Chido Nwakanma counsels that the real electricity quest should begin with Buhari’s decentralization of power generation and distribution in Nigeria.

Power provision will be the dominant issue in Nigeria and the South-East post the 2023 elections. Electricity became the central issue following the Constitutional Alteration by Muhammadu Buhari/9th Assembly granting the federating units the right to generate and distribute power. It has thrown the ball to the governors, none more so than those in South-East Nigeria.

I reviewed last week one year of Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo’s stewardship of Anambra State for one year. Mention of the signing of “MOU for 24-hour power supply in three towns with Enugu Electric” as one of the Hits riled not a few readers. They thought it did not add much to a laundry list of glorified nothingness as achievements. The message is that stakeholders expect far more from Prof Soludo and his colleagues in the Government Houses in Abakaliki, Awka, Enugu, Owerri, and Umuahia. They want to see big dreams and tall projects on the ground.

Soludo’s MOU with Enugu Electric pales into insignificance, given the new playground. As oil industry player and Nnewi philanthropist Joe Attueyi reasoned, the electricity challenge in Nigeria is not distribution such as the MOU entails. Generating enough to distribute in the first place is a challenge and opportunity.

The total installed capacity of the country’s power generation plants as of 2021 is approximately 13,427 MW. However, the available capacity is much lower due to ageing infrastructure, insufficient maintenance, and fuel supply challenges.

Here are some of the central power generation plants in Nigeria and their capacities:

1Egbin Power Station1,320 MW
2Kanji Hydroelectric Power Station760 MW
3Jebba Hydroelectric Power Station570 MW
4Shiroro Hydroelectric Power Station600 MW
5Afam Power Station776 MW
6Geregu Power Station434 MW
7Sapele Power Station1,020 MW
8Delta Power Station900 MW
9Omotosho Power Station600 MW
10Ihovbor Power Station450 MW

We must add to this list the Aba Power Plant of Geometric Power Limited, a 141MW gas-fired plant. It has served parts of Aba since 2015 while citizens in the nine local governments which Aba Power should serve are still waiting for it as it rolls out slowly but determinedly.  My community and LG are part of the coverage area for Aba Power.

Meanwhile, Geometric Power is developing several other power projects, including the 500-MW Aba Integrated Power Project and the 1080-MW Itobe Power Plant.

Nigeria’s power generation needs improvement to meet the country’s demand due to operational and infrastructural problems in the power sector.

One of the challenges is getting a precise estimate of our electricity demand. Influencing factors include population growth, economic development, urbanisation, and government policies. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) estimates the total electricity demand in Nigeria as of 2021 at around 28,000 MW.

Notably, the actual demand for electricity in Nigeria is often higher than the available supply, which leads to frequent power outages and load shedding. Contributing factors include insufficient investment in the power sector, poor infrastructure, and inadequate maintenance of power generation facilities.

NERC and the real electricity quest

NERC 2021 figures show the power demand for the SouthEast states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo to be 1, 919, 491.22 MWH.  This is is the estimated total energy demand.

The electricity conundrum is a human story that simultaneously brings pain and pleasure. I will next share the ongoing experiences of my home community and my Lagos residence with Enugu Electric and an IPP. It was bothered by inflated bills, poor service, and demand for payment for no service. Despite NERC’s ruling, Enugu Electric carries on in its fashion.

Removal of the legal hurdles should see increased activity in the electricity sector. Governors of the South-East must wake up early, liaise with NERC and outline their vision and mission for the sector.

Will considerations include structural modes -government alone or public-private partnerships? Others include the fuel source; should it be fossil fuel, gas-powered, or a combination? Investors should be looking at community solutions. Take a community or combination and provide Independent Power Plants to serve them.

Should we consider alternative energy sources, including utilising Enugu’s dormant coal mines? Experts at the University of Nigeria demonstrated some years back the viability of coal-powered electricity for the institution’s Nsukka campus. Now is the time to unlock all the solutions in the laboratory into the world of practice.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission must also spell out how the new order will work.

Chido Nwakanma: The real electricity quest should now begin

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