Rafat Salami, Abuja


Electricity or energy is at the heart of all modern development indices, across nearly all sectors and is universal to every country.


Until the system collapse of Tuesday the 2nd of January 2018, which plunged Nigeria into total black out, the country had enjoyed relatively stable electricity. Generation reached a peak-on-grid capacity of 7000 Megawatts. Of this quantity, only 5,000MW could be distributed, leaving 2,000MW stranded and unused.


For a fact, the generated 5,000MW was a huge relief to Nigerians as it represented a marked improvement on the 3,000MW distributed in 2016, which was gradually improved upon in 2017.


However, in January of 2018, the Nigerian Gas Processing and Transportation Company Limited suffered a fire incident on one of its major gas pipelines – the Escravos Lagos Pipeline System, EPLS. That incident caused by a bush fire, led to a disruption in gas supply to some generating companies, which sent shock waves through the interconnected electricity system and resulted in a total shut down of all other facilities, albeit briefly.


According to the Transmission Company of Nigeria TCN, the impact has now been mitigated and normalcy restored. TCN says as at January 11, 2018, generation averaged 4,061MW, up by 43.46MW from the previous day. The improvements in electricity are attributable to three key developments.


The first factor is that in addition to improved generation capacity, the country has witnessed a reduction in the number and frequency of system collapse, from 28 total and partial collapses in 2016, to 24 at the end of 2017. This has significantly raised hopes that the trend could continue throughout 2018.

Second, is the massive financial commitment to the power industry, particularly the 9.8 billion Naira earmarked for the Mambilla hydro power project to be completed in 2023 and the 12 billion Naira counterpart funding for transmission lines and substations and third, is the commissioning of 1,400MW Transformers under a Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, in different locations across the country.


All of these are expected to improve the quality of power supply before the end of January 2018. In 2017, 12 such transformers were installed and commissioned for use.


TCN also plans to increase the wheeling capacity of the National Grid from 7000MW to 9000MW. This project is within the scope of an ongoing conversation it opened with the World Bank in 2009, to use the balance under the 200 million dollars Nigeria Electricity and Gas Improvement Project-NEGIP, to procure urgently required conductors.


In the last quarter of 2017, the TCN secured 1.55billion dollars from multilateral donors to revive some projects and expand the grid to distribute the stranded 2,000MW electricity. TCN argues that putting a code line will enable it to carry up to 2,400MW capacity. There is another grant of 25 million Euros to support TCN on solar independent power plant evaluation.


With a projection of 9,000MW, the Nigerian government is in the process of fashioning a policy position to enable the expansion of distribution networks, which will in turn aid distribution companies to evacuate the stranded 2,000MW of electricity.


Without a doubt, Nigeria is slowly but surely increasing its generation and distribution capacity. To sustain and improve the tempo, government and stakeholders will necessarily need to ensure that all other components are effectively pegged in.


In this regard, Nigeria must as a matter of urgency, invest in technologies like the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, to automatically isolate failed segments, conduct computer simulations, identify possible areas of failures and establish safe operating levels to prevent cascading failures and system collapses.


As experts posit, the future of Nigeria’s energy efficiency and sustainability is gleaming in the horizon but the realisation lies in its ability to invest in and deploy appropriate energy technologies, where and when it matters.