have achieved a lot of improvements, including the completion of substations. There has not been a system collapse except the one that happened on Sunday around 11:40 am and it is one of the fastest system collapse restoration; because, within 40minutes, we were able to address the issue first in Abuja, then other states.

“What I want you to understand is that in every country there is system collapse, the most important thing is the way and manner it is being addressed,” he stated.

Abdulaziz blamed distribution companies for the erratic power supply in the country, saying: “We are able to evacuate all the power generated in this country. The issue we have is the distribution companies.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Associate Director, Energy, Utilities, and Resources, Habeeb Jaiyeola, who linked the issue to the balance of power demanded by the DisCos and power generated by the GenCos, said billions of naira was being lost anytime the system collapsed. According to him, the fact that Nigeria had excess generating capabilities over current off-take by DisCos requires several ramp-down by GenCos to prevent excess supply to the grid.

Jaiyeola noted that the situation requires very strict monitoring as absence of such could lead to the collapse of the grid, adding that equipment failure due to obsolescence or maintenance gaps could equally lead to collapse. He noted that the economic impact of the situation remained quite high, considering that the power supply had remained perpetually epileptic.

“The public and private sector experience several levels of financial loss when the power supply is cut, and with a grid collapse, the ease of restoration might not be quick hence leading to higher financial losses. The consistent ramp-down of the GenCos power plants also results in shortening their useful life as a result of excessive wear and tear, which has negative financial implications to the GenCos,” he said.

Jaiyeola added that the willing buyer willing seller concept requires contract negotiations, which may result in financial penalties for the power suppliers when a grid collapse occurs.

The stakeholder called for appropriate investment in the national grid infrastructure to prevent grid collapse as a result of obsolete equipment.

He was hopeful that the Siemens deal, signed by the government and other efforts of the Federal Government would resolve some of the issues.

Managing Director of Aquivis, Jimi Kolawole, said the government must adopt modern technology and privatise the transmission company to drive fresh investment that would help to sustain the network.

“The infrastructure is old, there’s a need for an upgrade. We also need to deploy technology, especially on the 33/kva lines,” Kolawole said.

“The losses in terms of economic activities run into billions of naira. Nobody relies on the grid anymore, industries are looking for their own off-grid solutions.

“Going forward, the government needs to look at privatising TCN,” he added.