With aging transmission and distribution infrastructure, as well as hostile host communities,Ejiofor Alike writes that power generation targets will not translate to actual supply
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed power in 1999, Nigeria's electricity generating capacity hovered between 1,500megawatts (mw) and 1,900mw.
Worried by the epileptic power situation his administration inherited from the military regime, Obasanjo embarked on the construction of gas-fired power generating plants under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP), with a target to hit 10,000megawatts of electricity by 2007.
The administration also started building new plants for the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
However, when Obasanjo's tenure expired in May 2007, the country's generation was around 3,000mw, far below the 10,000mw target.
Shortly on assumption of office in 2007, the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua had set a generation target of 6,000mw by the end of 2009, threatening also to declare a state of emergency in the power sector.
But few days to the December 31, 2009 deadline for the realisation of the target, the administration made a U-turn.
Speaking at the 15th session of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) held in Abuja in December 2009, the Chief Economic Adviser to the late President, Alhaji Tanimu Yakubu, stated that going by all permutations, the deadline would not be met.
"We may not achieve 100 per cent of the target. We have been able to achieve 5,200MW so far. As I am talking to you now, 35MW is being added to the national grid and another 100MW will be added in the next two weeks," he said.
Aware of the political implications of failing to meet targets, President Goodluck Jonathan on assumption of office in 2010, had refused to set target for his administration.
However, two years later, the then Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, had at the Nigeria Power Sector Retreat held in Abuja at the beginning of 2012, projected that power generation would hit over 6,000 megawatts by the end of the year.
He however noted that the only challenge that could hinder the realisation of the target was non-availability of gas.
"If the gas is available we will be generating 5,600mw today. And we expect to add at least 1,000 megawatts to the grid. That brings us to over 6,000megawatts," he said.
By the end of December 2012, the federal government celebrated a peak of 4,356.9megawatts, which was below the 6,000mw target.
With the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), claiming recently that it had exceeded its target for gas-to-power aspirations; it was not yet clear why power generation hovered just around 4,000mw throughout 2012.
The target has since gone up to 10,000mw with even the Federal Ministry of Water Resources saying that it would achieve 95 per cent development of hydropower potential capable of producing up to 10,000mw by 2015.
Weak Distribution, Transmission Infrastructure
As the various successive governments were setting generating targets and concentrating on the construction of new power generating stations, no conscious effort was made to replace or rehabilitate weak and aging distribution and transmission facilities.
The implication was that even if the targets were realisable, the distribution and transmission lines would not be able to carry the new load.
President Goodluck Jonathan had acknowledged in the power roadmap he unveiled in Lagos in August 2010, that the transmission network was so weak that "even with the completion of the extant PHCN and NIPP transmission projects, for which funds have already been provided, the gap between generation capacity and the capacity of the transmission grid is expected to widen considerably over the next three years."
He, however, stated that in order to ensure that the power generated was not left stranded for lack of evacuation capacity, "there would be a need for a 30 per cent increase in the 'true deliverable' transformation capacity of the country's 330Kv transmission network between July 2010 and April 2011, above its current value of 4,500mw equivalent."
He noted that in view of the weakness of the network, it was unlikely that an increase of such magnitude would be realisable within the period.
President Jonathan said government's projected target would be a rise of just over 10 per cent to about 5,000mw, adding that even though the total nominal 330Kv transformation capacity was projected to rise to 5,995mw equivalent.
In the medium term, up to December 2013, the roadmap had targeted a generating capacity of 14,000mw for the country.
Under this plan, 4,500mw would come from the existing PHCN plants; 4,775mw from NIPP and 3300mw from the Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
Though the NIPP projects initiated by Obasanjo involved generation, distribution and transmission projects, much emphasis was laid on generation targets.
Under the NIPP, 1,737 circuit kilometres of 330Kv lines and 940kilometres of 132Kv lines are being constructed as part of the transmission projects to evacuate generated power from all the power stations in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
These transmission projects, which are split into 105 different projects, include 40 transmission lines, 45 transmission sub-stations, 20 sub-station extensions and telecommunication protections infrastructures to cover all NIPP power plants and transmission lots.
The power, after generation has to be evacuated and willed to long distances and the power will not be useful until it is reduced to a level that can be used in homes and industries.
To actualise this, there are also ongoing NIPP distribution projects in all the 11 distribution companies (Discos) in the country.
These include 1,701 kilometres of 33KV lines; 2,666km of 11KV lines and 3,540MVA additional injection capacity.
At the initial stage of the project a total of 22,598No. 25KV and 50KV distribution transformers, including Completely Self-Protected (CSP) transformers were provided.
A lot of challenges are currently facing the new projects, especially in the area of transmission.
For instance, over-loaded 33KV Lines at the existing facilities of the PHCN and tough conditions being given by the communities living along new transmission line routes are hampering the completion of the ongoing distribution and transmission projects.
One of the NIPP contractors told THISDAY that the early delivery of the projects was being hampered because the PHCN's existing 33Kv lines were too over-loaded to receive the new projects.
"33KV lines are supposed to receive NIPP projects from existing PHCN facilities. But when the distribution projects are ready to take supply from such facilities, we discover that the lines are over-loaded and therefore, we cannot take supply from such facilities. When you tell PHCN to upgrade their lines, they will say that there is no fund. There is also the issue of lack of 33KV facilities at the transmission stations across the country," he said.
It should be noted that unlike the existing PHCN power plants, which did not provide electricity supply to the host towns and villages, communities living within five kilometer- radius from the NIPP plants would be provided with free electricity supply.
With this provision, the construction of new power generating stations does not face many challenges.
However, unlike the communities around power stations, the communities living along the transmission line routes are making tough demands before contractors are allowed to construct the lines.
For instance, one community in Cross River State allegedly demanded a 40-year-old virgin before shrines could be removed for the construction of the transmission lines.
"What that translated to is the huge amounts of money that will be paid to them to enable them remove the shrine," said an NIPP contractor.
Even after compensations have been paid to some communities for the removal of shrines, new shrines emerge over-night along the transmission routes and the communities will give tough conditions for the new shrines to be removed.
There are also instances where local government authorities in some areas give "stop- work" orders to contractors handling some of the transmission projects.
Role of Presidential Taskforce
Apparently aware that the on-going projects could face challenges, the Federal Government had mandated the Presidential Taskforce on Power (PTFP) to ensure "engagement with other government agencies to resolve roadblocks and bottlenecks to facilitate progress of project."
The taskforce, currently headed by Mr. Becks Dagogo-Jacks, is also charged with the responsibility of "reporting and escalation of all identified risks that can work against schedules of project delivery and take actions to mitigate their impact."
The task force is also required to intervene in smoothening inter-agency interfaces as well as in observation and reporting of all process and system gaps in the management of power projects.
Unless the roadblocks and bottlenecks hampering the delivery of new transmission projects are resolved, the existing infrastructure is too weak to carry additional load arising from the actualisation of the new generation targets.