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The only guarantee to end incessant collapse of electricity distribution networks across the nation as a result of the rainfall and obsolete infrastructure being experienced nationwide remains massive investment in infrastructure by distribution companies (Discos).
This is, and has been the candid position of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), but the political will to either force Discos to do the needful or sack them has been lacking in a government that assured steady power within the first year of inauguration in 2015.
Explaining the issues at a recent stakeholders meeting in Abuja, the Managing Director of TCN, Usman Mohammed, argued that the over $1bn investments in the transmission had not been adequately felt by power users because of the poor networks in the country’s electricity distribution arm.
According to him, “The Nigerien people are not connected to our network. They are connected to the distribution network. So the Nigerien people in a way do not feel what we are doing. But the fact is that even our equipment is not guaranteed because there is no investment in the distribution network.
“You may ask how? We have 737 interfaces between us and the distribution companies. Out of these 737 interfaces, only 421 are protected on the distribution side. The remaining 316 are not protected or not fully protected. So you will see a 33kV breaker that will trip for about 30 times in a month.
“Another new dimension that speaks to why the distribution arm must be recapitalised is the fact that when it now rains anywhere across the country, the distribution network collapses like toilet paper. Even Abuja that was built as a modern city, three times it rained in Abuja for not more than 10 minutes, I drove round Abuja city centre and more than 90 per cent of Abuja has no electricity.
“Why? Because even the network that was built by FCDA (Federal Capital Development Authority), which is a public company, cannot be maintained by the private sector operator. They (private operator) have mismanaged and they could not manage it, to the extent that when it rains, Abuja network, which is supposed to be a modern network, collapses like toilet paper.”
According to him, “This is how all over the country, their (Discos) networks are collapsing because of rain. I will give you another example, on May 21, the whole country had this problem of overvoltage. To the extent that we had a system collapse, we tried to bring the system back, but because of the dropping of load by the Discos, we could not secure anything but to force the system to collapse again.
“This was because if we had left the system for another five or 10 minutes, we would have had fire explosions across the country. And even with that, after we collapsed the system, we had explosions in various places like in Jebba, Shiroro and Jos. So that is how pathetic it is.”
Giving further insights from abroad, Mohammed recalled that “But in Europe or America, you will find a 33kV breaker that has been installed for like 10 years and it had not tripped for once. At the end of the day, we are having a lot of challenges in managing our network and our transformers are getting damaged. So the Discos must have the required investments in order to have the right protection on their side.”
In his submission, TCN boss argued that managers of modern transmission grids across the world focused more on frequency and spinning reserve management, not on distribution, noting that until Discos rise up to their challenge, electricity in Nigeria, will continue to be elusive.
Business Hilights recalls that Africa’s leading multi-sector investor, Aliko Dangote recently thundered in an interview that “How do you have economic growth without power? So; no power, no growth. Egypt increased its electricity by 10 gigawatts which is equivalent to 10,000 megawatts in 18 months. In Nigeria, we have been struggling for 18 years without adding 1,000 megawatts and we have spent about three times above Egypt. Why?” He queried in anger.
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