61 Years of Erratic Power Supply in Nigeria

Nigeria at 61? what’s changed?

It is a widely acknowledged fact that the erratic power supply in Nigeria is the bane of economic and industrial development in the country. With the abundant human and natural resources the country is blessed with, it becomes paradoxical that after one hundred years of existence and Sixty-One years of independence, Nigeria is still not getting it right in terms of energy sufficiency.
The epileptic power supply in Nigeria has been a major barrier to the growth of our economy. The effects of power outages on businesses can be catastrophic. Enjoyment of basic social amenities such as quality health care, adequate water supply, telecommunication service, etc becomes limited or even impossible due to long-term electrical power outages. The huge revenue loss, business disruptions, laying-off of workers by affected industries, loss of very important records at data centers, wastage of perishable foods, destruction of home appliances, etc are some of the effects of the electrical power crisis. All the mechanisms put in place by present and past governments to checkmate this anomaly seems not to be working. There is a need for a robust method to be adopted to identify the root causes.
If the problem is only that the power is insufficient, it would have been a much more bearable situation but the major problem is that the power supply is erratic. Being erratic means that the residents and companies requiring electricity cannot predict when this electric power from the national grid will be available for their consumption. In most situations, the erratic power supply can be equated to no power supply as the work the power is needed for, might have been done before the supply is made available or the power is interrupted before what it is to be used for, is gotten ready. An erratic power supply can also be equated to negative power in situations where the flip-flop nature of the supply causes damage to the equipment being powered. To understand and resolve the pathetic power supply situation in the country, it is pertinent we take a look at where we are coming from, where we are, and where we should be.

FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR ERRATIC POWER SUPPLY IN NIGERIA

The factors that affect the efficiency and stability of power supply in any developing country/region can be classified as follows: government policy; economic factor; natural factor; society/community factor; effective energy management; skilled personnel; efficient technology and security factor.

1. GOVERNMENT POLICY

Government‟s inconsistent energy policies have been a major contributor to the Nigerian energy crisis. For instance, the government‟s policies for over fifty years now have been favoring monopoly in power generation, transmission, distribution, and sales. From the establishment of ECN in 1950 to the setting up of NEPA in 1972, the policy has been that of having an entity with full control of power generation and supply. If after these years, the government is now bringing up policies to unbundle the power sector of the economy, then it is obvious that the earlier policies have not helped the system.

2. INEFFICIENCY IN POWER GENERATION, TRANSMISSION, DISTRIBUTION, AND CONSUMPTION

From the point of power generation in Nigeria, there is over fifty percent power loss. For instance, a study of Delta four power plants revealed a total average power generation of 30.5% out of the installed capacity. This means that a total of 69.5% of the power that would have come out of these four power plants and added to the national grid, is lost just at the point of generation. At the stage of transmission and distribution, a reasonable amount of power is also lost due to transmission lines and equipment that are grossly ill-maintained or below capacity. According to the International Energy Agency report, electric power transmission and distribution losses in Nigeria stood at 17.22% in 2010, and the maximum figure between 1971 and 2010 occurred in the year 1981 where the loss stood at 49.27%.
At the point of consumption, the majority of power consumers in Nigeria leave their electric devices ON even when they are not needed, because of the default billing method adopted by the power distribution companies. This results in great power loss to the system and also to the overloading of the transmission and distribution equipment.

3. INCOMPETENT STAFF OF THE ENERGY COMPANIES

This is a general Nigerian problem where companies especially government firms, employ workers not based on merit and competence but favoritism and tribalism. Because of this, no government company in Nigeria that requires workers with professional and technical competence has ever succeeded. NEPA and PHCN had staff, the majority of which were employed through the back door, and therefore, the only thing they seemed to know was how to climb electric poles and cut cables. Also, employment based on tribal bias doesn’t let people who really know their onions and are ready to step up get employed. Employment should always be based on merit in any industry in the country 

How we can fix power problems in Nigeria?

1. ADOPTION OF ENERGY CONSERVATIVE POLICIES

Government should outlaw the use of electric gadgets and devices that waste electric energy and encourage the use of models of these gadgets that save energy. For instance, a 10W LED electric bulb can give the same illumination as a 100w incandescent bulb. This means 90% energy saving. Also, a 120W modern refrigerator can render the same service as a 600W older version of the fridge. Worldwide, nations are beginning to face up the challenge of sustainable energy by re-evaluating the way energy is generated and utilized so that social, environmental, and economic aims of sustainable development are supported. The benefits of energy efficiency upon the environment are self-evident and the economic benefits of improving energy efficiency have been well documented since the first oil crisis in the early 1970‟s. Many forward-thinking industrial and commercial concerns have already adopted energy efficiency as a key policy towards maximizing profits.

2. ENGAGEMENT OF COMPETENT AND QUALIFIED STAFF BY THE ELECTRIC POWER COMPANIES

The new power generation, transmission, and distribution companies should retain only the staff of NEPA and PHCN which they have tested and certified as qualified and competent, and dismiss all those that were engaged through the back door. They should then employ a qualified and technically competent workforce to drive the new efficient and sustainable system.

3. UPGRADE OF POWER DISTRIBUTION AND TRANSMISSION EQUIPMENT

The new companies that took over the electric power transmission and distribution business in Nigeria should embark on immediate upgrading of the power transmission and distribution infrastructures. More emphasis should be on distribution infrastructure now and after ensuring that the equipment on the ground can comfortably distribute the power currently being generated and the amount of power the generating companies intend to generate shortly, then the emphasis will now shift to power generation.

October 2, 2021

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