DISCOs: TCN Responsible for National Grid Collapses

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Chineme Okafor in Abuja

Electricity distribution companies (Discos) in Nigeria yesterday blamed the frequent collapse of the national grid on Transmission Company of Nigeria’s (TCN) lack of standard power protection equipment at its transmission substations.

The Discos, in a statement in Abuja by their umbrella body, the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), slammed the TCN for the poor showings of the grid, stating that “poor transmission network protection” was responsible for the nine system collapses recorded so far in 2019.

On Sunday, the national grid experienced another system collapse barely 43 days after the previous incident.

The TCN on that occasion said the Discos were responsible for the collapse because they rejected electricity loads allocated to them.

However, ANED in the statement, which was signed by its Director of Research and Advocacy, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, said the Discos regretted the unfortunate accident that occurred on Sunday at TCN’s Benin substation, which left Nigerians in blackout for hours.

“The Discos remain available to offer their technical assistance to TCN, to ensure that our valued customers do not remain in darkness,” it said.

It added that the failure of the TCN Benin substation was the second of such occurrence in the same city within a year.

The Discos said they had records of the trend in burnt transmission stations and failed transmission substations of the TCN in Lagos, Calabar, Abuja, Enugu and Onitsha as at May 8, 2019, which they alleged were caused by inadequate transmission protection mechanisms and procedures.

They also expressed displeasure over TCN’s practice of arbitrary load dumping on them whenever it had challenges managing energy on the grid. This, they added caused commercial and technical problems to them.

According to them, these alleged deficiencies of the TCN were captured in a July 2017 System Adequacy Report published by the Independent System Operator, a department of the TCN.

ANED said a properly protected transmission system would isolate faults but “unfortunately, the resultant effect is that we have experienced the ninth total black out in Nigeria this year – five times in January, once in April, twice in May and once in June – a rate of transmission failure that is in excess of one blackout per month – far beyond any international standard.”

It also added that over 100 partial and total transmission system collapses have been recorded since the sector was privatisatised in 2013.

The Discos said rather than trading blame, the TCN should focus on realising actual delivery of its acclaimed 8,100 megawatts (MW) wheeling capacity.

“The current figure is based on nothing more than a computer simulation,” the Discos added.

It urged the TCN to address its radial transmission network for better power delivery, and procure the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) to monitor the grid and trace system collapse faults.

According to ANED, the Managing Director of the TCN, Mr. Usman Mohammed, in 2018, had agreed that a functional SCADA system would show clearly activities on the grid.

On the $4.3 billion investment the TCN said would be required by the Discos to upgrade their networks, ANED said they were regulated by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), and as such not allowed to invest more than $150 million per year or $13.6 million per Disco annually.

“However, this cannot happen unless such related funding is allowed in the regulatory framework. We believe that it is only when all NESI’s stakeholders decide to work together that we will be able to anticipate and solve these unfortunate events,” ANED added.