As the Federal Government attributes the declining supply of electricity in the country to hasty privatisation, improper coordination in the power sector and inadequate tariff structure, the nation’s daily power generation has, again plunged to just below 1000MW. In 1999, power supply stood at about 1700 megawatts.
The Power Holding Company of Nigeria blames the current crisis on inadequate gas supply to fire the turbines in the power plants. The loss, the PHCN says, has impacted negatively on power supply, giving rise to load shedding nationwide.
Apart from Okpai power station commissioned last year, which is operating at 90 per cent capacity, the nine other plants, according to official sources, are operating at 30 per cent installed capacity. The government argues that most of the equipment in use have outlived their lifespan of 30-35 years, a major cause of the problems in the sector.
The government complains about the unbundling of PHCN into 18 units, which it says, has created a gap in supervision and made corporate governance difficult. The current crisis is also blamed on what officials call “undue emphasis on privatisation.”
In 1999, the Obasanjo administration had offered the same explanation to justify the epileptic supply of electricity. It later initiated several projects, including the Independent Power Projects (IPPs), which were expected to contribute about 3000MW to the national grid by 2007. It was the FG’s intention to increase the national electricity generation from 4,000MW in 2003 to about 10,000MW by 2010.
After more than eight years of government’s investment in the sector, it is regrettable that the nation’s installed power generation capacity has fallen to less than 1,000MW for a population of over 140 million people. For now, the nation’s short term demand is put at 8000MW but total generation capacity is 4000MW. Even at that, the hope of generating electricity above 4000MW this year is forlorn. For several reasons, including endemic corruption plaguing the power sector, a target of 10,000MW set for December 2007 was not achieved under the Obasanjo administration.
When Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua took his presidential oath on May 29th, power and energy was placed as number one on his seven point agenda. He promised to declare a state of emergency in the sector within the first 100 days in office.
In the past one year, Yar’Adua government has not gone beyond setting up panels to map out the way forward for the beleaguered sector. One of the panels has submitted its report on how to provide 6,000MW within the next 18 months. Another panel of experts has just been inaugurated to evaluate the cost implications of resuscitating and completing the abandoned integrated power plants across the country. Meanwhile, the power supply crisis becomes more dire by the day.
The Yar’Adua administration ran into problems when it began to reverse the little gains achieved in the sector by its predecessor. Wrong signals were sent when the privatisation of PHCN’s 18 unbundled units was suspended. The refusal to complete the power projects initiated under the Obasanjo administration also did not help the situation.
The government, however, has taken a right step by introducing the Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO) to bolster private sector participation in power supply. But it should move immediately to rehabilitate the existing power plants. The new IPPs initiated by the Obasanjo administration should be completed with the ultimate aim of privatising them.
To boost distribution, the plans to replace failed distribution transformers and their auxiliaries; construct new distribution injection substations; and upgrade critically overloaded injection substations should be fast-tracked. The power crisis which has been rightly recognised as an emergency should no longer be treated with lethargy.