|Saturday, September 14, 2019|
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
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:
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)
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
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:
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: