Stakeholders in the power sector believe that only steady electricity can guarantee economic growth and stimulate industrialisation. In this analysis, Kingsley Okoye of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) writes on the efforts being made by the government and key sector players to boost distribution.
WITHOUT steady power supply through effective electricity generation, transmission and distribution networks, turning the industrialisation plan of the Federal Government into reality may remain mirage for a very long time.
Reason: the three chains of generation, transmission and distribution have always posed serious challenges from the outset.
Observers note that long before the privatisation of the sector by the government, the challenges have lingered from the era of power managements under the defunct Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN), the National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) and Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) Plc.
In a move to tackle the challenges head-on, President Muhammadu Buhari set an agenda for the sector’s development with a road map for achieving uninterrupted power.
As of the last count, the Buhari administration has provided N701 billion payment assurance guarantee to operators to stimulate investment in the sector. The vote is among other interventions made by the government to reposition the sector.
According to the government, the fund has brought confidence to the production side of the power business. The Presidency explained that the intervention is partly responsible for the increased power production to 7,000 megawatts.
Available records also show that government’s action in transmission service expansion through Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has also increased transmission capacity to more than 5,000 megawatts to make power relatively steady.
Critics, nonetheless, observe that the feat recorded in power generation and transmission has not been fully replicated in the distribution chain.
The critics described as unfortunate that 2,000 megawatts of the power been generated are not being distributed due to inadequacy of distribution networks.
But, the Minister of Power, Works & Housing, Babatunde Fashola, insists that the incidents of total and partial grid collapse have reduced, preparing grounds for effective distribution.
He said: “The fact that we can produce more than 7,000 megawatts and put more than 5,000 megawatts on the grid means that we have 2,000 megawatts of unused power left.
“This is a new problem that we must resolve; we must get those 2,000 megawatts out to the people who need power.
“More power generation is coming in 2018 from power projects such as Gbarain Generation Company Ltd; 115 megawatts, Kashimbilla in Taraba; 40 megawatts, Afam III in Rivers; 240 megawatts, Gurara in Niger; 30 megawatts, Dadin Kowa in Gombe State; 29 megawatts and Kaduna; 215 megawatts, among others.
“All of these do not include mini-grids and solar systems that are in various stages of development.’’
The minister spoke of plans to ensure the distribution of the remaining 2,000 megawatts of power to industrial customers.
He said: “If we can produce 7,000 megawatts and we can only distribute about 5,000 megawatts, the problem has changed from lack of power to locating where the need is.
“It involves designing a solution that takes the balance of 2,000 megawatts to those who need it and can pay.
“We must act to build the bridge that connects this gulf of supply and demand; that bridge is a bridge of data and information about finding the location of the businesses and industries that need power and getting the 2,000 megawatts waiting for deployment.’’
Fashola’s explanation notwithstanding, analysts identify deficiency in distribution infrastructure, poor utilisation of existing distribution networks and inadequate power evacuation at newly completed Independent Power Projects (IPP) as reasons for the unutilsed 2,000 megawatts.
However, the Niger-Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) says it will help to improve distribution of electricity to consumers by embarking on the construction of distribution networks.
The NDPHC Managing Director, Chiedu Ugbo, said the company was developing 296 distribution projects across the country.
Ugbo said: “We also have to work with the government for the minister to make sure that we complete a number of our distribution projects.
“We have completed more than 20 distribution projects to improve the ability of distribution companies to take more power to the people.
“We have seven distribution infrastructures in Kogi and these are completed projects yet to be taken over by the distribution companies.
“We can’t leave this projects idle, the projects are being vandalised, some of the parts have been stolen, we need companies to start using this project to supply electricity to communities.’’
Besides the efforts by government agencies, the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANEDS) has been working to boost the electricity distribution network.
Despites, the various interventions, stakeholders in the electricity sector, are pushing for more efforts to further expand distribution infrastructure and make use of the unused energy.
They call on relevant agencies to give adequate attention to power generation, transmission and distribution to ensure steady power supply.