Will electricity supply improve as ‘Interim Rule’ begins?
This country has continued to experience epileptic power supply despite the privatisation of the power sector.
The new owners of the privatised utilities formerly belonging to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) have not only failed to live up to their promises to better power supply, but now resort to making light excuses to explain their shortcomings.
The new owners, during the bidding exercise for the five Gencos and currently, 10 Discos, had pledged to reduce technical losses and maximise their service capacity
The Distribution companies (Discos), Generation companies (Gencos) and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) have also in the process of making their separate excuses, engaged themselves in some kind of blame games that contributed to worsening the supply of power in the country.
But, if truth be told, the Nigerian electricity consumer is not willing to know the technicalities involved in the power supply process. All he wants is to have ‘light’ and continuously in as much as he pays his bills.
Power supply tipped to over 4,000 megawatts (mw) in February this year, after vandalised gas infrastructure were fixed by a joint effort of the Federal Ministry of Power and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
However, it deteriorated faster than expected because of what government has described as gas infrastructure ‘sabotage’ yet again.
The thermal Gencos have reduced their production as they were worst hit by gas supply constraints. The hydro power companies were not there to salvage the situation as sections of Kainji/ Jebba and Shiroro hydro stations are all undergoing turnaround maintenance, something the government has never done since the inception of hydroelectricity in Nigeria decades ago.
Although power generation capacity has now reached 3,600mw, improvement is yet to be noticed in most of the Discos service areas.
It would be recalled that the generation companies were mandated to put up investments that would increase their capacity to a veritable level within the next five years while the Discos were urged to also make crucial investment, especially in consumer metering and infrastructural expansion.
Sadly, three months have gone by since the handing over of the assets on November 1st 2013 and none of these companies have shown any tangible improvement in its service area. Consumers have continued their distress call over power outage, crazy billing, none metering among others. More so, this has been crowned with disengagement of electricity staff with impending massive disengagements this month end.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) serves as the umpire in the electricity sector and saddened by the present condition, it wrote to all the Discos recently, reminding them of the need for infrastructural investments and service improvement. The Commission’s chairman, Dr Sam Amadi, warned that no Disco should talk of tariff increase in the face of poor service in the coverage areas.
During a monthly meeting with the new owners which held last Wednesday, Amadi announced that the trial period for the new owners has ended and government has directed that the Interim Rule (IR) should take off immediately.
He said: “We have done consultations on the Interim Rules (IR) to increase the amount of liquidity in the system before the Transitional Electricity Market is declared. Yesterday, we had the final consultation on it, and we have just announced to the CEOs that the Interim Rules will come into effect by tomorrow or after the holidays when the Commission will meet to sign the interim rules.”
While he explained the need for implementing the rule, Amadi stated that the key things about the interim rule is that it raises the bar at the threshold of remittance and the Discos should remit more money to the market to pay the Gencos and services until we get to 100 percent performance.
Government had said it is working on improving gas-topower with the adoption of a new gas technology to curtail gas supply constraints to the gas-fired Gencos.
Amadi said: “We got a technology based solution from a World Bank consultant showing us how we can use compressed gas, take, and through some technology re-gasify it in the power plants. The attraction is that it would avoid the use of gas pipelines and all the associated risks of vandalism and all that.
“Government is purchasing more gas, possibly taking some gas from export market to domestic market, and fast tracking work on gas infrastructure. All these are part of the initiative.”
He noted that the Gencos would take up the idea with a consultant firm, to ensure that there is more gas, especially for embedded generation so that the scarcity could be dealt with and Discos would be enabled to procure embedded power at ease and faster.
As the Interim Rule takes-off in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), it is expected that much of the lapses in power supply, including crazy billings would be addressed.
Experts say it would be the time for government to get it right, warning that failure will affect the administration’s Power Sector Road Map.