Opinion / Editorial

Active Citizen’s Investigation and Proposed Solution to the Perennial Electricity Shortage Problem in Nigeria -by Sunday Folayan

Sunday Folayan

Rev Sunday Folayan has written another interesting piece on proposed solution the perennial electricity shortage problem in Nigeria. Enjoy it…

This morning, I shall look at investigating and recommending solutions to one of the problems that is preventing industries from flourishing in Nigeria – Power. Does it really defile solution? No!

Should we give Fashola more time? No. It is beyond him! With due respect, A lawyer can just not deliver the complex solutions that will bring us steady power in Nigeria.

To make some progress, we must first un-bundle the Ministry of Power from Babatunde Raji Fashola as soon as possible. Let him focus on works and Housing. Nigeria is not saving money with a Bundled power management under Fashola, indeed we are wasting time on the march to steady power supply.

What you have been told are the problems preventing steady power include but are not limited to:
1. Old generation facilities
2. Falling levels of the Niger River
3. Not enough Generation Capacity
4. Cable Theft
5. Poor gas supply due to militants cutting Gas lines
6. Weak and ineffective transmission system
7. Power theft. Those who don’t pay bills

According to a recent news publication [1], Transmission Company of Nigeria is shopping for N2.3Trillion to effectively transmit 10,000MW. waste! right under the nose of Fashola!!

If you cannot see the waste, let me deconvolute it. N2.3tn for 10,000MW can be reduced to N2.3Bn for 10MegaWatts or N2.3m for 10KiloWatts. That is N230,000 for the power of and equivalent “I better pass my Neighbour” generators of 1Kilowatts which costs N40,000 on Konga [2] This is just for transmission alone, 5 times the cost of everyone having their own personal Generators?

Back to the basics, Power has three principal Components. Generation, Transmission and Distribution.

There are 22 Gas Power Generation plants in Nigeria [3] with a combined output of 11,500MW, and another 4 Hydro power plants with a combined output of 2,040MW making a total of 13,540MW.

Note that the peak demand forecast for Nigeria is 12,800MW. Makes me involuntarily repeat the cry of the ancient mariner [4] … Water Water Water every where, not any drop to drink. Generation is not an immediate crises but for comfort, we should be targeting about 50,000MW in the next 3 years.

Electricity transmission is done at very high voltage (which means very low current) to minimize losses. It is current that heats up the cables which leads to transmission losses. Transmission is at two levels. 330KV and 132KV. These powers are carried over Pylons. Those Power carriers that look like Communication masts. They are self-protecting. Difficult to climb, moving near them is instant death and of course, if stolen, who will buy them? The transmission problem is that The thermal generation plants are located in the south of the country, generally near to the sources of gas, while the hydro generation plants are located further north at Jebba, Kainji and Shiroro. Distribution is split into 11 zones and the distribution networks comprise 33 kV, 11 kV and low voltage circuits [5].

It makes sense to:
1. minimize shipping power around by making each Generation station serve its catchment area
2. Build gas pipelines to locate more gas Generation systems close to where power is needed, not where Gas is available.

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In his road-map to steady electricity [6] BRF proposed to incrementally increase generation, but indeed, there is the need to surgically review the entire distribution arrangement.

The distribution system is a zoo. The Distribution Companies (DISCOs) are rent seekers, who are profiting from where they did not sow. The entire DISCO business is a paddy-paddy arrangement where the entire structures were handed over to private companies that are cronies of those in power when the entire allocation was done. It is a sad reflection of the endemic corruption in Nigeria.

Take Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company, (IBEDC) for example, whose Chairman is Dr. Olatunde John Ayeni [7] The same man relieved recently as Chairman of Skye Bank [8] with insider trade abuses that will make you cringe. He is also reported to be the highest debtor to FCMB Bank [9]. When debtors run our power systems, will they not bring them down like they brought down the banks?

What about the Electricity Regulatory Commission? It is also a den of corruption, as was widely reported last year [10]. Apart from the Multi-Year Tariff Order that seeks to make you pay more, have you seen a systematic way to ensure compliance or to fine any DISCO as NCC periodically fines telecom operators? No! NERC is docile.

For there to be stable Electricity, the distribution concessions need to be revisited. We must reclaim the heritage from those who hot them illegally. The existing system is a complete testimony to corruption in high places, It cannot work.

So what can work? BRF proposed incremental generation [6] as the panacea that will take us out of the woods. That is a part of the solution. What he did not hit upon is the economics of doing just this, and the means of raising the money. Government is broke!

A systematic and workable approach will be to
1. Harness Wind, Solar and Micro Hydro energy in addition to Gas.
2. Locate the plants closest to consumption.

As an example, Olumirin Water Fall in Erin-Ijesa, Osun State can provide the entire electricity needed by that community using Hydro Turbines.

The Maiduguri and Katsina plains are sufficiently hot all year round to make large capacity Solar plants very efficient and suitable for use there, instead of shipping power all the way from Shiroro.

Similarly, The Lagos Ocean Shorelines can be populated with high power Wind Turbines [11], that will immediately service the commercial nerve center, freeing the gas powered system for use inland. These wind turbines cost in total, Circa N600m for 1MW [12]. This means that N2.3tn will Generate up to 3,800MW from Wind alone!

Now, imagine if this money is provided by the equipment vendors, and they run the DISCOs so that they can recoup their investment within a stipulated time, what has Nigeria lost in such an arrangement?

As an aside, With all the Nigerian Engineers plying their trades in Nigeria or in the diaspora, must we buy wind turbines? Would it not make sense to build these turbines? Let me state confidently that … Yes it does.

For those muttering … SF, where are you coming from? The pulpit again??

Yes, but before then, I got a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from the great University of Ilorin, and eminently qualified to state all of the above.

Good Morning!



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