Power Crisis in Nigeria: Technology, Policy or Citizens?
By Michael Dioha
Nigeria is a vast country with a total population of over 170 million people and situated in the western part of Africa with a land mass of 910,771 sq km. Owing to the country’s huge population there is a corresponding demand for electricity.
Nigeria lags significantly behind in access, quality and availability of public electricity supply. This threatens the actualization of the socio-economic objectives of alleviating poverty, employment and wealth creation. Over 60 percent of Nigerians do not have access to electricity and the ones who are connected to the national grid usually experience erratic/epileptic supply of power.
One begins to ask, what exactly is wrong with Nigeria’s power sector? Is it the technologies involved in power generation, government policies or do the Nigeria citizens also have their own role to play in ensuring steady power supply in Nigeria?
To provide adequate power to consumers, three important activities must be carried out, generation, transmission and distribution.
Power generation in Nigeria is nothing to write well about in the sense that sometimes no generation is being experienced. The total installed generating plants capacity of the country is about 12,000 MW, while the current electricity demand in the country is about 40,000 MW. Most of the generation stations in the country are over 25 years old, and the average daily power generation is below 4,000 MW resulting in severe load shedding.
Power generation in the country is faced with a lot of problems, which include corruption in the power sector, poor maintenance of equipment, inadequate funding, obsolete tools and communication facilities, among others.
The transmission system in Nigeria is very weak and is not extended to every part of the country — most especially the rural areas and semi-urban areas. The transmission system currently has the capacity to transmit at maximum 6,000 MW, and in this way creating imbalance in power transmission. The main problem of the transmission system is vandalization of the transmission lines, outdated technologies that deliver poor voltage profiles, poor funding by government, etc.
The distribution network, which is the direct link to the consumers, is poor, the voltage profile is poor and the billing is inaccurate. This is the reason why many Nigerians protest their electricity bills because they actually pay for what they don’t consume. Most of the transformers are overloaded, the distribution lines are obsolete and there is poor motivation of staff at this level in the power sector.
A lot of reforms have taken place in Nigeria’s power sector in the last two decades, but it seems that things are getting even worse. Does it mean that the reforms have no impact in improving the power situation in the country?
NEPA was unbundled into 18 semi-autonomous companies that included one transmission company, six generation companies and 11 distribution companies. Then, the government established the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), which commenced operations in October 2005, to oversee and pass various regulations to direct the industry and prepare the rules for public/private sector participation.
The power company was then divided into a number of companies based on function: generation, transmission and distribution. This involved 17 private generation and distribution plants sold to institutional investors, and the government took control of the transmission aspect. It is, however, worthy to note that the government did that with a good intention of ensuring steady power supply in the country.
The power-reformation process assigned roles for all direct stakeholders. The federal government will be in charge of policy formation, monitoring and evaluation of implementation and performance, while the NERC will license private operators and provide technical and economic regulations. In spite of all these reforms, Nigeria is still in power crisis.
Someone will ask, “Is power generation not the sole responsibility of the government, and do the Nigerian citizens also have a role to play in ensuring steady power supply?”
The answer is yes. It is the duty of the citizens to practice energy efficiency and conservation, as this will go a long way in saving electricity and ensuring steady power delivery in the country. How best have you tried to incorporate energy saving practices into your daily life? Do you make use of energy saving lamps? Remember those days you leave your air conditioning set on and go to work? In our offices, do we practice these measures and even in building design?
Citizens also should stop vandalizing electricity infrastructure and kidnapping foreign professionals. We cannot deny the fact that the bombings of gas pipelines has created real setbacks in the electricity industry, and the kidnapping of foreign professionals has also forced away foreigners from investing in our power sector.
Some citizens even vandalize transmission lines and steal some of the equipment used for power distribution. It’s really worrisome, and therefore, it is good for the citizens to play their own roles first before blaming the government.
The Way Forward
In Nigeria, there are technological problems, policy issues, which are solely the responsibility of government, and the concerns from the citizens. What is the way forward? Ensuring steady power supply in Nigeria should involve a collective effort by citizens and government.
There is need for the government to build new power plants to increase the existing generation capacity. The government can also look into the deployment and development of renewable energy technologies in the country as a means of diversifying the energy mix and improving power production.
Also, the transmission and distribution (T&D) lines need to be upgraded, as this will help in reducing losses in T&D. Currently about 40 percent of generated electricity is lost in T&D. There is also a need for periodic maintenance of power plants. Presently, most of the power plants in Nigeria have broken down or are partially operational due to lack of maintenance.
On the consumer side, all power consumers should be metered so that they can pay for what they actually consume and the funds generated by the government through this can be used in improving the power infrastructures in the country. Citizens should also stop sabotaging the government, and in this regard, assist the government in protecting critical power infrastructures against vandals. Finally, corruption must be rooted out in the power sector if any of the above recommendations would be implemented.