TCN, Discos’ Fight May Worsen Power Supply Woes

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By Emmanuel Addeh

The frosty relationship between the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Distribution Companies (Discos) is taking its toll on the supply of electricity to Nigerians, THISDAY gathered yesterday.

Although the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) at the weekend waded into the crisis between both critical stakeholders in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), THISDAY gathered that many of the issues tabled during the meeting remained unresolved.

However, NERC, the sector’s regulatory agency, it was learnt, has decided to meet with the entire 11 distribution companies to sort out the rift between the transmission company, wholly-owned by the federal government and Discos.

A source privy to the weekend meeting, which followed the escalation of the altercation between the TCN and the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), told THISDAY that the continuous infighting within the industry had continued to worsen the electricity supply situation since there’s no synergy in the value chain.

The source who preferred to be anonymous because he wasn’t mandated to speak on the outcome of the meeting, noted that the cold relationship between the two organisations had continued to fester because the “TCN still behaves like the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) by trying to lord it over other stakeholders.”

It was gathered that many issues affecting supply lines in the country are left unresolved as power consumers are left to suffer because there is currently no coordination between the TCN and the Discos as a result of the blurring lines of communication.

The TCN, in a public outburst last week, called for the capitalisation of Discos to be able to carry out their functions, adding that if the authorities did not act fast and grow the capacity of the Discos, the entire power supply system might collapse soon.

But during the meeting with the regulatory agency, the Chairman of NERC, Prof. James Momoh, was said to have warned against the infighting in the sector and called upon both parties to find common grounds so as not to compound the problems in the industry.

On the decisions arrived at during the meeting, the source said: “It was basically to resolve the issues that both parties paraded in the public space, but NERC also said they are going beyond the AEDC as a Disco but will create a template for the 11 Discos. They are also going to investigate. The main report may come out after NERC has listened to other distribution companies.

“A couple of issues cropped up, including coordination, the fact that feeders also trip at the TCN and are left for a long time and also the replacement of materials.

“If transmission has lost a transformer – may be, a 100MVA transformer, that’s a big one to lose because it serves a lot of people. It goes off in flames; it means our customers are out of supply. So, there seems to be a blame game going on. But it also has to do with the structure of the industry.”

The source added that though the power sector has been privatised , it is still being treated as a ‘special MDA’, with the “TCN still behaving like an overlord over other stakeholders”.

He explained that though the sector is supposed to be in the hands of the private sector, there’s still so much government control, even to the extent that no board meetings can form a quorum without a government representative in attendance.

According to him, the tight control of the power providers’ supply chain is so strangulating that there is even a cap on what the distribution companies, for an example can spend on capital and operating expenditures.
“What is happening with the TCN is that it is still behaving like the old PHCN or NEPA and wants to be controlling everybody. That’s why the TCN can come out and say Discos need to capitalise as if that’s the only solution to the problem of the power sector.

“The TCN is saying get more money, invest in your network. But, look at the transmission company. Even the TCN that is shouting ‘capitalise’, when was the last time they changed a cable?

“As it is today, TCN lines cannot carry 5,000 megawatts at a time. A stress test has been done and it confirmed what I am telling you. Only three Discos were able to remit when NERC threatened to withdraw licences.

“NERC knows the problems. Investors are not coming because it’s still highly regulated. We have spent six solid years on this privatisation thing. The problems are still there. The tariff paid by Discos to Gencos has increased by 160 per cent; the one collected by Discos has only increased by 16 per cent. That’s an automatic deficit, ” he added.

Over 100 electricity grid collapses have been experienced in the country since the privatisation of the power sector in 2013, with the latest collapse being last Wednesday.