That power shortage in Nigeria is endemic, despite huge and continuous investment in the power sector is no longer a thrilling news to Nigerians.
The most challenging fact the country is bound to face as efforts are made to generate power is how to distribute the scarce resources throughout the country uniformly.
The federal and some state governments through the Independent Power Project initiative are currently making frantic efforts to generate electricity to meet national consumption.
These efforts could be frustrated because present distribution network in the country is clumsy with hindrances that make the system unable to work.
There are numerous problems like non-reliability, high line loss, low/high voltage profile, overloading of the transformer, poor maintenance, absence of conservation method, harmonics presence, inadequate clearance, stealing/selling of power, haphazard layout, whimsical load connection, among others.
Presently, with a single feeder connected to all types of consumers, there is no-load discipline and the distribution network is exposed to several mal-practices and distortions.
Thus, if the problem of power is to be solved in the country, distribution holds the key.
It has nothing to do with man power but modern technology. Findings by the Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji revealed that the PHCN has a bloated workforce of about 60,000 out of which 50,000 is said to be regular staff and between 6,000 and 10,000 are casual workers
Unfortunately, to compound the problem, the utility section has a dearth of engineers and technical staff who are the core managers of any power firm.
Besides, the existing engineers and technical staff at the PHCN are gradually aging without replacement, there are no younger ones who ought to be understudying them before attainment of retirement age.
The reality of the situation is that if the government goes on to implement its planned staff downsizing without replenishing the utility section with young engineers and technicians, the workforce reduction can only reduce overhead cost of sustaining the utility company, but might not achieve the desired impact on efficiency aimed at sustainable improvement on power supply.
For instance, transmission facilities at different distribution zones just have one or two or don’t have climbers at all. Climbers are the technicians that climb transmission facilities to carry out repairs or fault clearing. It was learnt that at the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, which covers about four States including Edo and Ondo States, there is only one climber. Therefore, should there be a fault simultaneously at different transmission facilities, fault clearing will be delayed, denying customers access to power supply.
Besides, the order is that anybody who is above 50 years should cease to climb irrespective of the person’s expertise and the climber in Benin zone is said to be close to 50 years of age, indicating that if urgent measure is not taken to get a younger one to understudy him, the zone may have no climber in the near future.
Benin Zone is not the only one affected, others such as Enugu Zone has more constraints and these areas should be given attention.
The PHCN in the past had a monitoring helicopter. The helicopter use to hover around the country to monitor PHCN facilities to ensure that faults are easily identified and clearing promptly effected. Currently, nobody knows what has happened to the aircraft.
Observers remember vividly that the aircraft was of great importance, saying cases such as tall trees affecting transmission lines as obtained in Edo and Ondo States, was easily detected by the aircraft and solutions immediately offered.
Before the country gets it right, there is urgent need for the PHCN to upgrade its distribution and utilisation of power supply from manual switching operation to electric, known as automation distribution.