By Ahmad ANIFOWOSE
With over seven gigawatts (7GW) of current generation capacity, 26 power plants of which three of them are Hydro-electric namely; Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro, and the other 23 thermal (mainly gas), Nigeria has about 141 turbines that can generate over 12,340 MW and transmit about 7.2GW, and distribute over 5GW of power to her over 170 million people.
The one megawatts(1MW) for a thousand people rule of thumb for an industrial nation, if brought into perspective here, presents to the system operator and the eleven distribution companies very unappetizing menus, to choose between the rock, and a hard place as to where, and when to supply energy to consumers. As if the 7GW/170 million people ratio was not debilitating enough, the issues are further amplified by technical, commercial and collection problems.
Whether that West African country so named by Flora Lugard in 1914 today is an industrial nation is up for debate, but it is undebatable that we were on that path before, when Cocoa from Ondo and Cross-River dominated the international market, and Cocoa Industries in Ikeja was very much alive; when the textile companies countrywide were producing; and when the Naira-dollar rate was pretty much advantageous to us.
Clearly, 7GW cannot take us to those lofty heights we aim to attain, however, the Incremental, Steady, and Uninterrupted power strategy cannot be attained tomorrow even with the best of policies, minds and all the financial wherewithal on ground today.
This reality has further broken the hearts of many Nigerians perhaps because of our over-ambitious characteristic or our emergency approach to problems generally.
Very many people have wrongly likened the Electricity sector to Telecommunications, with lofty hopes that once “PHCN is privatized, then we should be able to freely choose between various Energy Suppliers” without thinking of the workability of such setting.
In some countries like the UK, US, Germany, Australia, etc., a Distribution Company and an Energy Supplier exists differently; one of them focuses on all the technicalities of distributing energy (Distribution Network Operator [DNO]) to customers and the other focuses on billing customers(Energy Supplier [ES]) who then pays the DNO some amount from the revenue from customers.
With this structure, there could be multiple Energy Suppliers using the assets of the DNO in that area, and the Energy Suppliers could come up with varying tariffs and other incentive, resulting in competition. Clearly, this is not the structure available here in Nigeria, and we are not alone as countries like France, South Korea, South Africa, and a host of others with in fact steady and considerably uninterrupted power utilize the same structure.
As much as we now have a government focused on steadily increasing generation (N701B payment assurance guarantee, 3,050MW Mambilla Hydro Electric plant, 700MW Zungeru Hydro Electric plant etc) and transmission (Ikot Ekpene Transmission Substation, various upgrades and maintenance in existing substations nationwide, etc.) capacity levels Megawatt by Megawatt, it is indeed necessary for us all to conserve the little energy available to us, for longevity and more equitable distribution. Also, the banks and other investment companies should shift their focus to this sector and realize that this goose is a golden one, a major linchpin of the Nigerian economy that would lay the golden eggs in the not too distant future.