Recently at a seminar held at the Shiroro Power Plant in Niger State on the dynamics of the power sector, it was revealed that over 40 per cent of generating units were shut down to match the low demand by the distribution companies (DisCos). ABAH ADAH reports
To say that the Nigerian Power sector has poorly performed over the years may be an understatement by the rating of an average Nigerian. In fact, if there is any sector that has enjoyed the most of public concern and discourse in recent times, it is the power sector. This is because power is very critical to human well-being and development.
The power sector or Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) is structured into generation (upstream activities that produce the power), transmission (midstream activities that transport the power through high tension lines to the distribution facilities in all parts of the country), and then the distribution (downstream activities that step the power down and give commercial and residential consumers).
The reform of the sector which led to the privatisation of the generation and distribution segments of the sector in November, 2013, was meant to reposition the sector for full blown private driven investment that could guarantee improved and stable power supply for Nigerians.
About seven years down the line, the masses have yet to go to bed with the hope of sleeping in the comfort of electricity, businesses have continued to depend on gasoline or diesel generator sets for most of their operations.
The worst is that as the concept of free market economy prevails, the operators have completely ignored the aspect of social services responsibility which government owes its citizens, by exploiting consumers through an ever increasing estimated bills, even as power supply remain erratic and poor.
In their submission, engineers from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) who made presentations at the workshop maintained that the insufficient power supply which the country currently faces is a fall out of capacity under-utilisation occasioned by distribution inefficiency, not lack of power.
General Manager, System Operator (SO), Engr Emmanuel Umoh of the National Control Centre (NCC), Oshogbo, while explaining the dynamics of the power sector affirmed that at the moment, transmission has the capacity of 8, 000 going to 9, 000 megawatts (MW).
"Our Capacity now, because TCN has been overhauled and strengthened with more facilities, is about 8, 000MW going to 9, 000MW," he said, adding that the distribution companies (DisCos) who are to take the power to Nigerians often fail to take the amount given them, even if according to their own request in line with multi-year tariff order (MYTO).
He said, "As I speak, over 40 per cent of the power generation units in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) have been shut because of low demand for electricity by the distribution companies (DisCos)."
The rejection of load, according to him, is responsible for instability of the grid as the SO of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) always compels the generating firms to shut down operations for unutilised load to avoid high voltage and damage to transmission transformers and system collapse.
Describing TCN as the transporter of the electricity from the generation end to that of the distribution, he said the challenge in the process is that at any point in time a balanced frequency of 50.0Hz has to be targeted such that what is generated upstream is equal to what is distributed and utilised downstream as any significant imbalance experienced on either side would lead to grid collapse.
"The challenge is balancing of generation to load ratio," he said. "Every single moment you have to manage frequency balance to avoid system collapse that may result from either high frequency (i.e. more available power on grid than picked) or low frequency (i.e. more load or power demand than available on grid)."
According to him, before privatization, the problem was low generation to high load, but now it is the reverse.
He said the frequency range acceptable in line with the transmission code of the country is 49.75 (lowest) to 50.25 Hz (highest).
He said the electricity supply chain, unlike any other sector, is entirely dependent on the consumption which according to him determines what the generators should produce at any given time even if they have more capacity hence the issue of unused capacity now that generation is far ahead.
"The Power system is driven by the consumer. You are not to put what cannot be consumed on the grid," Umoh said.
"So what we do is to ask for some generators to shut down when we discover on the frequency meter that unbearable imbalance is setting in.
"And as I talk to you now, out of the 140 generating units that we have nationwide, only 76 are running at the moment, the rest worth over 2000MW are shut down, even though their capacities have been declared in the market, all in a bid to match generation with distribution and consumption and be on the safe side. Now we have over 2, 000MW generators shut down."
Giving average statistics of power transaction in 2018, Umoh said the installed capacity for that year was 13, 166.4MW out of which the average available for the year was 6, 875.4MW, and the average picked power was 4, 642.65MW while average actual consumption stood at 3, 375.8MW.
He said the peak recorded one day in that year that was generated and consumed was 5, 190.9MW.
"On this day, the availability was over 7, 000MW. In that case you have to shut down some units. It then means the excess is a waste, and that is why there are two types of payments, capacity payment (for available power) and energy payment (for power used).
"This power which is underutilised excludes the one sold to some neighbouring countries in line with existing agreement daily," he said.
According to Umoh, NESI allocates about 260MW to Republic of Benin and 120 to 130MW to Niger Republic daily.
Umoh who expressed concern that due to poor infrastructure the amount of energy the distribution companies (DisCos) have been picking has been on a steady decline since 2015 even as generation and transmission have continued to improve, giving an example of DisCos picking about 3990MW in 2015, but now taking only 2, 963.82 MW.
On the power outage usually experienced, especially at rain time, Umoh said all that could be as a result of weak distribution infrastructure network and uncleared vegetation which may be pushed into contact with the distribution lines, causing a trip off.
He however said TCN use to compile DisCos' load rejection data which it sends to the ministry of power and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) for action.