Nigeria: Electricity supply at the mercy of avengers

Jun 21, 2016 12:00 AM

The spate of power assets vandalism may continue to limit Nigerians access to electricity, experts have said.

Destruction of gas infrastructure and cutting of gas supply have led to decline in the number of the over 100 power turbine units to less than 70 in the past two months.

The Daily Trust analyses this over dependence on gas-to-power and the other options of coal and hydro that have been slow to come on stream.

Data from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) indicate that it has licenced 58 Generation companies (Gencos) since its inception in 2005. Sadly only four of this comprising the Kainji, Jebba, Shiroro and the 39mw Dadin Kowa dams are non-thermal plants, with two Ezuma Coal plant project in Itobe, Kogi State, under construction.

While some of the Gencos are still government owned (NIPP), others were privatised in 2013. The remaining Gencos are independent power plants owned by individuals and groups.

Checks at the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing said only 27 are operational now and 215mw Gbarain NIPP in Bayelsa State) is under test-run. The Gencos, if developed, will create a cumulative generation capacity of 26,093mw. That will be over five times more than the recent highest generation level of 5,074mw attained in February 2016.

The operational plants generate a total of 1,660mw last Sunday due to a drastic reduction in supply of gas fuel for the thermal stations.

The pathetic power situation has given rise to the calls made by stakeholders to diversify the source of electricity in Nigeria. A public official in the sector who spoke in confidence said that politics made Nigeria's to have more thermal (gas-fired) plants than hydro plants.

Referring to the 2,600mw Mambilla plant, the official said that if the project was executed since 2007 when it was first awarded, Nigeria would have had a robust power plan of almost 4,000mw generated from hydro sources now, in spite of the vandalism of gas-to-power infrastructures.

Checks revealed that the 70 per cent and 30 per cent ratio of dual source energy mix is not the best for Nigeria. Other countries have diversified and sustained sources of power generation other than gas. Nigeria has not invested in coal like South Africa did in its power mix.

While Poland has 87%, China has 79% coal contributing to their power generation with the rest coming from hydropower plants. The Chinese Three Gorges hydropower dam alone generates up to 22,000 mw and poses as a huge model for Nigeria, experts insist.

There are abundant deposits of coal reported in 15 states with significant commercial quantities. The states are Enugu, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa and Gombe states.

"Proven coal reserves amount to about 639m tonnes with inferred reserves of about 2.75bn tonnes in the regions," the former power minister, Chinedu Nebo, said last year.

About N2bn was budgeted between 2014 and 2016 for feasibility studies on how to add coal fuel to the energy mix. The government also allocated N1.7bn for feasibility studies on siting coal fired power plants at Enugu (Loti), Gombe, Benue and Kogi states in 2014. It apportioned another N85.8m to the projects in 2015.

The government under President Muhammadu Buhari has devoted N234.979m to the project under the item: MOPWH161021643 Coal to power generation development in Nigeria in Enugu and Gombe/Benue/Kogi. It is tagged as a new project in the 2016 Appropriation Act.

Another intervention in diversifying the energy mix is the proposal of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) to build 13 hydropower dams, mainly in the northern part of the country, to generate about 4,000mw.

The former management led by Mr James Olotu said last year that the proceeds of $1.8bn (about N358.056bn) from the sales of 10 plants built under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs) will be used to finance the hydro projects under NIPP Phase 2.

However, the vandalism of gas infrastructures and poor gas supply to the plants have threatened the operation and in some cases the commissioning of the gas plants since 2014 when the privatisation process for selling 80 per cent shares began. He said, recently, before leaving office that the privatisation will now be done in phases, depending on the plants that are operational and sustainable.

While the plans of diversifying the energy mix has been ongoing for the past five years, more gas-fired plants are being considered such as the ongoing construction of the 450mw Azura power plant in Edo State.

The minister of power, Mr Babatunde Fashola, last week, said the federal government has planned to increase the store of gas in various parts of the country, especially in the Eastern and Western axis, to ensure better supply to the gas-fired plants.

Fashola, who was fielding questions on Fixing Nigeria at The Podium, a forum organised by The Kukah Centre in Abuja, said the process has begun. He said the idea was informed by the need to tame spate of sabotage in the gas pipelines by militants in the Niger Delta.

Fashola expressed his dismay with the militants' activities, wondering why some citizens should engage themselves in destroying a public utility they also use.

"We must find another way to ventilate our anger. It doesn't make sense to me that government or, indeed, somebody else must be paying somebody to look after a facility built in his interest,"Fashola said.

Alexander's Commentary

Change of face - change of phase

In the period of July 20 till August 3, 2015, Alexander will be out of the office and the site will not or only irreg

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