*Cites political interference, outdated transmission/distribution infrastructure
Stakeholders in power sector have attributed the current epileptic electricity supply nationwide to Federal Government’s politicisation of the sector, frequent interference, partial application of rules and sanctions, and inability to fulfill its own part of the privatisation contract agreements.
The Stakeholders who spoke to The Guardian, maintained that Nigerians should not expect reliable and constant power supply for now even in areas connected to the national grid until the Federal government frees the sector of political interference, create enabling environment and allow market forces to drive the sector.
The implications of the current state of the sector include that socioeconomic activities, manufacturing, industrial as well as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) operations will continue to be hampered with attendant high cost of production incurred in seeking alternative energy sources.
The Executive Secretary of the Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC), Dr. Joy Ogaji and the Nigerian Campaign Director, Power For All, Ify Malo, spoke separately to The Guardian on why Nigeria may still continue to grope in darkness despite the huge resources said to have been invested in power sector.
Dr. Ogaji said that Nigeria will have a steady power when the government decides to completely remove politics from electricity and allow the regulator to do its work, then the electricity market will start thriving.
She listed among other hiccups, the outdated transmission lines/grid inability to evacuate generated power from the Generation Companies and the inadequate distribution infrastructure for the distribution of wheeled power to the end users.
She said: “But where the government is playing politics with it, if the regulator sanctions a particular company and if the company is related to a powerfully connected, they (Government) will call the regulator not to carry out that sanction within the market rule.”
Further, she alleged that government is fond of breaching its terms of contract with power Generation Companies (GenCos) through its company, Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc which has refused to keep to the terms of the agreement thereby rendering contracts ineffective.
She urged electricity consumers while calling for the reversal of the privatisation, to pause and ask the government if it has actually done its parts of the agreement, remaining the private companies to accomplish theirs.
The APGC Executive Secretary also said that currently, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) is ill equipped with transmission infrastructure capable of evacuating generated power just as the Distribution Companies (DisCos) are incapable of distributing the meager power wheeled to them.
In her words: “Now, Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) as you know is the weakest link in the power sector. We have capacity of 12,500 MW, plus we have expansion capacity that can double that.
“That means if we have a good grid network that can take the power, we can increase it to 24,000 MW. But how many Mega Watts can TCN take, maximum of 5,000 MW. The Distribution Companies (DisCos) cannot even take up to 5,000MW.
“So, the rest, how do we send it to you people and the industries? Is it through buckets? We cannot bottle it order wise we would have bottled it and sell it on the shelves.
“The regulator is not independent. There is lots of political interference on the regulator. Two, parties to the contract, especially the government part, is not keeping to the terms of the contract, for example NBET and TCN.
“Now, three, lack of monitoring and benchmarking. Who monitors the activities of DisCos while collecting money but they are not paying fully. And without money, how can the sector thrive, except government still want to invest in generation and distribution. If you have privatised that entity, allow the forces of market to drive it and remove your hands.”
On her part, the Nigerian Campaign Director, Power For All, Ify Malo, cited the poor and ageing grid system as one of the reasons for the frequent power outages.
She said: “Why can’t we explore how to address the obvious gaps in the system, by scaling up off-grid technologies that can serve the immediate needs of millions of Nigerians, and that are quicker and cheaper to deploy than technologies associated with our grid system, and that are more sustainable in the long run.
“Further-more, the nation’s distribution network needs to be restructured in some form. Either through the infusion of new capital or by getting the distribution networks to work with off-grid investors or commercial scale companies in the renewable energy sector to meet the needs of the underserved when it comes to power supply.”
She canvassed for deployment of distributed renewable energy for both the rural and peri-urban communities suffering from power outages.
Stressed that apart from the recently launched investment prospectus by the ministry of power, works and housing, and the long awaited mini-grid regulations by the regulator, government must ensure that the implementation of these targets, policies and regulation are adhered to.
At the time of filing the report, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Head of Public Affairs, Dr. Usman Arabi, was indisposed to comment on current problems affecting the power sector, when contacted through email and phone calls.