Evolving Renewables May Stabilise Electricity

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The federal government has invested billions of naira in the power sector mostly in the construction of gas-fired power plants. Only few of such investments have, however, been dedicated to diversifying the electricity source before 2016.

The 24 operational gas-fired plants are now being threatened by shortage of gas supply caused by vandalism, Daily Trust reports.

Data from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) indicates that only four (4) hydros exist among the 58 licensed Generation companies (Gencos).

Three of the hydros – Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro – are operational. The fourth, the 40mw Dadin Kowa hydro in Gombe State, and the first private hydro investment, is still ongoing. Another private investment in coal at the Ezuma Coal plant project in Itobe, Kogi State is also ongoing.

Further checks also reveal that the 70 per cent gas and 30 per cent hydro energy source at present are not the best for Nigeria. This is because other countries have diversified and sustained sources of power generation other than gas. For coal to power, Nigeria has zero but South Africa for instance has 93% of coal in its mix.

Poland has 87%, and China has 79% coal contribution to its power generation with the rest on hydropower. The Chinese Three Gorges hydropower dam alone generates up to 22,000mw and poses as a huge model for Nigeria, experts insist.

A report by the Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company in the United States notes that hydropower accounts for 20% of electricity source globally.

It provides 10% of the power in the US serving the needs of 28 million people. The country is the second largest producer of hydropower after Canada.

The present administration has identified the need to diversify the energy sources more than before as the attacks on pipelines supplying gas to these power stations rose to its worst level this year.

Then acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Waziri Bintube, had signed pacts with 14 firms that would construct solar power plants in nine states and generate 1,125mw into the grid.

 Mr. Bintube in an interview said the massive solar investment, worth N522 billion, was a revolution on diversifying the energy mix due to the present constraints on gas supply to the thermal stations.

He said Nigeria’s electricity supply presently relies on 86% gas-fired plants and 14% hydropower without any solar input, adding that it was coming at a time when gas supply was being challenged by vandals’ activities.

One of the firms, Nigeria Solar Capital Partners, said it was doing 135 megawatts (mw) plant in Ganjuwa LGA of Bauchi State valued at $200 million.

The managing director, Joel Abrams, in a briefing said the 15-month project will create 1,000 jobs in the state when the site work starts before June 2017, adding that solar was a quick alternative government is exploring now.

While these efforts have been at top speed presently, the nation has continued to rely on the three hydropower plants far more than the 24 gas-fired plants.

The first quarter national grid performance information released by the Nigeria System Operator (NSO) shows that the three hydros – Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro – were overstretched by contributing 26.57% of power generated in March when vandalism activities became more pronounced. Their contribution rose from the 22.54% obtained in the previous month.

The 760mw capacity Kainji station was built in 1968; the 570mw Jebba Hydro came next in 1985. The third hydro, also in Niger State, is the 600mw Shiroro hydropower which started operation in 1990.

Nigerians would have boasted of additional 3,700mw of hydropower to the present 3,000mw national grid had the 3,000mw Mambilla and 700mw Zungeru hydropower projects been completed.

Reacting, Mr. Amos Abaye, a Kogi-based energy analyst said government could declare an emergency in the power sector, and borrow money or engage private investors to complete the 13 medium hydro projects knowing that the investments would be recouped.

Apart from exploring solar and hydros, he also urged government to adopt the survey report of coal belts carried out by the Ministry of Power to revive the defunct Oji River Coal Power in Enugu State, and build others in Kogi, Benue and Gombe states where there is comparative advantage.

Source: Independent Energy Watch Initiative

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