Energy mix as key to guaranteed power supply

DiscoThe promise by President Muhammadu Buhari to give Nigerians 10,000 megawatts of electricity by 2019 is laudable if only it is realisable. The question is, how is he going to achieve this target? What strategy is on ground to make this a reality? Promising to add megawatts of electricity doesn’t excite anybody anymore. The people have had too much of it and the problem even worsens.

Since 1999, Nigerians have been hoodwinked with such promises that never materialised. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo started by promising to fix the electricity within 18 months of his administration, it came to naught. After him, Yar’Adua promised to add 6,000 megawatts by December 2009 to no avail. Thereafter, Jonathan came and made attractive promises on electricity that anchored on his power reform programme. All these promises evaporated like mirage.

Rather than improve, the electricity situation now is worse than what it was 16 years ago, precisely in 2000. The entire country has been plunged into darkness. Despite that, the electricity distribution companies () continue to issue outrageous bills to famished consumers. The continued issuance of electric bills when there is no power supply exposes the fraud inherent in Nigeria’s electricity business. Expectedly, many consumers have refused to pay any bill until power is supplied and charged accordingly.

Against this backdrop, the latest promise by President Buhari raises consternation. How is he going to achieve it? Coming at a time when the power system has practically collapsed as a result of massive vandalisation of gas pipelines by the Niger Delta militants, is the president devising another strategy or is he still banking on the discredited gas as source of energy? It is doubtful if Nigeria will ever succeed in power supply using gas.

By now the Federal Government ought to realise that it was a strategic mistake to bank on gas for power supply given the endemic vandalisation of gas pipelines. It is foolhardy to put all the country’s eggs in one basket. Except President Buhari has a different plan, the targeted 10,000 megawatts would be a mirage. This is not to say that the promise was not well intentioned. I am convinced that President Buhari is genuinely interested in fixing the embarrassing power situation in the country.

But he can’t do any magic about it. The extant framework needs to change. There is no way gas alone would provide the much needed electricity. No developed country is generating electricity from one energy source. Nigeria must diversify in like manner.

The wrong headedness in the power sector is evident from the fact that since independence, Nigeria has focused on hydropower and gas. Unfortunately, both have been poorly harnessed and mismanaged. There are three major hydropower stations in Nigeria, namely: Kainji Dam (760 megawatts), Jebba Dam (540 megawatts) and Shiroro Dam (600 megawatts), making a total of 1,900 megawatts. All the dams are located in the north. None is in the south, which is a strategic error. Even if all the dams were performing at optimum capacity, the total output would still be grossly inadequate.

Using 30,000 megawatts of electricity as the minimum for industrial take-off, that will amount to a mere 6.3% energy from hydropower. Nigeria should generate at least 20% of her electricity from hydropower. It is absolutely surprising that a large country with high drainage density like ours is operating only three poorly managed large dams. There should be new investment in small hydroelectric projects to raise the contribution of this source to the overall power output.

The investment in gas thermal stations has been minimal until recently when it was realised that gas holds great potential for power supply in the country. The existing gas power plants with their installed capacity are Ijora (60 megawatts), Ogorode (60 megawatts), Egbin (1,320 megawatts) and Delta VI (600 megawatts). The Afam and Oji River thermal power plants have since been abandoned.

With the exception of Egbin power plant that is operating at about 50% capacity, the rest of the plants are none operational. However, the total contribution of gas is a meagre 2,040 megawatts or 6.8%. Despite the abundance of gas in Nigeria, its contribution to the total electricity generation is insignificant. The persistent vandalisation of pipelines has worsened the case of gas.

That brings me to the independent power plants (IPPs) wrongly promoted by the Obasanjo administration. The Obsanjo administration proposed nine gas-based IPPs in different states of the federation. These include Garegu (Kogi State), Omotosho (Ondo) Papalanto (Ogun), Alaoji (Abia), Gbariam (Bayelsa), Ihovbor (Edo), Egbema (Imo), Calabar (Cross River) and Ibom (Akwa Ibom), with a total projected installed capacity of 3,193 megawatts or 10.6%, which again is grossly inadequate. Because of the abundance of gas in Nigeria and because the world is looking towards adopting clean renewable energy as source of power, without vandalisation, gas should contribute a minimum of 20% to the total power output in the country.

Apart from hydropower and gas, there are other sources of energy that should form part of Nigeria’s energy mix but which successive governments ignored. Based on Nigeria’s level of development, we should include coal and a mix of other renewable sources – solar, wind and geothermal. Coal should contribute at least 20% of energy needed for electricity; wind 15%, solar 30% and the others like bio-fuel should contribute the remainder.

There is no short cut in providing electricity and sustaining it. There must be the right framework upon which action is taken. Nigeria can’t get electricity without following the right steps.

There seems to be people in government who believe that the time to get the electricity working has not come because no other sector is working. The entire system has been made not to work. It is conspiracy against the people. That is why the country is literally in darkness despite billions of dollars pumped into the electricity sector since 1999. There may be no end to this problem except government divests from gas.

If Nigeria wants to grow industrially, the minimum energy output should be in the neighbourhood of 30,000 megawatts. The 10,000 megawatts being promised, assuming it is achievable, is like a drop in the ocean.

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1 Comment
  • emmanuel kalu

    Nigeria problem is due to poor leadership and bad policies. This article is right that our electricity generation should come from all available source and we should be pushing more toward renewable. It is poor leadership to have gas plant in the north, when you don’t have a good supply of gas to that part of the country. it is bad not to invest in solar panels for homes, when Nigeria has abundant sun light. However the main problem with our lack of electricity continues to fall on poor leadership and centralized control of everything. Electricity should be state by state venture, each state producing electricity with the cheapest and easiest source of fuel. Then transmitting and distributing it within the state, any excess can now be sold to the national grid or to other states. Allow state control of power, would allow for faster growth, competition and another source of revenue for states and jobs for resident. until we do that, the president is just wasting our time and money yet again.
    ps. gas can be transported via trains and specialized trailers. why hasn’t the government invested in that to reduce the dependency on pipeline.