Addressing Power Supply Challenges in Nigeria

29 Mar 2013

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Managing Partner, Hemsac and Associates Limited, Sir Henry Domo-Spiff

Tackling the challenges of power supply in the country can be addressed with the execution of the right policies, says the Managing Partner, Hemsac and Associates Limited, Sir Henry Domo-Spiff, in an encounter with John Iwori

That the challenges in the supply of electricity power supply in Nigeria are enormous is an understatement. The fact that the present poor state of things in the energy sector of the economy is precarious and needs to be urgently addressed, is to say the least.
This explained why many analysts have asserted that if the challenges in the power sector are successfully tackled, Nigeria nay, Nigerians’ problems would be half way resolved. This is not unconnected with the fact that adequate electricity power supply to the nooks and crannies of Nigeria will go a long way in resolving most of the ills plaguing the country and ensure its socio-economic sustainable development.

Many have proffered solutions to the myriad problems plaguing the power sector. Nevertheless, Sir Henry Domo-Spiff seemed to have different perspectives to the issues at stake. This is understandable.
Domo-Spiff is not an ordinary Nigerian. He is an electrical engineer by profession. As the Managing Partner, Hemsac And Associates Limited, an Engineering Consulting Firm, Domo-Spiff is not an armchair engineer. He has a practical knowledge of what it takes to address the power supply challenge in the country. 
While flaying those who said it will take Nigeria another 20 years or more to have steady power supply, he opined that the country can have stable power supply in the nearest future through strict implementation of plans.

Planning Ahead
According to Domo-Spiff who is also a registered member of many professional societies, including the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), and the Nigerian Institution of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (NIEEE), the matter of power or electricity supply is sometimes to be taken as simple as the word implies.
Malcolm X in 1965 said, “Power never takes a back step only in the face of more Power”. If you don’t have Power can you fight Mohammed Ali or a great wrestler like “the Undertaker”? The same goes with electric power. If you do not have you cannot give. That is the main cause of continuous outage of power or cause of blackout in Nigeria as a whole.
Basically, we just do not have the power to give. Just like you need to practice and physically train and fit to have power to fight a boxer or wrestler, we need to plan far, far ahead to fight blackout. I believe lack of power planning is our major problem.

With a passion and a drive that is discernable to those who have come across to him in any forum, Domo-Spiff argued that the Mathematics of power is power system planning.
His words: “Power system planning will lead you to load flow study, short circuit study, transient stability, protection relay settings, reliability and earthing, capacitors or inductive load studies and how to achieve the number of stable state requires. Power system planning will also lead you to transmission and distribution lines study, including the design of transmission lines. With the advent of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, power system planning will be more interesting.

For example, Egbin Power Plant (mainly steam turbines) was planned to produce 2,000MW capacity in the early part of 1970s, up till now it is only producing above 1000MW. How can such a system work?
“Can anyone tell me the amount of power (maximum demand) of this country? Nobody knows, we all can only guess. Do you know why? Even if we know our connected load (allocated load by PHCN) we all cannot determine our maximum demand because of our suppressed load in this country.

Let us take our communication industry or GSM providers like MTN, Glo, Etisalat, Zain, Starcomms and so on. Do you think they installed two generators in each of their base stations for the fun of it? No! They installed two generators in each of their base stations, one on-duty and the other off-duty (standby). I was told in each of these base stations some have two 27KVA generators. Just imagine MTN right now has over 7,000 base stations, and Glo have over 3,000. Can you imagine the amount of installed load (generation power)?

What about our manufacturing industries such as the Eleme Petrochemical Fertiliser company, refineries, oil industries and so on? I know of a friend; since he established his company in Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, he has only used diesel generators to power his office everyday and PHCN as standby at the close of work.
I am sure there are many like that. They all will like to be connected to PHCN when we have steady supply. This is because the amount they spent on diesel and maintenance of generating power is awesome. What about the federal and state governments’ investments that steadily runs on generators? Just imagine the amount of money the federal, state and local governments are spending on diesel and maintenance of these generating sets.

“I tried to make a table of some countries in the world, against population, total installed power, conventional thermal power, nuclear power and renewable power which include hydro and non-hydro. Even if we have enough power generation, we need to plan for generation reserve. In the case of generation reserve, I recommend a minimum of 100 per cent, because if you plan for such a reserve and achieve 20 to 30 per cent, it is a pass in generation planning”.
He argued that power system study will also lead one to determine which system of power generation is suitable. Against the backdrop of arguments in some quarters that gas turbine is the final solution, Domo-Spiff said it is not true.

According to him, a gas turbine is basically a jet engine. It is, however, built so that most of the available power is produced in a rotating shaft rather than in thrust. A steam turbine uses steam produced in a boiler that can be heated by a variety of fuels such as gas, oil, and coal.
Steam turbines can be built very much larger than gas turbines and greater efficiencies can be realised. Gas turbines can be started up very quickly from cold, steam turbines cannot be loaded as fast, as gas intake takes a while to get the boilers up to temperature and pressure.
Gas turbines are good for situations where we need standby power generation or generation to cope with peak loads. Steam turbines are best suited to be for continuous generation of very large amounts of energy. Steam Turbines have longer life cycle and these days they have the combine cycle turbines.
He averred that power generation is a complex business and without considering load factor; capacity (KW) and energy (kWh); and fixed and variable costs, these comparisons are not legitimate for evaluating power generation technologies.

Transmission and Distribution Lines
Domo-Spiff, who bagged a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1977, was honoured the same year as the first degree holder of Nembe National Grammar School, Nembe, Bayelsa State. He pointed out that the grid system of transmission is good and the best, but if you do not have at-least three stable power states then it is useless. “That is the reason why we have system collapse every day in Nigeria.
Remember the Three Mile Island accident, which was a partial nuclear meltdown which occurred at the Three Mile Island power plant in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States on March 28, 1979. It was the worst accident in US commercial nuclear power plant history, and this resulted in the release of small amounts of radioactive gases and radioactive iodine into the environment.

The United States lost over 2000MW of power, but because they have adequate grid reserve and had seven stable system; the system did not collapse and they were able to within two days restore power to all over the United States of America.
It is only when we have known that we have design for enough installed power capacity that we can start to consider how to transmit the power. It is then we know whether we should transmit at 760KV or not. System planning is the key word towards power and until you have some stable system you cannot think of installing auto-reclosure and sectionalisers. Remember Nigeria installed the use of Auto-reclosure without sectionalisers and they all failed due to unstable power system.

As a way out of the malaise that has plagued the successful provision of steady electricity power supply in the country over the years, the electrical engineer, who is also a key player in Rotary International, opined that the Federal Government needs to invest not less than $10 billion annually for the next ten years to achieve what he called “reasonably improved power supply”.
According to him, “the more we delay, the more this vision evades us and the more expensive it becomes to achieve our vision. We need to massively increase our installed power capacity between 50,000 to 100,000 MW. It is only when we achieved that, then it make us to determine our maximum demand when most of suppressed load are added to the grid.
When our suppressed loads are added we will plan for at least five stable ‘power states’ and also plan for a grid reserve of up 100 per cent and possible installation of auto-re-closures and sectionalisers into our national grid.

Let us imagine the amount of money the Federal, States, and Local Governments are spending on diesel. What about our manufacturing, telecommunication, oil and oil servicing companies? What about private business like hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and private individuals?
He maintained that Nigeria’s privatisation exercises will not and cannot work until we have built and established our infrastructure on power.
He recommended a step by step approach to the challenges militating against steady electricity power supply in the country. He also pointed out the need to plan, approve and contract the installation of power plants up to the tune of between 100,000 to 200,000MW using mainly steam turbines with load factor up to 50 to 70 per cent in four, five or six locations all over the country.

Is that enough to get Nigeria, nay Nigerians from the malaise of poor electricity power supply?
While admitting that there is urgency in the setting of power plants across the country, Domo-Spiff’s response was an emphatic ‘No’!. He insisted that a lot still needs to be done to redress the rot in the sector.
He noted that steady power supply requires not only adequate installed capacity but also the planning of how to transmit the power and how to achieve and sustain as many stable electricity states as possible.
He explained that there was need to simultaneously set up a system planning company or a department to plan for the best way to export this power and achieve at-least five stable ‘power states’.

“It is completely unacceptable for a country like Nigeria running a power system without a single stable state and that has led to continuous system failure all over the years. This Department requires all necessary hardware and software (Bentley recommended) to carry out load-flow study, transient stability study, design of transmission and studies associated with power systems.
“This department will subsequently advise on the use of power simulators, capacitor or reactor banks, re-closures sectionalisers and so on. System Planning is a continuous and powerful process.

“Then and only then can we privatise our distribution companies. Even then the distribution companies should have the right to generate, distribute and sell electric power. How can it work when they do not have authority to generate and sell power? Thank God the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has pronounced that these companies can now generate and sell power, but we still need legislation from the National Assembly to back that pronouncement”, he said.
He contended that nobody should compare the success of the telecommunication with power, pointing out that although they are electricity related, they are two completely different subjects in terms of planning, supply and distribution.

According to him, while the telecommunication industry have the “God-given” air or atmosphere to transmit or transport signals, in the power industry you require cables (Aluminium, ACSR, Cupper cables), towers or poles, Insulators, Distribution Sub-Stations,  brackets, among other things to transmit power.

He maintained that “we should continue to install more and more power plants especially at locations were the fuel such as gas and coal are available until we determine what he called “maximum demand” in the country. He wondered why some people think that the private investors will solve our power supply problems “We are both selling and mortgaging our future in their hands”, he said.

Tags: Business, Featured, Nigeria, Power Supply

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