FEATURE ARTICLE

Saturday, September 14, 2019
okerekeoc@gmail.com

NIGERIA URGENTLY NEEDS A ROADMAP FOR THE ACHIEVEMENT OF A SUCCESSFUL AND SUSTAINABLE POWER SUPPLY IN NIGERIA
- A CHALLENGE TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND NIGERIAN ENGINEERS

ver the years, our country has suffered from unstable, erratic, and grossly inadequate grid power supply. This problem has been with the country, probably since the country discovered and started exporting oil in commercial quantities, perhaps since 1971.

It needs to be admitted that successive federal governments have made efforts to develop the power supply sector but with little success. Despite these efforts, it is doubtful whether there is a formally agreed, accepted and approved Roadmap for the development of a successful and sustainable power supply.

It is also doubtful whether there is an appreciation of the enormity of the power supply problem. Without an understanding of the magnitude of the problem, the ongoing efforts could just amount to nibble attempts that scratch the problem on the surface.

The consequence has been that little progress has been made. The power supply problem really should be a responsibility of Nigerian engineers to resolve. Leaving it, as it has been over the years, as a tool for political discord and shenanigans is a disservice to the nation. For a start, the engineers could study the problem and advise the country on its magnitude.

1. Motivations: This article has been motivated by the desire to investigate and present information on the power supply problem and suggest its long-term solution

  1. Motivation to present information on the magnitude of the power supply problem: It appears that the size of our power supply problem is drastically underestimated. As a result, whenever some investments are made, it is assumed that they will solve the problem for good. When they do not, it is rumoured wrongly or rightly that there has been a misappropriation of fund. The foregoing statement presupposes that all the earmarked funds are invested on the power development scheme. Whether or not they are used judiciously is not the premise of this paper. One of the motivations of writing this paper is to present some information on the magnitude of our power supply problem to enable us to plan realistically on how to resolve it.

  2. Motivation to Challenge the Federal Government to produce a Roadmap: The second motivation is to challenge the Federal Government to face the responsibility of resolving this perennially lingering problem by setting up a panel of experts who will provide the Roadmap for a successful and sustainable power supply. Having understood the magnitude of the power supply problem, the experts will design the Roadmap to constitute a blueprint and a compass to guide further investments in the power supply industry. This Roadmap should offer a long-term projection on the resolution of the problem.

Such a roadmap should present a path consisting of various power plants, transmission and distribution equipment and systems with suggested timelines for their establishment. It may contain fossil fuel powered plants, renewable energy sources for grid and minigrid operations. It should provide a guide to the country to achieve a successful and sustainable power supply. The timelines could stretch into years and decades. The capacities of the plants, transmission and distribution facilities, including the minigrids shall be specified. This, I submit, is what the country needs to enable concerted and directed investments for the establishment of a successful and sustainable power supply over time.

2. Problem Definition and the Enormity of the Power Supply Problem

Our grid power supply is hardly existent. In the month of August 2019, I spent about a week in our village in the South East. For the greater part of everyday, there was no power supply from the grid, we had to resort to the use of standby power generator. Also, I spent about four days in Lagos. We were in darkness most of the time because of the absence of grid power supply. We had to use a standby generator often. Both in the village and in Lagos, it was a case of being in the dark for three to four hours continuously. Then, there could be an interlude of power supply for about an hour before reverting to darkness for hours again.

The power supply problem could be defined in two sections as below:

  1. The country has grossly inadequate installed electricity generating capacity.

  2. Equipment for generation, transmission, and distribution are inadequate. Some are old and over-utilised equipment in dire need of replacement.

2.1 The grossly inadequate electricity generating capacity

The gross inadequacy of our generating capacity is demonstrated as we compare our installed electricity generating capacity with that of other countries, with also a consideration of the populations of the various countries.

* The current population of Nigeria is 201,803,703 as of Friday, August 30, 2019.

The current population of South Africa is 58,678,802 as of Thursday, August 29, 2019.

As of 1 January 2019, Spain had a total population of 47,007,367.

All these population figures are based on UN estimates

** Installed capacities by POWER AFRICA FACT SHEET, By USAID, March 12, 2019. The installed generating capacity in Spain is 106,700 MW as given by 2015 estimate given by The World Factbook by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Analysis

  • Nigeria, with a population which is almost twice of South Africa, has an electricity installed capacity that is less than 25% of South Africa.

  • Nigeria, with a population of over four times of Spain, has an electricity installed capacity of 12% that of Spain.

Deductions

From the above analysis, it could be suggested that for our grid electricity supply to be so developed to be effective, we shall have to build our installed generating capacity to be at least four times the present capacity of Spain, that is to over 420,000 MW. This is over 30 times our current installed capacity.

2.2 Inadequate Transmission and Distribution Capacities

One of the problems that we grapple with in our power supply is that in spite of the grossly inadequate generating capacity, our transmission and distribution capacities are even worse.

We live with the fact that their capacities are so inadequate that the country cannot transmit and distribute even the little power that is generated. To expatiate, the following examples could suffice.

I. Vice President laments the poor distribution capacity: It was reported by the Punch newspaper that the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday, August 15, 2019, lamented the nation's inability to distribute available grid power to consumers. He reportedly stated:

"Despite the availability of about 8,000MW of generation and about 7,000MW of transmission capacity, lack of Disco infrastructure to absorb and deliver grid power to end users has largely restricted generation to an average of about 4,000MW," he said.

3. Past reports on the need for Increased Investment in the Power Industry

In a paper in the PM World Journal December 2014, with the title: "An Analysis of the Electricity Industry in Nigeria One Year after Privatisation", the need for increased investment in the power industry is discussed. Some of the statements include the following:

3.1 Recommendation by an Internal Operator

  • "It is suggested that the country needs to make "a yearly investment of $4 billion within the next 10 years in the energy sector" in order to "move the sector from the doldrums and make it globally competitive". This was the view of the Managing Director, Eko Electricity Distribution Company, Ramesh Naravanan He explained that the investment will cover the following: Generation, distribution and transmission would gulp about 70 per cent investment into plant machinery while the other 30 per cent will be into construction". He pointed out that Nigeria, with a population of about 170 million people has such little power supply that, only five per cent of the population has access to electricity available in the 11 Distribution Companies in the country.

  • He also observed that the transmission lines are inadequate, providing inadequate transmission capacity. He said: "Even today at 4000 Megawatts, the transmission lines are not able to absorb the capacity", this means that they need to be overhauled and expanded. In this situation, a lot of work needs to be done to develop the necessary capacity that will provide Nigerians with adequate capacity for power transmission. He added that this has to be done not only by the federal government but also by the private sectors making their contributions.

3.2. Recommendation by an External Observer: Low investment in infrastructure

Also, an earlier paper, PM World Today, February 2012, with the title:" Resolving the Seemingly Intractable Nigerian National Infrastructural Deficiencies", quoted the then Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde. She blamed infrastructural gaps, particularly in the power sector as the factor holding Nigeria back from its full growth potentials. According to her, "Nigeria's electricity generation capacity, currently about 3,800MW, for example, is just 10 per cent that of South Africa's (39,149.3MW), while Nigeria's population is more than three times greater". She made this statement at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on January 4, 2016, during a round-table discussion with stakeholders on the second day of her visit to Africa.

4. Suggestions on the Roadmap

Despite all the earlier investments on the national power supply industry, it is doubtful whether there is a nationally agreed, accepted and approved Roadmap for the development of a successful and sustainable power supply. Features of the Roadmap could include the following:

  • It should be produced by a team of experts consisting of Nigerians and foreigners including those in Diaspora. Each member of the team should have expertise in power supply.

  • It should be approved by the National Assembly such that it is a blueprint for our power supply development.

  • It should be apolitical; that is, it should not be linked to any political party. It should be a national document to be used by all national governments.

  • All future developments in the power supply industry should be based on it. No government should seek to make any investment on the power supply industry that is not based on the Roadmap.

  • The National Assembly should not approve any investment not based on the Roadmap.

  • It should be a dynamic document in the sense that it should be reviewed probably every five years.

Conclusion

Definitive actions are needed to find a solution to our perennial power supply problem which shows no improvement in spite of annual investments by successive Federal and State Governments. This article has suggested two action points that should lead to finding a solution, these are as follows:

  • Define and ascertain the magnitude of the problem. Certainly, the starting point for the resolution of a problem is to define it. It may not be possible to solve a problem that is not understood.

  • The development and adoption of a Roadmap for the establishment of a successful and sustainable power supply in the nation will help coordinate and rationalise national investments on power supply.

    These two suggestions should require inputs by Nigerian engineers at the invitation of the Federal Government. If carried out, the steps will help eliminate the confusion and discord in our national investments on our electric power supply. The discord generally degenerates into attempts to score political points which hardly contribute to the resolution of a lingering problem that not only damages our social life but also retards and damages of economic development efforts. Positive and constructive actions in the national interests are called for to resolve the problem.

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