Nigeria’s power production reached an all-time peak of 7,001 MW, on on September 12 this year (2017).
An indication that Africa’s largest economy now has the capacity to produce more power than it can distribute.
But latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has indicated that investments in transmission capacity are growing while generation is declining.
This situation has meant that the national grid that coordinates eight transmission regions with 183 substations from a control centre in Oshogbo has over 2000MW idle capacity as generation from Nigeria’s 25 power plants slows.
The NBS report also showed that in the three months ending June 2017, Nigeria’s 25 power plants generated a paltry 2,503MW of electricity and that current generation capacity hovers around 4,000MW.
Speaking recently at a forum, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, stated that, “Under the Buhari Administration, the grid has expanded to 6,200 MW because we have completed transmission stations in places like Ikot Ekepene, Okada, Alagbon, Ajah, Katampe, Sokoto and awarded many more in places like Damboa, Pankshin, Osogbo, Kumbotso, Odogunyan to mention a few.”
“As at August 10, 2017, 6803MW was recorded as the current available generating capability, with a wheeling capacity of 6700MW by TCN, currently constrained by DisCos inability to take load,” the communique read.
“This is in line with incremental power policy with improvements from TCN improving the wheeling capacity from 5000MW to 6700MW.”
Commenting further, the minister said the Federal Government was doing its best to ensure improvement in electricity supply.
“Government has embarked on serious expansion of transmission capacity with some power plants already completed, while others have reached advance stages of completion,” he said.
He also assured support for any state willing to be involved in generation and distribution of electricity, adding that there was no monopoly in the business of electricity generation and distribution and that state governments and big companies could also involve in the business.
“Large power consumers like government and big manufacturing companies can engage in power supply business. All they need to do is to secure permit from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC),” he explained.
But, according to Mr. Chuks Nwani, an energy lawyer and vice president of PowerHouse International, an energy advisory, “The taste of the pudding is in the eating. It is easy for the government to claim they have raised transmission capacity when there is no gas to test the veracity of the claims.”
However, Kareem Jibril, who handles power sector research at Ecobank sees it differently, “it is ideal that transmission capacity is higher than power generated. Therefore there is nothing unusual about the fact that both figures don’t match.”
Analysts say the challenge is that there seems not to be commensurate efforts at ramping up generation even as transmission improves.
“Some of the power plants in the country now lie idle because the operators shut them down rather than incur further losses from gas suppliers whose debts are not settled,” said Nwani.
Another challenge, expert say, is the high system frequency constraints, which is mostly due to the inability of Discos to take power from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). There is also no investment in faulty or out-of-service turbines, which are often shut down for repairs or maintenance.
“The only strange thing is the seeming inability to address the high system frequency issues arising from loss of Disco feeders,” said Odion Omonfoman, an energy consultant and the CEO of New Hampshire Capital Ltd.
However, investment in transmission capacity expansion is not coming cheap. According to a project information document obtained from the World Bank website, the cost of the 22 priority projects identified in the Power Sector Recovery Implementation Programme (PSRIP) to upgrade existing transmission capacity from 5,500MW to 7,000 MW by 2021 would cost $490 million.
While Nigeria has installed generation capacity of 11,800MW comprising 1,400MW of hydro and 9,000MW of gas-fired power plants, available capacity ranges between 3000 to 5000MW. Huge generation capacity remains stranded due to gas supply constraints. Sabotage of petroleum export infrastructure in 2016 has further curtailed the supply of associated gas used in power production with the result that average operating capacity in early 2017 was only about 3.5 GW.