Please Sir, Can I Have Some More

“in Kenya, when that inevitable power cut happens about once or twice every 1 to 2 weeks, there is a number you can call. After A couple of rings, a human being picks up and informs you of the precise point where the problem has occurred; And an estimate of how long it will take to repair is given. Nigerians can only dream.”

Electric-linesBad news sells, good news sells badly; so many may not have heard of Nigeria’s most positive achievement over the last few weeks. According to news reports, electricity generation has hit a long unheard of peak of over 4600 mega watts (MW). And indeed, a number of people (at least within Lagos) have confirmed. They have light.

At 4600MW, the country is generating 1800 more mega watts that it was as of late March this year when generation dropped to a lousy 2800MW; reportedly as a result of the usual  gas pipeline vandalism primarily along the Escravos route  in the Niger Delta.

For those who have been fortunate enough to witness a discernible improvement in their electricity supply, these numbers might seem impressive, and even laudable. They are not. For most people across the country, 4,600MW remains exactly what it is. Pitiful.

The Zagtouli solar pv plant in Burkina Faso will generate 32GWh per year, giving renewable energy to 40,000 households.

According to World Bank data, in 2012 only 55.6% of Nigeria’s estimated 178.5 million strong population had access to electricity. That leaves 78,540,000 people sitting in complete darkness. In 2012, electricity generation was reported at 4500MW, so we expect that the estimates of those who continue to lack access to be much the same today as they were 3 years ago.

For those that are connected to the grid, power continues to flutter in and out. Homes continue to be without power for whole days at a time. When there is light, it can come and go several times in a single day; everyday. To be sure, there are good days where one is able to get work done from morning to night because they have been in receipt of a full 24 hours of power. And on these days, we are immensely grateful to the powers that be. But it is a sign of just how desperate things are that a few extra hours of power is worthy of abundant jubilation.

The dire state of Nigeria’s electricity situation was pronounced earlier this year when the country fell under the grip of a manufactured fuel scarcity. As most people were plunged into a water, light, fuel scenario that took us depressingly back to the early 1990s, it became clear that the framework of Nigeria’s archaically grid centred electricity generation was doing the entire country a grievous disservice.

In electricity production, Nigeria ranks 67 behind Libya, Iraq, and Bangladesh; way behind South Africa; and light years in India’s rear.

From President Buhari’s perspective, the problem Nigeria has with electricity is more to do with transmission than it is with generation. There is no doubt that the country suffers from serious transmission and distribution losses. In fact, in 2011 power transmission and distribution losses covered 9.55% of total power output. This, however, is nowhere close to the 49.27% that distribution and transmission losses represented as a percentage of total output in 1981.

I would suggest to President Buhari that Nigeria has a problem both with transmission and with generation; and that currently, the greater burden in fact lies with generation. The current increase in electricity generation is in major part accounted for by improvements at Egbin Power Plc. Hitting a generation capacity of 1,100MW, the Egbin plant accounts for a third of the total improvement in generation witnessed across the country. And according to Egbin Power’s chief executive officer, Dallas Peavey, “the last time the power plant hit the 1,000MW mark was eight years ago, … this peak lasted for less than two hours.”

Indeed, the conservative estimate of the managing director and chief executive officer of Ikeja Electric, Mr Abiodun Ajifowobaje, is that the country needs to be generating a “minimum” of 10,000MW to provide basic power supply to the country.  Where basic can be assumed to mean nowhere near constant electricity supply for every Nigerian home simultaneously. And certainly not to those still unconnected to the grid.

A huge part of the problem is Nigeria’s over reliance on gas for power generation. Subject to a vast improvement in the availability of gas, Egbin estimates that it can explore an expansion of its power generation to 2,670MW. Even if we limit comparative analysis to those countries in or around our developmental weight category, these numbers will not see Nigeria taking home any championship belts. In electricity production, Nigeria ranks 67 behind Libya, Iraq and Bangladesh; way behind South Africa; and light years in India’s rear. 

 in 2000, hydroelectric power still accounted for 38.2% of total power generation. By 2011, this figure had fallen to a mere 20.9% … the highest value hydroelectric contributed to total output was 86.97% in 1974.

Nigeria is not alone. At least 20% of the world’s electricity is generated by natural gas. But those who are thinking ahead are moving sideways. The Zagtouli solar pv plant in Burkina Faso will generate 32GWh per year, giving renewable energy to 40,000 households. The Nzema solar project under construction in Ghana will be Africa’s largest solar plant. The hydroelectric project at the Grand Inga Dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo will generate 40,000MW. The Itezhi-Tezhi Dam in Zambia will generate 120MW.

In Kenya, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, aims to add 310MW of low cost wind power to the country’s grid. The Kenyan government is further investing $1.2bn, in conjunction with the private sector, into solar power plants that could generate over half the country’s electricity by 2016. And in Kenya, when that inevitable power cut happens about once or twice every 1 to 2 weeks, there is a number you can call. After a couple of rings, a human being picks up and informs you of the precise point where the problem has occurred; and an estimate of how long it will take to repair is given. Nigerians can only dream.

The only discernible source of renewable power generation in Nigeria comes from the country’s hydro electric power plants. In the 1990s the major hydroelectric plants at Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro were all performing below capacity. But even in 2000, hydroelectric power still accounted for 38.2% of total power generation. By 2011, this figure had fallen to a mere 20.9%, with 0% coming from other renewable sources. Indeed, the highest value hydroelectric contributed to total output was 86.97% in 1974. This percentage has dropped steadily ever since, with 2011 hosting the lowest recorded value

This is an issue that goes far beyond the mundane difficulties ordinary Nigerians face in living a life at half capacity and in darkness. It is an issue that is even beyond the productive needs of a country that is seeking to grow its manufacturing, and agricultural industries. In a world in which we have so misused our planet and everything in it, and despite the grossly unfair fact that climate change will disproportionately affect a continent whose contribution to it has been minimal—for the sake of Nigerians and the entire world, the world’s 7th most populous country is going to have to start carrying its renewable energy weight.

~EAMS

Advertisements

One thought on “Please Sir, Can I Have Some More

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s