Power infrastructure upgrade: Interrogating interventions by TCN, World Bank
With the upgrade of 10 substations aimed at addressing the power needs of over 13 million people in Lagos State, the World Bank and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) may be contributing to their quota to grid stability, but how that pans out depends on the sustainability of the move. KINGSLEY JEREMIAH writes.
The state national grid operated from Osogbo in Osun State, by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) is a major concern for the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), just as homes and businesses are gasping for breath due to the epileptic state of the power sector.
The country’s economy is presently at a crossroads and electricity remains a critical factor in rejuvenating it. But the sector has sadly failed to propel the over 45 million small-scale businesses and industries to contribute their quota to reviving the economy.
According to the World Bank, Nigeria is the worst country in the world in terms of people without electricity access, adding that businesses in the country lose about $29 billion yearly due to unreliable electricity.
Recently, stakeholders at the 15th Annual International Conference of the Nigerian Association for Energy Economics (NAEE), and the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE) lamented that the country’s total installed capacity of 13,000 Megawatts can only give 632, 400 people a good and healthy life, leaving out over 199 million of the population.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and President of NAEE, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, noted that renewable energy remains the primary hope for Nigeria and other African countries.
It would also be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan-led government, privatised the power sector, in 2013, for about $2.5b, a development, which saw the distribution and generation segment divided into 17 companies – six power generation companies (GenCos) and 11 distribution companies (DisCos). The Federal Government retained ownership of TCN.
Eight years after the privatisation exercise, the need to drastically improve existing infrastructure remains compelling, against the backdrop of aging infrastructure and a rapidly growing population.
With Nigeria’s population and economy being the largest in Africa, the country only consumes 144 kWh per capita yearly. This is a mere 3.5 per cent when compared to what South Africans enjoy.
“Even at optimistic capacity factors and assumptions about deliverability, Nigeria needs well over 63GW of the new generation to satisfy unmet demand. Until then, expensive and dirty self-generation will remain pervasive,” Research Fellow, Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA), Precious Akanonu stated.
At the moment, while there is about 13 GW installed capacity, less than 5GW is wheeled to consumers, and transmission and distribution bottlenecks need improvement to change the narrative on the wheeling capacity.
These bottlenecks informed the World Bank’s decision to finance the establishment of 10 new substations, which are expected to be completed in the coming months. This Federal Government initiative, supported by the World Bank, would improve the efficiency of the national grid, which has remained in need of improvement.
By 2021, the TCN, through the World Bank-funded Nigeria Electricity Transmission Project (NETAP) moved to optimise bulk power delivery to an estimated 13 million people in Lagos. Stakeholders have also insisted that the upgrade of these substations would have a significant impact on the entire national electricity grid when completed in early 2023.
The World Bank-sponsored NETAP project is one of the TCN donor-funded projects aimed at expanding the transmission grid, while also prioritising the maintenance of existing transmission infrastructure.
Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre has a population of over 30 million. But it currently enjoys dismal electricity.
The Lagos State Electricity Board (LSEB) had in a report said that 15,000MW of the estimated 45,000MW of alternative power supply in the country was located within Lagos State alone. As of 2020, the report noted that 31 per cent of households in Lagos State were connected to the grid. By implication, 69 per cent of households in Lagos are off-grid and generally rely on power-generating sets.
On the national electricity grid, the two DisCos in Lagos get the highest allocation of power daily (about 26 per cent combined -Eko 11 and Ikeja 15).
With all these in sight, the TCN with support from the World Bank kick-started the upgrade and expansion of the 10 power transmission substations under the TCN Lagos Region in 2021, through the NETAP.
The Managing Director and CEO of TCN, Dr Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz, while remarking on the ongoing infrastructural development, said that similar projects were ongoing nationwide as the company seeks greater milestones in the power sector.
He said: “This is a key project for us and we are proud of it. We have similar donor-funded projects like this across the country. For instance, in Abuja, we have the AFD-funded transmission ring project, which is adding about five substations and bringing a new 330kV transmission line to Abuja.
“Overall, we want to have a situation where transmission network capacity is far ahead of the GenCos and DisCos so that Nigerians can always have the type of power supply experience that they require,” assured Abdulaziz said.
According to the Regional Transmission Manager of the Lagos region of TCN, Ajiboye Oluwagbenga, the substations being upgraded include Ijora, Maryland, Egbin, Lekki, and Akoka, Alagbon, Itire, Amuwo, among others, and they are all on the course and progressing as desired.
The expanse of 330, 132 kilovolts (kV) transmission substation in Lekki has been gained from the World Bank intervention. The World Bank’s project manager who oversees the bank’s projects at TCN, Banke Williams, said the project has gone past the design stage and site information collection as the project delivery continues with the completion slated for early next year.
The Lekki substation will get an additional 300MVA power transformer for the 330kV section and two units of 60MVA transformers for the 132kV transmission section.
Also, at the 330, 132kV Alagbon transmission substation, the World Bank-supported project will transform the facility and make it to be in tandem with contemporary realities.
“We will be reinforcing this network with a 300MVA transformer to boost the substation’s capacity and we will also be reinforcing the 132kV network with two units of 60MVA transformers,” she noted.
The Akoka substation is a 132kV transmission facility, and the NETAP intervention will ensure that the control room is fully digitised. GIS equipment will also be installed to enhance the circuit breakers, while the installation of a 60MVA power transformer is in the works.
According to an assistant manager, System Operations at TCN, Francis Chukwura, digitising the control room is crucial,“ as it would bring more efficiency in the data that we collate for the power grid operations,” he said.
Just around Ikeja, the 132kV Maryland substation is witnessing a significant upgrade too. The existing two units of 30MVA transformers are being upgraded to 100MVA, while five new feeders will be added to increase supply to Ikeja DisCo, as well as an upgrade of the control room.
Also, at Ikeja, the 132kV Alausa substation will get an overhaul under the project. “We are upgrading the 30MVA transformers to 100MVA transformers and we are bringing in three new feeders; we are also rehabilitating the four units of 132kV transmission line while we are integrating the automation system into the TCN SCADA system,” said Williams, the NETAP project manager.
In the Itire area of Lagos, the 132kV transmission substation is being revamped under the TCN – World Bank project with the addition of a 60MVA power transformer. The switchgear is also to be automated to give the staff in the control room a better and digital working environment.
The substation upgrade project also covers the 132, 33 kilovolts Amuwo transmission substation. A senior manager, System Operation at TCN, and the station manager, Mr Ibrahim Sale, said two units of 60MVA transformers have been procured for the substation, as well as the entire facelift of the facility including its control room.
Sale, an engineer, and the regional transmission manager of the Lagos region said that the soil testing has been completed at the 330, 132kV Ijora substation where the sites for the two power transformers to be installed have been prepared.
The 330, 132kV Egbin transmission substation is reputed for being a critical power infrastructure as it evacuates power from one of the largest GenCos in Nigeria. The island substation in the network of TCN is also part of the 10 substations undergoing upgrade and expansion at the moment.
The substation, which has existed for over 30 years, has huge upgrade works ongoing including the building of a new control room, and an expanded switchyard, according to TCN officials.
The Assistant General Manager, Transmission at Egbin subregion of TCN, Asinmi Saliu said that the TCN is developing structures for two control rooms to serve the 330kV side, and the 132kV section, adding that the Egbin community will greatly benefit from the improved power supply.
The locations are being set for the installation of a new 300MVA transformer to increase the national transmission network capacity. The intervention also covers six 330kV high voltage power transmission lines which will be all reinforced.
On the overall impact of the ongoing works, Saliu said: “This project will enhance the efficiency of the national grid system stability, so we welcome the development by the World Bank. This station is going to be new again when the project is completed and the national grid will feel the system’s reliability.”
Still at another section of the Egbin substation, Agbidi Vincent of SEC China, a contractor said that work on the reinforcement of the substation was progressing seamlessly, even as a soil test had already been conducted determined to transformer foundation design.
In Ogun State, the TCN upgrade project extends to the 132kV Ota transmission substation. At this substation, work on the World Bank-supported substation upgrade project has reached an advanced stage, according to Mr Adegbemile Taiwo, a Senior Manager, Protection, Control, and Metering at TCN.
The Ota substation expansion work involves the ongoing installation of two units of 100MVA power transformers to replace the existing two units of 40MVA power transformers.
“This will improve the capacity of the station to feed a lot of consumers in Sango, Idiroko complex and environs. The consumption capacity of the Ota substation will now rise from 360MVA or 288 megawatts to about 120MW, which will benefit a lot of people around this environment,” Taiwo an engineer explained.
For the control room of the 132kV Ota transmission substation, Nwokedi Chibuike, a Senior Manager, System Operations at TCN, envisaged how the experience will be when it is fully digitised under the project.
“The mode of operation will change for good and so we appreciate the management of TCN for upgrading the substation because it will completely change the operation of the Ota substation,” Chibuike noted.
Commenting on the impact that the transmission upgrade is expected to have, Ochube Onuh, a manager at Green Energy, an energy servicing firm, said that the greatest impact of power transmission is made through the transmission line and the substations.
“If the TCN deems it fit to upgrade 10 substations in a row, then I must commend them because it is not even easy to add value to just one facility that is already operational. We believe that from what we have seen in the power sector, as the company gradually completes these projects, Nigerians will be happier with their power supply experience because there is no way these investments would not show in the national grid,” explained Mr Onuh.
Not long ago, the Managing Director of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET), Dr. Nnaemeka Eweluka, noted that the government was planning a series of interventions to correct the existing mismatch in the sector. He also said that the government was targeting a futuristic plan where capacities across the sub-sector would align.
Similarly, the President of the Nigeria Consumer Protection Network (NCPN), had also told The Guardian that while investment in the transmission sector (especially new transformers) is critical, there was also the need to install the facility based on the economic needs of the country, and not political consideration.
He said it remained unacceptable to place key infrastructure in politicians’ rural settlements, adding that such locations are better powered by off-grid solutions, rather than allowing critical infrastructure to remain idle and under-utilised when industrial clusters and urban areas lack the basic infrastructure needed to meet up the daily load demand of bulk users of electricity.
PricewaterhouseCoopers Associate Director, Energy, Utilities, and Resources, Habeeb Jaiyeola, noted the need for more investments to address power misalignment, adding that unless load-balancing challenges are addressed in the system, the system may not function adequately.
He said the fact that Nigeria has excess generating capabilities over current off-take by DisCos requires several ramp-downs by GenCos to prevent excess supply to the grid.
Jaiyeola noted that the situation requires very strict monitoring as the absence of such could lead to the collapse of the grid, even as equipment failure due to maintenance gaps or obsolescence could equally lead to collapse.
He added that the economic impact of the situation remained quite high, considering that the power supply has remained perpetually epileptic.
“The public and private sectors 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 noted 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.
Like the prevailing move by TCN, Jaiyeola called for appropriate investment in the national grid infrastructure to prevent grid collapse as a result of obsolete equipment.
The 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 hence the 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 off-grid solutions. Going forward, the government needs to look at privatising the TCN,” he added.
A public-private partnership consultant, Joseph Tsavsar, said that the problem of obsolete transmission infrastructure, lack of protection engineers, and uncoordinated or misaligned investment in the power sector based on political considerations are not helping the system.
Getting qualified protection engineers and correcting existing lapses will work. Decentralisation of the grid through distributed generation can also enhance supply in selected areas reducing over-dependence on the grid,” he said.
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