Dare to dream and there will be light
I had a dream. In my dream, Nigeria had uninterrupted electricity supply. Yes, Nigerian cities had uninterrupted and improved electricity supply. In my dream, the Nigerian electricity supply industry was fully functional, vibrant and employed thousands of young Nigerians. Electricity industry workers were like oil industry workers: well-paid and proud to be involved in the growth of their industry and country. There was constant electricity supply, during the day and at night. Remotely monitored prepaid meters were installed in almost all houses. Even houses that did not have pre-paid meters had some sort of collective pre-paid metering. There were only minor issues of outstanding or owed payment, as all metres were pre-paid and consumers had many options of buying electricity. Additionally, different types of electricity packages were available for sale by the Distribution Companies. Depending on the type of electrical appliances one had, different quantities of electricity could be bought for varying periods of time. So, people generally bought and used electricity, based on funds available.
The local Electricity Distribution Company offices had evolved from being dusty and ill-equipped and staffed with ill-tempered persons, to customer care centres, similar to the customer care centres found outside Nigeria. Complaints from electricity consumers were quickly resolved, with respect. Illegal connections and illegal re-connections were things of the past, since the remote electricity monitoring systems, deployed by Distribution Companies detected illegal connections in minutes and since all electricity customers had been geo-spatially mapped by Distribution Companies and their premises could be traced electronically within minutes. Electricity outages were announced days ahead and were limited to a maximum of one hour per outage.
Generators, the previous best friend of every Nigerian home, including the famous I-better-pass-my-neighbour variety, could no longer be found and had become so rare, that school children had to visit facilities, which had emergency power supply, to see what a generator looked like; since, the only premises that bothered to buy generators were premises that could not operate without an emergency electricity supply back-up. Initially, when the price of electricity was increased, everyone complained, but the electricity prices were cheaper than the cost of running generators, so everyone adjusted and moved on. However, with the passage of time, electricity prices started falling. Things were now at a stage, when people went to work, only to come back home to notice that their pre-paid meters had been installed, with information on how to recharge the pre-paid meter from the nearest Distribution Company Customer Care Centre.
In my dream, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) had evolved from a company struggling to maintain its transmission lines and equipment, to a world-class Transmission Company, staffed by competent Nigerians.
In my dream, I saw the national grid extending to hundreds of thousands of kilometres of transmission lines. The national grid was finally a closed loop. A massive number of transmission projects, covering over a hundred thousand kilometres, had been undertaken by the Nigerian government, under a public-private sector-partnership (PPP) initiative. The 765kV Transmission Super Grid stretching from Mambilla, to Kano, to Afam and Lagos had been built, completed and commissioned, under the same PPP initiative. The number of transmission sub-stations had been tripled, increasing the transmission and wheeling capacity of the National Grid, to over 60,000MW.
In my dream, inadequate power generation was a thing of the past. The power generation sector of the electricity industry had grown to become the most vibrant aspect of the Nigerian electricity value chain. Hundreds of On-grid and Off-grid power generation companies, from different parts of the world had setup shop in Nigeria. The On-grid power generation industry had developed extensively, such that at every point in time, the available power generation capacity was in excess of available power demand. Some power plants were designated for peak-shaving and only came into the grid, when there was excess power demand, at night. The big turbine manufacturing companies notably, Siemens, General Electric and Mitsubishisetup turbine assembly factories and repair shops in Nigeria; gone were the days, when turbine rotors had to be shipped outside Nigeria for repairs. Some of the small turbine components were even being manufactured in Nnewi and Abeokuta. A sizeable percentage of the electricity generated was from On-grid solar power plants.
The solar power generation business had grown so much, that solar photo voltaic panels were being manufactured in Kano and Sokoto. In my dream, Off-grid power generation, in the form of Captive and Embedded power generation, had grown to become a huge industry. Far-flung parts of Nigeria that could not be reached with the National Grid were adequately service by the off-grid power industry.
In my dream, the Nigerian domestic gas supply challenge had been resolved. Nigeria’s abundant reserves, was being harnessed to support power generation, as well as, other industrial uses. The domestic gas supply pipeline network had been expanded and reinforced, to the extent, that even when cases of vandalism and sabotage were experienced, it did not have any overall impact on gas supply to the power plants, as gas supply was diverted to power plants, via alternative gas transportation pipelines. In addition to transporting gas via pipelines, a robust gas supply system utilising Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG),which was delivered via trucks and rail, for alternative gas supply to power plants, had been developed, as well.
In my dream, the Nigerian electricity market reinforced the concept of the electricity supply value chain. Electricity funds were collected and remitted by Distribution Companies, promptly and fully. The inverse flows of funding, in exchange for electricity supply wereguaranteed and Institutional foreign investors flocked to the Nigerian electricity market in their numbers. Nigeria was designated the first and foremost private power market in Africa, with functional market rules and grid codes.
Indeed, these were good times to be a Nigerian and to be involved in the Nigerian electricity supply industry.
I was enjoying this dream, when the suffocating heat, due to the electricity outage, rudely woke me up. As I sat up from my bed, I realised that it was all just a dream, and wondered if my dream would ever come to pass. Oh, what a dream! I certainly hope and pray that we can dream, so that there will be light.
• Madu is an Abuja-based electricity supply consultant.