Recently, there has been a relentless drumbeat about load rejection, with the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) as the principle culprits in this practice. Unfortunately, much of the information provided on this issue seems to be mischievous or misinformation. While we readily appreciate the fact that a lot of work and investment does need to go into the distribution network, if we are to move in the direction of the result that all Nigerians desire – 24/7 electricity supply – using valuable time and effort in painting a picture that is incomplete or that misrepresents the facts will not get us there.
The reality is that most DisCos have Station Capacity that is higher than the energy allocation from grid. DisCos have in the past three years, since the privatisation, and despite the liquidity constraint, managed to distribute the very insufficient energy wheeled to their network areas, by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), to their customers, albeit, with a balance of load shedding that is necessary to prevent failure of the entire network.
The facts and figures of energy allocation to DisCos are there for everyone to see, but what has happened is the inaccurate rendering or misinterpretation by the System Operator of DisCos’ minimum and maximum load readings. The System Operator in its recent allegation of load rejection against DisCos wrongly projected the load drop/demand, during off-peak hours (night times) as load rejection. This is not, and cannot be labelled as load rejection by DisCos. Naturally, DisCos take and distribute more energy during the day time/business hours than night time when demand is generally low due to lesser demand. The unfair interpretation off-peak energy data as load rejection is grossly inaccurate and misleading.
The occasional times DisCos have been unable to distribute energy received are directly due to the inadequate TCN infrastructural interface with the Discos. Take the case of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), in 2015 TCN jointly conducted Distribution Stress Test with IBEDC and the Test report revealed that IBEDC has Station Capacity of 1538.5 MW, a Stress Peak of 734.6 but, regrettably, a Withheld Capacity of 803.9MW directly caused by TCN’s undersized 132kV line conductors at Ayede/Sagumu/Ijebu-Ode 132kv line, aged indoor breakers and transformer capacity limitations (Ibadan North with overloaded 2X60 MVA, as well as in Shagamu) to mention a few.
Just like IBEDC, the Distribution Stress Test reports of most DisCos revealed average Station Capacity Utilisation of less than 50% mainly due to TCN infrastructural constraints. Yet, despite these constraints DisCos, on the average, have continued to take in more actual energy than their MYTO allocation percentages. This information is verifiable from the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading, Plc., (NBET) invoices to DisCos. Furthermore, for instance, a review of the National Control Centre (NCC)’s reports for the week September 3rd, 2017 would indicate that transmission Frequency constraints constituted the biggest impediment to the flow of energy.
Of note are the DisCos’ legitimate concerns of TCN’s need to stop the indiscriminate load dumping to impractical network areas that make distribution inefficient, unviable and impracticable for technical and commercial efficiencies, due to poor infrastructure construction, substandard materials and inefficient reckless approvals of grid extensions for political considerations and interference during the days of NEPA/PHCN.
As indicated by Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, in its Thisday, September 12th, 2017 response to load rejection claims, “…TCN must know that the DisCos are its customers and it must supply power to where the DisCos need it most and not where it is convenient to it (TCN). Sometimes, there is misplacement of priority which we want TCN to address. It does not serve the interest of the public nor the industry for power to be sent where there is no demand for it”.
DisCos are working hard to improve their networks, and they continued to strive for network infrastructural expansion, despite the liquidity burden that they carry for the value chain. As such, it is expected that, similarly, TCN should ramp up the upgrade of its infrastructures, after decades of underinvestment and inefficiency, to significantly reduce the prevalent forced outages it causes the DisCos and Nigerians. While the one-time attainment of wheeling 5,072MW in February 2, 2017 is a small start, there remains a lot of work to be done for transmission to cease to be the bottleneck and weakest link of the electricity value chain.