TCN should invest in technologies to continuously monitor the transmission network, argues Sonny Iroche

The recent incident of a fire outbreak and explosion on the Kainji/Jebba 330KV Line 2 (Cct K2J) blue phase CVT, along with the burning of the blue phase line isolator of Kainji/Jebba 330KV Line 1, which led to a System Collapse could have been prevented, if safety and preventive measures had been put in place.

Since my four- year contract appointment from the private sector as an Executive Director in TCN was over and left the company in 2017, I may not be in a position to exactly ascertain what really went wrong, except for the reports in the media which attributed the nation-wide blackout to the fire incident that occurred.

Nigerians and most power experts had thought that the hitherto frequent system collapse was a thing of the past, only for it to rear its head again. The challenges and weaknesses in the entire Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), which seem to have defied several governments in the past, must now be addressed and put on the front burner by the President Tinubu administration.

For the immediate to long-term solution in resolving the frequent fire hazards which damage power equipment and infrastructure such as transformers, substations, yards, lines and others, there is now an urgent need for the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to implement preventive measures. Fire outbreaks in power transmission systems can have catastrophic consequences, leading to power outages, infrastructure damage, and even loss of life. The following international best practices should as a matter of urgency be put in place and monitored closely as preventive measures that TCN can adopt to mitigate the risk of fire outbreaks and ensure the safety and reliability of Nigeria’s power transmission network.

The occurrence of fire outbreaks and explosions in power transmission systems pose significant threat to the stability, reliability and functionality of the national grid. To address this issue, the TCN must prioritize the implementation of preventive measures. There are many strategies that TCN can adopt to prevent fire outbreaks, including regular maintenance, equipment inspections, training programs, and the installation of advanced monitoring systems, such as the use of drones in monitoring the entire grid.

Regular maintenance is crucial for identifying and rectifying potential issues before they escalate into fire outbreaks. TCN should establish a comprehensive maintenance schedule that includes routine inspections, cleaning, and testing of critical equipment such as CVTs (Capacitor Voltage Transformers) and line isolators. By adhering to a proactive maintenance approach, TCN can detect and address any signs of wear, corrosion, or malfunctioning components, reducing the risk of fire outbreaks.

TCN should ensure that it Implements a monthly maintenance routine for CVTs and line isolators, including visual inspections, cleaning, and electrical testing, can help identify and rectify potential issues promptly.

Regular inspections of all electrical equipment within the transmission network are essential to ensure their proper functioning and identify any potential fire hazards. TCN should establish a comprehensive inspection program that covers transformers, circuit breakers, isolators, and other critical components. This program should include visual inspections, thermal imaging, and electrical testing to detect any abnormalities or signs of overheating.

Conducting annual thermal imaging inspections of transformers and circuit breakers can help identify hotspots or abnormal temperature patterns, indicating potential fire risks.

Investing in training programs for TCN personnel is crucial to enhance their knowledge and skills in fire prevention and safety protocols. Employees should receive comprehensive training on fire safety, emergency response, and the proper handling of electrical equipment. This will enable them to identify potential fire hazards, respond effectively in case of emergencies, and take appropriate preventive measures.

The 10 regional offices of TCN, must as a matter of routine, conduct regular fire safety training sessions for their employees, including theoretical and practical exercises, which can significantly improve their ability to prevent and respond to fire outbreaks.

Implementing advanced monitoring systems can provide real-time data on the condition of critical equipment, enabling early detection of potential fire risks. TCN should invest in technologies such as temperature sensors, fault detectors, and fire detection systems to continuously monitor the transmission network. These systems can alert operators to abnormal conditions, allowing them to take immediate action and prevent fire outbreaks.

By Installing temperature sensors on critical equipment, such as CVTs and line isolators, this will provide real-time data on temperature variations, enabling early detection of overheating and potential fire risks.

For Nigeria to rapidly industrialize and achieve its full potential as the undisputed economic power house of Africa, the perennial power challenges that have dogged the country must be overcome. The current monopoly and centralization of the TCN should be reviewed with a view to unbundling the company, first into the Transmission Service Provider (TSP) and Independent Systems Operator (ISO), as per the licenses issued to both companies in 2014.

Finally, grant full administrative and financial autonomy to the 10 regional offices of the company and open up the transmission network to credible private sector players. The past administration’s Presidential Power Initiative (PPI), which as far I could decipher then, seemed to be an excellent initiative, and should be reinvigorated and any bottleneck therein removed

The electricity market, by now, should have matured to a “Willing Seller and Willing Buyer” level, with the gradual dissolution of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET), which according to the provisions of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSR), 2005, was a temporary intervention vehicle.

 Iroche was the Executive Director (Finance & Accounts) of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (2013-2017)

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