Many residents and entrepreneurs in Nigeria are groaning, following the drastic drop in electricity supply across the country. In the past two weeks, the power situation worsened with many areas left in darkness. Despite this situation, the Distribution companies (Discos) have maintained their billings for unmetered customers, the Daily Trust on Sunday gathered.
The national electricity grid which dropped to as low as 80megawatts (mw) several times last month left almost everyone in darkness. The present peak generation of 2,944mw obtained on Thursday cannot take care of the over 150 million population, statistics have shown.
The Nigerian System Operator (NSO), which allocates generated electricity to the 11 Distribution companies (Discos) said 17,720mw will be required to satisfy the country’s electricity needs in the meantime. Sadly, statistics shows that the installed capacity of the generation units is just 11,165mw, while only 7,139mw capacity is available.
Experts say despite this available capacity, the constraint of gas-to-power supply has hindered the sustenance of 5,000mw generation that was reached in February this year. Our reporter, who monitored the trend of gas supply to the over 23 gas-based power stations noted that those plants are rarely getting up to 50 per cent of their gas fuel demand.
The dearth of gas has been occasioned by incessant militant activities in the southern part of the country and was compounded by the serial bombardment of oil and gas facilities by the agitating Niger Delta Avengers since March this year.
The vandal activities brought electricity generation to an all time low of 2,200mw in May and less than 2,000mw in June, reports showed. In mid-June, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said the grid will further lose 300mw as the technical crew of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) embarked on a two week repair of a vandalised tower, leading to the shutdown of the Okpai power station in Delta State.
Fashola said the repairs will further affect the declined supply but assured that the three hydropower plants would cushion the effect till the tower is completely fixed this week.
Meanwhile the critical drop has caused prolonged power outages across major cities of the country including the capital, Abuja. The weekly energy report for June ending obtained from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) indicates that epileptic power supply was higher in June than the five other months.
An official, who spoke in confidence said the impact of the blown-up gas pipelines was felt hugely in the month even as repairs of many others including the Trans Niger Pipeline, the Trans Forcados Pipeline are on-going.
The NERC report shows that 5,000mw was lost to constraints on June 20, translating to a nationwide blackout. Gas supply shortage accounted for 4,486mw of the lost electricity generation. Inadequate transmission line and the water level issues at the hydro plants caused the additional loss of 106mw and 450mw respectively that day.
One week after the dreadful occurrence, the loss still remained significant at 4,580mw with gas constraint accounting for 4,399mw of the loss, while the transmission line limited another 181mw. The electricity turbines, which were about 78 active units across 24 gas-fired power stations and three hydro powered plants early in March had declined to a pitiable 28 unit by June ending. Experts say the poor fuel availability resulted either in the shut down or the pack up of over 50 turbines.
The spinning reserve which ensures that power plants could be started smoothly in the case of systems collapse at the transmission end declined from the 300mw sustained till 2016. It dropped to zero megawatts at the end of the month from 17mw earlier.
A comparable analysis of the electricity supplied to homes between 2015 and 2016 of May and June indicates that power supply slightly improved at 61,322 megawatt hours (mwh) in May this year than what it was last May at 60,422mwh, when the transition to a new government led to some unrest among workers in the power sector.
In contrast, June 2015 had better power supply at 80,630mwh than the 51,139mhw obtained in June 2016.
The protracted outage has kept residents and business owners agonising especially on the continuous payment of electricity bills without commensurate supply. Most customers of the various Distribution companies (Discos), who spoke to our reporter said the electricity supply hours went down significantly in June beyond what they had in the previous month.
Mr. Okon Usang who is a residential customer connected to a three-phase line in Mararaba suburb of Nasarawa State said there is a serious drop in power supply hours from eight hours in two days to almost zero.
Usang decried the attitude of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) to bills. “Despite the over 15-day blackout in May and June, they still brought bills. I have decided not to pay any bill, till I see a significant improvement in power supply,” he said.
Another resident in Apo District in Abuja, Okeke Jacob, said he is connected to a single-phase metered line. He said he had not had power for over a week, but added that he was not too sad about it as he was not paying for the outage.
But for Mrs Mary Bello, a businesswoman in Nyanya, another suburb of Abuja, the tale is sad. She is under the commercial class of electricity users implying higher bills.
“How can we continue to pay over N15,000 monthly without having electricity. My freezers are not being powered by electricity, I had to fuel my generators and I am losing a lot. It is not fair that there is no power, yet government and the private operators force us to pay bills,” she said.
The tale of the crumbling electricity supply is the same across the country – from Enugu to Ibadan, Kaduna to Lagos. Ibadan Disco in its weekly power update of June 20 to 26, said it received and distributed only 17 per cent of what should be its allocation.
The Disco said instead of 968.6mw, it got 167.02mw from the NSO and shared it across Oyo, Ogun, Osun and Kwara states.
Responding to the poor supply situation across Abuja and neighbouring states, spokesman for Abuja Disco, Malam Ahmed Shekarau told Daily Trust on Sunday that: “Our allocation has been around 140mw following a nationwide drop in generation. This is far less than our baseline, which is 450mw. This has been a major challenge and a lot of our customers would have noticed series of disruption.
“Whenever there is a system collapse, it takes long for the system to become normal and as the systems begins to pick up, then another collapse occurs. This drags us backwards. We appeal to our customers for understanding, as it is vital to let them know what the issues are”. On the short term approach to improving power supply, the ministry recently said the about 855million standard cubic feet per day (mmscsfd) of gas is expected to be added to the domestic gas supply in few months and 70 per cent of it will be dedicated to power supply.
The Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and International Oil Companies (IOCs) are expected to complete four gas projects, soon to achieve that.
The minister, Mr Fashola at a recent interactive session in Abuja said the ministry was now focusing on increasing transmission of power through the completion of Kaduna – Kano – Katsina – Calabar – Ikot Ekpene transmission line this year.
He said repairs on the collapsed Ugwuanyi transmission line in Enugu State would be completed next month to add additional 1,000mw to the national grid. Fashola noted that the over five system collapses recorded this year, arose after the system was triggered off by shortage of power supply as a way of avoiding damage to it.
For the TCN, its management in a statement about power improvement strategies said three key transmission projects which could be completed within six months to improve power transmission and would raise its wheeling charges by over N700 million.
The public utility firm said the decision was reached last week at its management retreat in Abuja, where top officials brainstormed on achieving short term goals. The projects are the installation of a 60MVA, 330/132/33kV power transformer at the Ife transmission substation in Osun State which will add 48 megawatts (mw) to the transmission capacity.
The other involves the repair and installation of 60 defective 33kV circuit breakers which would enhance the grid wheeling capacity with 28,800mwh. Another project is the maintenance of the critical 330kV lines to ensure system stability, TCN said.