Un-masking Critical Developments in the Power Sector
By Clem Ezeolisah
A lot of critical infrastructure development is taking place in the Power Sector and the outcomes are manifesting in more quality service delivery by all segments of the power industry. However, there seems to be a serious disconnect; these developments in power infrastructure and the output in improved service delivery are either not communicated adequately for general public to internalize and appreciate or the exposed critical audience of these communicated messages mis-analyze them and therefore feed the public a jaundiced, biased views of these development narratives.
Of course, we are not where we want to be. We are not even close to such a place. But the nation has made significant progress in the journey for more quality power supply in the nation, where challenges keep cropping up every other week like the experiences in the great novel; One Week, One Trouble.
This piece attempts to spotlight some of the developments in the Power Sector for sincere public notification and appreciation. The case scenarios have happened or are happening and there is no denying that we have indeed crossed some pages. The back cover is still far, but we have made tremendous progress.
Combined power generation capacity of all power stations in the country is conservatively put at 7000MW. Some experts in the power industry post figures between 10000 and 12000MW. Coming from November 2013 when power assets were handed over to new private investors, the combined generation capacity was around 3000MW. Recall the narrative then- dilapidated systems, long unserviced equipment and frustrated work force. 7000MW generation capacity is indeed several pages away. Almost all, if not all power generating stations have recovered some lost or idle capacities and acquired new capacities.
The Power Distribution Companies, DisCos, have also increased their network capability to take and deliver more power to the people, their customers and consumers. They currently boast of 5000MW from a cap of about 3000MW in November 2013. This is also a great feat. If this cannot be classified as moving forward, let me know what is.
Besides distribution network growth and development, the DisCos have really upped their direct and indirect engagements with their customers and the general public. Indeed, all the DisCos have created various traditional and attractive new and social media platforms through which they regularly reach out to their customers and target audiences with tantalizing initiatives.
You can be sure to get a full dose of very hot exchanges between customers and DisCos on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You are equally thrilled when a few posts down the line with the outpouring of gratitude and compliments for service delivered. To me this narrative of social engagements with the customers being duly informed and service issues resolved is huge, especially coming from where we are coming from.
Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, was for many years the weeping boy of the Power Sector. Every corner you turned, TCN was casted as the problem of the industry and most people wanted it privatized like her brother and sister, the GenCos and DisCos.
TCN remained the weeping boy until the current management team led by UG Mohammed was birthed. Suddenly TCN became the most improved sub-sector of the sector. Federal Government had invited the Management Contractors, MHI of Canada to manage TCN for four years and only realized marginal impact on the operations and outputs of the company. Reports on the MHI era indicate that they seemed to have been preoccupied settling challenges from internal and external oppositions than improving the Grid infrastructure.
The new Management Team led by UG Mohammed, an audacious Chartered Accountant, came in with a mind set to take on TCN’s many challenges with an uncanny passion and paradigm shift. The team immediately changed the the Project Management System, Contractor Performance and Evaluation model and a few other things and before you could say Nigeria, TCN in- house capacity had successfully installed 13 power transformers at 10% cost Contractors usually demand, attracted $1.5billion from multi-lateral international development agencies to further upgrade Grid infrastructure.
TCN wheeling capacity literally moved from almost constant 5000MW to 7124MW as at end of January 2018. Recently a 20-year Grid Expansion Masterplan targeting 28000MW by 2035 with both GenCos and DisCos growth patterns was launched. All these are profound developments not effectively communicated nor internalized by the people.
Rural Electrification Agency REA, has been reactivated by the Federal Government to address the power needs of rural communities and under- served areas. The agency has been up and about town to achieve her mandates.
They have proposed and are implementing several projects- off-Grid, Mini-Grid, Renewable Energy Supply programs for the rural areas, Energizing Education Program aimed at providing reliable and stable power for several universities and teaching hospitals as well as Energizing Economics Program for powering major markets in several states by taking them out of the National Grid and providing them with captive off-Grid solution that would drive their businesses into profitability.
Niger Delta Power Holding Company, NDPHC, under the present management led by Chiedu Ugbo has also been effective and result-oriented. They have completed the last group of power generating plants and have secured the approval of the Presidency to re-commence the privatization of the 10 power plants built during the last administration.
This time around with wise counsel prevailing, the National Privatization Council headed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has approved that the sale of the plants should be done in phases, which obviously will facilitate confidence building going forward.
The Chiedu Ugbo Management Team has also seen to the completion, Commissioning and handing over of several huge budget Transmission and Distribution projects which have in no small measure added value to the achievements in the Power Sector that we are celebrating today and would continue to celebrate.
At the last count, NDPHC has completed 8 power generating stations with 5,089MW installed capacity and about 3,000MW available capacity; 10 new 330kV substations, 7new 132kV substations, installed 1,635km of 330kV lines and 720km of 132km lines as well as constructed 296 distribution substations all over the nation.
With Phase 1 Mandate nearing completion, the huge power asset interventionist agency has been given approval to commence Phase 11 which would focus on small hydro plants and commercial renewable energy solutions for the rural areas.
The industry Regulator, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, has been at its utmost in spite of sharp criticisms for not being prompt and decisive in her decisions and resolutions in shepherding the industry.
It has produced modalities for billing customers without meters on estimation, which the DisCos seem to enjoy disregarding without any severe consequences from the Regulator. In the effort to resolve the chronic meter challenge, the Regulator has produced a draft regulation to license Meter Asset Providers that would be fully responsible for providing meters in the system going forward.
Also to address the new challenge of un-utilized power in the Grid, NERC has produced the Eligible Customer Regulation which is hoped would provide the necessary window for off-taking the stranded power in the GenCos to the companies who need them to stimulate economic development and drive down the cost of production in the country.
Well informed experts believe that the Regulator has not done much in discharging her mandates of shepherding the industry effectively and responsively. They say the Sector has not seen the kicking in of true contract trading as envisaged when the Transitional Electricity Market was declared back in February 2015. They see this non- contract trading as a major drawback for the Sector development. Market Participants say they want a Regulator that is truly independent in thought and action, a courageous Regulator, a Regulator vigorously proactive and decisive in wielding the big stick and penalizing any market infractions and defaulters.
The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has done tremendously well. It has been the inspiration and handiwork of Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN, working with two other Ministers, Permanent Secretary and other Power Team members to bring us to where we are today and by the look of things are prepared to take us to a better place tomorrow.
The Power Team has virtually visited the sites of all major players in the industry- Gas Companies, Power Generation Companies, TCN, Distribution Companies, NERC, NEMSA and other agencies in the sector all in the bid to evaluate and encourage quality performance and service delivery.
New power plants are coming, such as Azura (450MW); Katsina wind (10MW); Gbarain (115MW); Kashimbilla (40MW); Afam III (240MW); Gurara (30MW); Dadin Kowa (29MW); and Kaduna (215MW), etc. All of these do not include mini-grids and solar systems that are in various stages of development. Zungeru and the biggest of them all, Mambilla power generating stations have left the drawing boards where they have been for decades to the implementation modes.
The monthly Power Sector Operators meeting chaired by the Honorable Minister, whose hosting is rotated among members has been a catalyst of sorts for hosts to process various projects and get the Minister commission them. The meeting has become a peer review mechanism of a kind for performance enhancement as each host wants to display or spotlight their achievements and innovations.
The Power Sector is currently witnessing a quite positive revolution of sorts. Believe it or not. Today, the narrative has changed from “we have no power” to “we want more power”. The DisCos are no longer saying “we have no power to give the customers”, it is “we cannot take more power to the customers because they are not paying”. The GenCos are now upbeat as they want any customer to take off the stranded or unutilized power they can produce.
What we are witnessing in the Power Sector is no mean feat. No doubt we still have many rivers to cross like the 20- year National Grid Expansion Masterplan by TCN which urges us to keep our eyes on the ball and develop all segments of the sector and while doing that to communicate more effectively and meaningfully to the people, not just the exposed urban elite with the penchant to mis-communicate. We have indeed come a long way from yesterday. Tomorrow is still far. But we must, all the same, appreciate where we are today.
The author, Mr Clem Ezeolisah is a Power Sector Analyst with vast interest in Development Communication.