Recently, the managing director of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Chiedu Ugboh, raised an alarm that the nation’s integrated power plants (IPP) do not have gas to operate. Briefing the joint House of Representatives Committee on Power, Privatization and Commercialization, he lamented that although the company has the capacity to generate more than 5000 megawatts of electricity, it generates only 700mw due to lack of capacity by the distribution companies to absorb the available power.
“We have been to many places to look for gas, even in Geregu, we don’t have a single molecule of gas. Papalanto, the same thing. There’s no gas anywhere to run these plants”.
This newspaper recalls that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2004, conceived the Integrated Power Project (NIPP) essentially to address the issues of insufficient electric power generation and excessive gas flaring from oil exploration operations in the Niger Delta region.
We recall also that within the first seven days of March, Nigeria’s power sector lost about N6.8 billion to challenges related largely to gas supply. In 2020, the sector lost N1.71 billion in just one day over the same constraint. It is sad that though the nation has the capacity to generate 13,000mw of electricity, it is currently producing less than 5,000mw due to low gas supply.
It is worthy of note that Nigeria generates its electricity through thermal and hydropower sources with gas accounting for 86 per cent of the capacity. Of the 28 electricity generation companies, only Shiroro, Kainji and Jebba are hydro while others are gas-fired plants needing a continuous supply of the substance.
According to the statistical review of world energy, Nigeria ranked ninth among countries with large gas reserves in the world, 12th and 38th in gas production and consumption respectively. Furthermore, Nigeria has proven gas reserves equivalent to 306.3 times its annual consumption. This means it has about 306 years of gas left at current consumption. As at 2015, Nigeria exports 929,844 MMcf representing 31 per cent of its natural gas production.
It is pertinent to note, in our view that the government declared 2020 as the year of gas with the assurance that it would focus strongly on the country’s enormous gas reserves and introduced a Gas Master Plan.
Essentially, the plan was an aggregation of policies targeting investments and the development of infrastructure to support the investments. Interestingly, the key areas for development of gas include gas to power, gas-based industries and liquefied petroleum gas. Nevertheless, like most policies, the implementation of the Gas Master Plan has been utterly disappointing. Perhaps that accounts for the unexplained scarcity of gas to power the nation’s turbines.
In our considered opinion, it is worrisome that even though Nigeria has a total installed electricity generation capacity of 12,522MW mainly sourced through hydropower and gas turbine stations, distribution is just about 4000 MW.
With about 85 million of its citizens lacking access to grid electricity, Nigeria has the largest energy access deficit in the world. A World Bank report indicated that lack of reliable power in Nigeria has resulted in annual economic losses estimated at 10.1 trillion.
To that extent, therefore, it makes little sense reasserting the fact that adequate access to reliable and affordable power is essential to having a globally competitive economy. Without an effectively functioning power sector, the nation’s dream of having industries and creating enough jobs to cater for the large and rapidly expanding youth population will remain an illusion.
In our opinion, now more than ever before, is the time to take another critical look at the electricity sector. Perhaps the nation should focus more on renewables such as wind and solar/ If that is achieved within the foreseeable future, it can save the citizens the agony of being in endless blackout.
As a newspaper, we still cannot fathom why a nation with a huge reserve of gas will be complaining of the lack of gas to power its thermal plants and provide electricity. We export gas yet lack gas to power the thermal plants? An irony and a contradiction.
This seemingly unending lamentation over lack of gas, a resource that exists in large quantities in the nation, is a sad reminder of the inherent contradictions of the country. Even though we are a major oil-producing nation, we import fuel; we have large land for all-year round farming but import food; we have cows in large quantities but still import milk.
There is absolutely no reason why Nigerians should continue to wallow in darkness for lack of gas to power the thermal plants when the nation has the resource in abundance. We are compelled to urge the government to summon the political will to do the needful and ensure that there is adequate gas supply to the turbines.