Nigeria’s Stagnant Electricity Output

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Despite what seems like the best efforts of the present administration to achieve its target of 10,000MW of electricity output by 2019, power generation has remained largely stagnant, hovering at an average 4,500MW since December 2012, Ejiofor Alike reports

Barely a year after assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 toed the footsteps of the successive Peoples Democratic Party-led administrations by setting a power generation target of 10,000 megawatts for his administration by 2019.

At a two-day retreat of the National Economic Council (NEC), President Buhari noted that the country’s power infrastructure had continued to fail despite the reform in the sector and pledged to increase generation to 10,000MW within three years.

“Nigerians’ favourite talking point and butt of jokes is the power situation in our country. But, ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer a laughing matter. We must and by the grace of God, we will put things right,” President Buhari reportedly told NEC in a keynote address in the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja

He further added: “In the three years left for this administration, we have given ourselves the target of 10,000 megawatts distributable power. In 2016 alone, we intend to add 2,000 megawatts to the national grid.

“In our determination to change, we must and will, Insha Allah, put a stop to power shortages.”
President Buhari hinged his optimism to achieve the 10,000MW target to his administration’s determination “to fast-track completion of pipelines from gas points to power stations and provide more security to protect gas and oil pipelines.”

Pre-May 29, 2015 generation level
Since December 21, 2012, when generation first hit an all-time high of 4,402.2 megawatts, Nigeria’s power generation has remained below 5,000MW.
After hovering around 4, 200MW, it hit a new peak of 4,500MW on April 3, 2015 but on March 30, 2015, disruption of gas supply forced generation to drop to 2,800MW.

A week before former President Jonathan handed over, electricity generation had dropped to an unprecedented low of 1,327 megawatts at exactly 12 noon on Friday, May 22, 2015 as most key power plants in the country, including those located at Utorogu, Chevron Oredo, Oben gas-fired power plants, were all shut down.

The then Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali, had blamed the strike by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG), for the poor supply.

“The overall effect is that power supply which had started picking up steadily since the beginning of the week following repairs of various vandalised portions of the Escravos Lagos Pipeline and the Trans-Forcados Gas Pipelines, has fallen to all-time-unprecedented low of 1,327 megawatts was at 1.00 p.m. May 22, 2015,” Igali reportedly said.

“With the strike, which has gone on for one or two days, there is a dramatic turn in the level of power supply in the country, with the level going down to the all-time low level of 1,327 megawatts,” he said.
“So, if you look at it from 4,800 MW level it was until recently, there is a dramatic turn, the loss is terrible,’’ he added.
It was this low generation in May 2015, which was caused by a temporary disruption of gas supply that created the erroneous impression that the present administration inherited only 3,000MW when it took over.

Under this administration, Nigerians witnessed the same experience on January 4, 2017 when the Transmission Company of Nigeria, (TCN) raised the alarm that power generation dropped from 4,959 megawatts to 2,662 megawatts.
The implication of that temporary drop in power supply on January 4, 2017 was that if the country had elected a new administration that took over on January 5, another misleading impression would have been created that the new regime inherited 2,662MW from this administration.
TCN had attributed the drop in power generation on January 4, 2017 to low water levels at the hydro power stations and dearth of gas to the power generating companies.

Today, the total installed capacity of the hydro and gas-powered generation plants is 11,165.40MW, representing an improvement, compared to the 10,000MW in May 2015.
The available capacity, which can be generated if gas and water are available, has also increased from 6,100MW in May 2015 to 7,139.60MW
Though the TCN claimed to have a capacity to transmit 7,000MW, its operational capacity is only 5,500MW at the moment.

Unrealised targets
Two years down the line, electricity supply has not improved significantly beyond what this administration inherited due to the protracted challenges, which also defied the efforts of the previous administrations.
To realise the 10,000MW target by next year, President Buhari had committed to “to fast-track completion of pipelines from gas points to power stations and provide more security to protect gas and oil pipelines.”

Indeed, this administration had enjoyed a honey moon with no attacks on gas pipelines within the first six months of the administration.
This had stabilised power generation between 4,000 and 4,500MW for most part of 2015, and also enhanced this administration’s capacity to hit a new peak of 4,883.9MW on Monday, November 23, 2015.
The improvement in generation hit an unprecedented height on Wednesday, February 2, 2016, when Nigeria generated 5,074.7MW of electricity, the first ever in the history of Nigeria’s power sector.

However, this improvement was due to the solid foundations of power projects laid by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which former President Goodluck Jonathan constructed.
Apparently aware that this current government had at that time not built any infrastructure to boost power supply, Nigerians had attributed the relative stability in power supply to the ‘body language’ of President Buhari.

However, barely 12 days after the 5,074MW peak, supply dropped below 3,000MW, which was blamed on the attacks on the Forcadoes subsea pipeline by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
It was after one year when the pipeline was repaired that power supply stabilised again around 4,000 -4,500MW range, which was first attained before the private investors took over the assets in November 2013.
Since the power assets were handed over to the private sector in November 2013, there has not been any quantum leap in power generation.
On December 18, 2017, the country attained another milestone when power generation and transmission peaked at 5,222.3 megawatts.

This feat was achieved after two electricity generation milestones of 5,155.9MW and 5,074.70MW were reached on December 8, 2017 and February 2, 2016, respectively.
However, these milestones were attained just for few hours before power generation dropped and stabilised at pre-5,000MW levels, with the lowest generation below 4,000MW daily.
In recent months, the power situation has not changed significantly in terms of actual delivery to homes and businesses.

Between January 9 and February 15, for instance, the power situation did not show remarkable improvement from what it was some years back, in terms of daily average generation.
Also the collapse of the system has been as frequent as during the pre-privatisation years when the then Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji alleged that the frequent system disturbances were acts of sabotage engineered by the former PHCN workers, who were opposed to the sale of the power assets.

For instance, the grid collapsed six times within a period of eight days between January 1 and 8, 2018.
The power generation crashed from 3,667.5 megawatts on January 1, 2018, to 5.0MW on January 2, while the second grid collapse occurred on January 3, as power generation on that day was 51MW.
On January 5, the grid collapsed for the third time to 107MW, while three other grid collapses were recorded on January 6, 7 and 8, as the country’s power generation dropped to 173MW, 164.2MW and 72MW, respectively.

Chief Executive Officer of TCN, Mr. Usman Mohammed had stated that to prevent frequent system collapse, there was a need for adequate investment in order to stabilise the grid.
“There are certain things that need to be put in place for us to have grid stability and one of them is that we need to put in adequate investment. One of the key investments that we need to do quickly is that we need to build another line between Benin and Omotosho. When we do that, we think that we will be able to stabilise the grid, because 70 per cent of the instability we have is between Lagos and Benin. This, of course, is because we have so many generation stations located on that axis,” he reportedly added.

Apart from the frequent system disturbances, actual generation has also remained stagnant, with occasional cyclic rise and drop.
For instance, on January 9, the peak generation was 3,774.3 and the lowest generation was 164.2MW – abysmally low to collapse the system.

The January 10 peak was 4,932.7MW while the lowest output was 72MW.
On January 11 and 21, the peaks were 4,623.2MW and 4,671.5MW, while the lowest generations for the two days were 3,686.8MW and 3,897.4MW, respectively.
In the month of February, the peak generation on February 1 was 4,699.9MW, while 3,673MW was the lowest output.

The power sector also recorded 4,494.6MW as the peak on February 5 and 3,641MW as the lowest.
On February 12, generation peaked at 4,376.1MW, while 2,913MW was the lowest generation.
There was a significant rise in the peak generation on February 15, which was 5,047.1MW but this quickly dropped to 3,678.8MW, bringing the average daily figure to what it used to be in the other normal days.
The present administration has also recycled the excuses of the past administrations that when power supply improves, government will attribute the feat to improved gas supply and better management of water at the hydro stations but when supply drops, the old excuses of sabotage and liquidity crisis are re-echoed.