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Power: As Buck-passing Rages On

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The past few weeks has witnessed accusations and counter accusations by players in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) as to who is responsible for the woes of the sector. ABAH ADAH writes

 

Buck passing which has been trending among key players in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) over the inefficiency of the industry peaked again in the past few weeks. Every one of them tries to exonerate self from being a contributor to the crisis in the sector even as consumers for whom the electricity is meant have continued to grapple with power outages and in some cases total darkness.

In order words, just as the saying goes that where two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers, as these players continue to trade blames while the decay in the sector degenerates, it is the consumers that bear the brunt.

Most recent is the outcry by the distribution companies (DisCos) against Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). The Association of Nigerian Electricity Distribution Companies (ANED), the umbrella body of the 11 DisCos), but Yola, has said the inefficiency of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) stemmed from analogue and dysfunctional equipment being used by the TCN despite the $1.6 billion multilateral funding made available to it for upgrading.

Responding to a recent TCN report that the DisCos misrepresented crucial power evacuation and distribution data, ANED in a statement by the executive director, Research and Advocacy, Sunday Oduntan lamented that TCN’s equipment have caused over 100 electricity grid collapses since privatisation in 2013, nine of which it said occurred this year.

The statement also alleged that in the first 18 days of September, TCN’s incapacitated network caused 5,311 interface disruptions with one of the DisCos.

“Over a hundred partial and total system collapse recorded since privatisation and nine total system collapses so far this year; multiple transmission interface deficiencies with 5,311 TCN interface interruptions in one DisCo franchise area, from September 1 – 18, 2019,” the statement read in part.

On the claims of load rejection, ANED said it owes obligation to the 10 DisCos who have invested about $1.4 billion in the networks, insisting that the DisCos had not rejected energy load as TCN claimed in its publication.   ANED also accused TCN of falsifying data that conflicts the data presented to DisCos by the National Control Centre (NCC) which is under TCN and coordinates power allocation to DisCos.

While TCN headquarter data published on September 20th, 2019, shows 13,963 megawatts (MW) of energy was delivered to DisCos between August 22nd and 24th of 2019, the NCC data actually shows it was 19,173MW. This ANED said indicated a conflicting difference of 5,208MW data within the same company.

“It raised questions as to the veracity and accuracy of TCN’s response, in terms of the energy that it delivered to the DisCos. How could TCN’s supposed sent-out or delivered energy exceed that recorded by its control centre, the singular source for such information,” ANED wondered.

While urging TCN to focus on improving its network, the DisCos said except for February 1st, 2016, when TCN wheeled 4,557MW, it has never wheeled sufficient energy to meet the DisCos’ energy off-take assumptions specified under Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO) 2015.

ANED said the $1.6 billion federal government-guaranteed and multilateral funds and grants that TCN has gotten is unavailable to the privatised generation companies (GenCos) and the DisCos.

“Despite TCN saying it is implementing its Transmission Rehabilitation Expansion Programme (TREP) with the $1.6bn fund, the reality is otherwise. The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) continues to deal with, largely, a TCN that finds it difficult to move away from a PHCN-legacy of uncleared equipment containers, analogue-based and informal communications systems and frequent explosions and burnings of transmission sub-stations and transformers,” ANED noted, adding that such substation fire recently put Agbor and Asaba towns of Delta State; and Oye, Ekiti State in blackout.

Citing Siemens “Electrification Roadmap for Nigeria” report of May 7th, 2019, Oduntan said, “Today, power distribution by the DisCos to customers is limited by power in-feed from TCN.”

It also notes that TCN’s constant drumbeat of the need to re-capitalise the DisCos distracts from the fact that any such re-capitalisation cannot occur in an environment that lacks respect for, or sanctity of contract; regulatory and policy certainty and consistency; ability of the sector operators to recover their costs of doing business; and an alignment of technical and commercial considerations.

Meanwhile, TCN had in a statement issued earlier on by its head, Public Relations, Ndidi Mbah, in response to a publication of ANED much earlier on load grid load analysis accused the DisCos of data misrepresentation, describing the publication as deliberately misinterpreted and false, adding that the impression “that there is no load rejection by DisCos and that TCN has not been able to deliver the volume of power demanded daily by each Disco” was contrary to reality.

TCN had told newsmen that over 40 per cent of generating units were being shut down to match the low demand by the DisCos.

The power sector or Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) is structured into generation (upstream activities that produce the power), transmission (midstream activities that transport the power through high tension lines to the distribution facilities in all parts of the country), and then the distribution (downstream activities that step the power down and give commercial and residential consumers).

The reform of the sector which led to the privatisation of the generation and distribution segments of the sector in November, 2013, was meant to reposition the sector for full blown private driven investment that could guarantee improved and stable power supply for Nigerians.

About seven years down the line, the massses are yet to go to bed with the hope of sleeping in the comfort of electricity, businesses have continued to depend on gasoline or diesel generating sets for most of their operations, the worst being that as the concept of free market economy prevails the operators have completely ignored the aspect of customer satisfaction to exploit consumers indiscriminately through an ever increasing estimated bills often condemned by their customers as not being commensurate with the erratic and poor supply they get.

In their submission, TCN engineers who made presentations at a workshop organised for journalists maintained that the insufficient power supply which the country currently faces is a fall-out of capacity under-utilisation occasioned by distribution inefficiency.

General manager, System Operator (SO), Engr Emmanuel Umoh of the National Control Centre (NCC), Oshogbo,  while explaining the dynamics of the power sector affirmed that at the moment transmission has the capacity of 8, 000 going to 9, 000 megawatts (MW).

“Our Capacity now, because TCN has been overhauled and strengthened with more facilities, is about 8, 000MW going to 9, 000MW,” he said, adding that the distribution companies (DisCos) who are to take the power to Nigerians often fail to take the amount given them, even if according to their own request in line with MYTO.

He said “As I speak, Over 40 per cent of the power generation units in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) have been shut down because of low demand for electricity by the distribution companies (DisCos).”

 

The rejection of load, according to him, is responsible for instability of the grid and has left over 2, 000 MW of Power stranded as the SO always compels the generating firms to shut down operations for unutilised load to avoid high voltage and damage to transmission transformers and system collapse.

In their argument, they said the challenge in the process is that at any point in time a balanced frequency of 50.0Hz has to be targeted such that what is generated upstream is equal to what is distributed and utilised downstream as any significant imbalance experienced on either side would lead to grid collapse, so load flow in the entire system is dependent on what can be consumed per time, and this means both generation, transmission and distribution must work at par.

In another development, the generating companies (GenCos) recently came out to accuse the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading company (NBET) of trying to aggravate their plight as it proposed to take over payment for gas at an administrative charge of 0.75%.

The GenCos under the auspices of the Association of Power Generating Companies (APGC) have threatened to declare force majeure and relieve themselves of all market obligations should the proposed 0.75% gas payment administrative charge by NBET be implemented, describing the charge as unregulated and extortionist.

Briefing newsmen on the grievances and position of the GenCos in Abuja, the executive secretary, APGC, Mrs Joy Ogaji warned that placing such a charge on GenCos who are already overburdened in the market by an agency meant to ensure fair play is an aberration, and as such if NBET is not stopped from having its way, there may be no better time for the GenCos to take the necessary action.

 

She said, “If the relationship between the GenCos and other market participants and agencies of government which is progressively becoming a master-slave or master-servant relationship is not addressed quickly, the time may just be right for GenCos to declare force majeure and relieve themselves of all market obligations.”

In all these, where is the hope of the consumer?

In a chat with LEADERSHIP in Abuja recently, founder and CEO of ZKJ Energy and pioneer MD/CEO of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Rumundaka Wonodi said the blames being traded is not what is needed at this time that the country is struggling towards improved electricity supply.

According to him, it will be difficult to know who is telling the truth between TCN and the DisCos as both continues heap blames at the doorstep of each other except the Independent System Operators (ISO), the arm of TCN responsible for power planning and dispatch, is detached from TCN and made truly independent such that it reports directly to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and a Market Advisory Panel comprising representatives of all the players.

Identifying governance and structure as the major problem of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), Wonodi said, “In that way ISO can be neutral to tell the people the truth about where the weakest link is. As it stands now, where Mr A says this and Mr B says that, you can’t find out the truth, and that shows something is missing. I think the one critical component that is missing in action is the ISO which ought to have been a neutral body formed together with the Market Operator (MO) to be on its own.

“But now that it is under TCN, it can’t tell you that TCN is the weakest link, even if indeed TCN is,” he said.

 

 

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