By Bernard Ebelechukwu
There is a consensus among Nigerians on the inadequacy of power supply. With a population of over 180 million, Nigeria needs no less than 18,000 MW to electrify every home, and about 50,000 MW to achieve uninterrupted power supply.
The Federal Government has, over the years, invested a huge chunk of money in the power sector, without a commensurate yield. In the early 2000s the Federal Government began a holistic power sector reform that saw the introduction of policies and initiatives to drive an accelerated sector reform. While some of them failed or fell short of expectation, some initiatives have proven successful. One of such successful initiatives is the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC).
NDPHC is a company incorporated and co-owned by the Federal, State and Local Governments, with a mandate to oversee the National Independent Power Projects (NIPP). The NIPP is a project conceived by the Federal Government to address the issue of insufficient power, by building independent power stations across the country.
NDPHC may not have the magic wand to immediately solve the electricity needs of consumers in its catchment areas, but it has recorded some milestone that have now put the nation on the clear path to uninterrupted power supply. Because of its relatively quiet operational methodology, some have asked the question: what exactly is the role of NDPHC in the country’s power equation? NDPHC has continued to fulfil its role as a catalyst in bridging the power infrastructure deficiency that has continued to hinder development in other productive sectors in the country. With more than 10 power plants with designed ISO capacity of 5,067MW, the NDPHC can boast of over 4015MW, representing about 80 per cent of its targeted capacity. At the pace the company is going, it is only a matter of time before it achieves of full capacity.
NDPHC has built substations across various locations in the Niger Delta zone. These include the 55km long Alaoji Substation; Ikot Ekpene Substation 330kV; a Double Circuit line built to evacuate power from the NIPP Power Plant located at Alaoji. Also in the kitty is the 70.3km long Calabar Substation to Ikot Ekpene Substation with 330kv Double Circuit line built to evacuate power from the NIPP Calabar Power Plant. Starting with the commissioning of the 330kv Switching Station built under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP).
The unique thing about NDPHC’s intervention in the power sector is its multi-lateral approach to tackling the seeming perennial problem of inadequate power in the country. This is manifest in the fact that NDPHC is working round the clock to complete the 162km long Ikot Ekpene to Ugwuaji 330kv Double Circuit Line 2, which is designed to evacuate all power arriving at Ikot Ekpene to the grid at Ugwuaji. It is important to note that the 12 circuit Ikot Ekpene 330kV Switching Station serves as the control and switching hub for receiving generated power from four generation locations at Calabar, Alaoji, Afam and Ikot Abasi and for flowing all such power to the grid via the 330kV Double Circuit lines to Ugwuaji and the rest of the grid connecting Makurdi in Benue State and Jos in Plateau State. But for an unexpected delay in funding, these projects would have taken off earlier.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive of NDPHC, Mr. Chiedu Ugbo states that in spite of the fact that the projects started at the commencement of the NIPP programme in 2006 were disrupted by inadequate funding particularly in 2008, he is optimistic that realistic progress would be made going by the progress of works at the various sites. Ugbo noted that the resolution of clashes among members of the host communities which also contributed to the delay with protracted court cases rekindled hope and fired the NDPHC to speed up work on the projects.
Months after the commissioning, the projects are energised and smoothly operating at full capacity without any significant interruption. For instance, the Ikot Ekpene substation was successfully energised from both Alaoji and Calabar power plants and has since been evacuating power to Ugwuaji, Makurdi and further up to Jos. Interestingly, Calabar Power Plant has been running two units simultaneously for two years, with 1200MW evacuation line in place through Ikot Ekpene. This feat is the first power flow along the Eastern flank axis, marking the beginning of the end of stranded power constraints in the southern and eastern axis of the grid. It also marks the beginning of a more robust transmission grid that will no longer collapse in case the only export line pre-existent to this time – the Alaoji – Onitsha 330kv Single Circuit line trips. The implication is that better grid stability is now firmly in place and electricity consumers in these areas are better for it.
It is also important to note that two more lines have since been joined to the station. The 65km 330kv Double Circuit line to Afam by Cartlark International and the second 162km 330kv Double Circuit line to Ugwuaji have been completed. With the Ikot Ekpene 330kV Switching Station joined to these lines, a combined 2,400MW evacuation facility has been added to the grid.
The NIPP Generating stations in Calabar and Alaoji, with a combined installed capacity of over 1100MW, have since been connected through this corridor, to the grid. These stations have already commenced flowing power to the nation with available generation capacity since 2016. With these links in place therefore, a significant increase in generation levels has been attained through the expanded wheeling capacity, provided by the transmission corridor and grid backbone.
From all indications, the NDPHC has come to stay as a veritable platform for enhanced power supply in the South-South and export to the North link through its interconnecting lines. Although not one to blow its trumpet, there is no doubt that the NDPHC has worked assiduously towards achieving the targets set for it by the Buhari administration. Through efficient management, the NDPHC has ensured increased reliability of the national grid, as heavily loaded lines have been relieved of excess burden even as more paths are being created to take care of contingencies that may arise within the catchment areas.
The NDPHC is also expanding its portfolio, to provide power through solar to Nigerians, particularly in the rural areas. Ugbo observed that about 70 million Nigerians in rural communities are not connected to the grid and are therefore denied access to electricity. According to him, NDPHC will be actively involved in the process of bringing power to these rural communities, thereby stimulating social and economic activities in communities located off the grid.
Ugbo said, “Under the first phase of the programme, NDPHC will deploy about 20,000 units of solar home systems to the underserved rural communities with no access to grid electricity supply. NDPHC has deployed 200 units of the SHS as pilot programme here in Wuna, in the Federal Capital Territory.”
“The beneficiaries of the 20,000 units are among the already identified communities of the nineteen (19) Northern States of the Federation. The units will be deployed within a period of twelve (12) months. In order to vigorously drive this initiative, NDPHC engaged Azuri Technologies Group/Azuri Solar Power Nigeria Limited in July 2016. They are to ensure that the first phase of the initiative is achieved within 12 months.
“The NDPHC adopted a community-based approach that will allow the rural low-income dwellers an opportunity to participate in this project. This approach allows a monthly payment for energy and also acquisition of the SHS unit after a certain period of time”.
To underscore the commitment of the NDPHC to the solar project, a new department has been set up to drive the initiative. The company’s solar project is also directed at auditing and re-activating 1,073 solar powered boreholes. Already, two of these boreholes, located in the Wuna community, were the first to be repaired. The boreholes have been providing access to clean water for the community. The community is now enjoying a more efficient system against the use of time consuming manual pumps.
Furthermore, NDPHC installed a solar system at a community school in Wuna, with about 250 pupil population. The NDPHC is using this launch as an opportunity to demonstrate the uses of renewable energy by providing lighting and power to the pupils in the school. The facilities, Ugbo noted, are still operational as at today.
In order to ensure that inadequate gas infrastructure does not affect fuel supply to the power plants, the NDPHC initiated and constructed 7 gas conditioning and metering facilities along several kilometers of pipelines to facilitate gas delivery to these plants. Out of these, only the Egbema gas metering station is yet to be delivered, with construction level above 85% and awaiting commissioning. Most of the completed facilities have been handed over to the Nigerian Gas Company, which is the statutory body to manage the gas facilities.
For maximum effect, the management is focused on concluding the privatization process of the ten NIPP generating power plants. The three power stations of Calabar, Geregu and Omotosho are being concluded as a first phase. Specifically, this process will continue with the conclusion of the rest of the plants slated. Preferred bidders for these plants have already emerged for 80% share sales. All these strategies are designed to enable the management complete all the on-going projects under the current NIPP phase, thus delivering uninterrupted power to Nigerians.
In a similar vein, the management is also planning the completion of Gbarain power station by firing the second unit to bring available capacity to 225MW as well as completion of Alaoji Combined Cycle Phase. This will bring additional capacity of 270MW with one block steam Cycle.
Like any other organisation, the NDPHC is also faced with daunting challenges that tend to slow down its schedule of operations. Liquidity limitation in the sector (market debt profile owed the company at over N105 billion as at last invoice); Slow pace of work by some contractors resulting in re-assignment of some projects; Vandalism of completed projects and transmission lines; Failure of DISCOs to provide Distribution Substation Operators (DSOs) to man completed substations as well as their failure to take over some completed injection substations; and Lackadaisical attitude of DISCOs to service customers from the Completely Self Protected (CSP) transformers, hence failure to utilise already handed-over High Voltage Distribution System, amongst others.
Despite the challenges however, Ugbo said the company would not be deterred in its mandate to complete all the on-going projects started by NDPHC and to deliver power to Nigeria. “We will keep faith with this national assignment”, declared the man that oversees the silent revolution by a company that works round the clock to put a physical reality to a promise by an administration that cannot afford to fail the millions of voters that believe in its ability to deliver and expressed it with the power in their thumbs.
–Ebelechukwu, a solar energy expert and public affairs analyst lives in Abuja