By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
THE Minister of Power, Dr. Lanre Babalola, has disclosed that an investment of over $10 billion must be made over the next ten years in the power sector if Nigeria must attain the quantity and quality of power needed for massive development of the country.
He said governmentâ€™s target of about 35,000MW of electricity generation in the next ten years would be feasible with â€œconsistent and sustained investment over the years,â€ adding that there was a strong correlation between power generation and economic growth.
Babalola, who was speaking on Friday during a one_day seminar to discuss issues and challenges in the power sector in Nigeria, said government was also looking to diversify sources of power generation to include solar, coal, biomas and wind.
He said, â€œIf you are going build up 2,000MW of power, for instance, you need so much money for the generation, the transmission and the distribution. Power generation is a highly capital_intensive project due to the quantum of investment required, and the long gestation period.
â€œBut we need to bear all these in mind; it is not by dreaming about power that it will happen, we need to plan ahead. We also need to know how we can attract that kind of money to the Federal government.â€
According to the minister, â€œIt is an incontrovertible fact that adequate reliable and sustainable power supply remains the catalyst for economic development the world over. Our task is a great and challenging one, but not insurmountable.â€
The minister further disclosed that government recently approved a contract for the development of a wind farm in the north, to be located in Katsina state, which is expected to generate wind energy in a couple of years.
He said, â€œWe also remember that more than 30 years ago, the Oji River power plant was being powered by coal. Nigeria is amply blessed with coal deposits, and we feel that we should go back and exploit some of these resources. It will certainly take some years to get these off the ground, but we believe that we must start early; we must start now.â€
On the 6000 megawatts of electricity by December, 2009, Babalola noted that the rehabilitation and expansion programmes of existing PHCN facilities were on_going.
He said, â€œGiving the high level of commitment of the Federal Government, as well as the unflinching support, I am confident that Nigerians will enjoy a substantial improvement in power supply by the end of the year. â€œIn the same vein, the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) Steering committee, headed by the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and the entire sector are working assiduously hard to ensure the completion of the NIPP projects so as to meet 10,000MW by 2011.â€
This, he said, is because on completion, the NIPP are expected to contribute additional 5,000MW to the national grid.
On renewable energy, the minister disclosed that plans are in the offing to exploit coal generate power where there are large coal deposits, while the various dams especially in the north are to be harnessed and harmonized for small hydro plants. He added that, â€œSolar is another alternative source being given due consideration especially for off grid. Similarly, a Wind Map of Nigeria has been produced as prerequisite for using wind as a source of power.â€
Babalola, who stressed the importance of gas to achieving the energy objectives of government, noted that power generation and gas were like Siamese twins, even as he appealed for an end to vandalisation of gas pipelines and electrical installations across the country.
He said, â€œThe quantity, quality and infrastructure for gas are of primary importance. We want to appeal for an end to vandalisation of gas pipelines and indeed all electrical equipment and installations nationwide, in order for the sector to meet its targets and impact positively on the lives of Nigerians.â€