Ex-NERC Chair Calls for Deployment of AI in Tackling Nigeria’s Unstable Power Grid

•Seeks solution to sector players ‘ interface misalignment

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

A former Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Prof James Momoh, yesterday called for the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the management of the country’s unstable electricity grid.

Speaking in Abuja at the International Conference on Energy and Power Systems Operations and Planning (ICEPSOP 2023), the Director of the Centre for Energy Systems and Control at Howard University, United States, stated that it was unacceptable that very minor disturbances still lead grid collapses in the country.

He argued that there was a growing demand for a more robust approach to reliable power supply, prompting the introduction of Al, maintaining that by harnessing its power, Nigeria can effectively address the current computational requirements of the grid and pave the way for a more efficient and adaptive energy system.

The event was themed: “Empowering Reliable Power Delivery Using Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies: A case for United States of America and Africa”.

According to him, as has been tried in other parts of the world, Al which combines tools to substitute the need for human cognitive ability can be used in grid automation because of its ability to handle large amounts of data which are often diverse and of varying quality.

 “The integration of Al in the electricity value chain offers various benefits, enabling Al to play a crucial role in the diagnosis, analysis, and control of different aspects of the grid, including cyber security.

 “In Nigeria, interface challenges between generation and transmission have been a concern, leading to a blame game. Al solutions can bridge this gap by continuously monitoring and diagnosing anomalies in data, identifying vulnerabilities in equipment such as transformers and circuit breakers.

“By aligning decision-making with Al insights, classical optimisation theory limitations can be overcome. The imbalance between generation and distribution can be mitigated using Al forecasting.

“Al-driven forecasting, based on weather changes, extreme events, and potential cyber attacks, allows for proactive measures to maintain grid stability and reliability,” he maintained.

He stated that other current industry challenges include increased decarbonisation, aging infrastructure, transmission reforms, new competitors, federal-state policy and regulatory issues, cyber and physical security as well as changing customer behaviours.

 To address the aforementioned challenges, he proposed a new electricity market design to achieve decarbonisation at all levels through policies, technologies and regulation to achieve reliability, resiliency, sustainability and affordability.

“The regulators at the state and federal level need to come to a closure on how to regulate polices to avoid misalignment,” he stated.

In his remarks, the President of the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), who also doubles as President, Nigerian Academy of Engineering (NAE), Prof Peter Onwualu, noted that the energy and power insecurity conundrum in Nigeria remain one of the most difficult problems that have refused to be solved by successive governments.

“It has been estimated by the World Bank that 85 million Nigerians don’t have access to grid electricity. This represents 43 per cent per cent of the country’s population and makes Nigeria one of the countries with the largest energy access deficit in the world.

“The lack of reliable power is a significant constraint for citizens and businesses, resulting in annual economic losses estimated at $26.2 billion (N10.1 trillion) which is equivalent to about 2 per cent of GDP.

“According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report, Nigeria ranks 171 out of 190 countries in getting electricity and electricity access is seen as one of the major constraints for the private sector operations. This is a major challenge to economic development of the country since the manufacturing and services sectors depend on reliable electricity,” he said.

While stressing that the 2023 Electricity Act remains a comprehensive integrated policy which has the potential to ensure 24/7 reliable electricity supply if implemented properly, Onwualu explained that actual implementation requires deployment of Emerging Technologies (ETs), especially artificial intelligence.

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