â€¦Power ministry bandies excuses
By Hector Igbikiowubo
THE Federal Government has failed to deliver on its planned target to generate 6000 Megawatts (MW) of electricity for the national grid by December 2009, even as the Ministry of Power bandies excuses over this failing, pleading gas supply inadequacy, sabotage, the Niger delta crises, etc.
At the time of filing this report, Dr. Lanre Babalola, the Minister of Power disclosed in an exclusive interview that about 3,500 MW of electricity was being generated from both Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and Independent Power Plants (IPP) operated entities.
Dr. Babalola explained that his ministry had so far ramped up installed power generation capacity to 5300 MW, adding that figure should hit the 6000 MW target by December.
However, Sweet crude checks revealed that the increase in installed generation capacity has not necessarily translated to improved power supply as most house holds, commercial enterprises and industries nationwide still run on power generators.
At petrol stations in metropolises across the country such as Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Uyo, Warri, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Onitsha, Owerri, Aba both vehicles and customers with Jerry-cans compete for attention.
Further checks revealed that owing to the power supply inadequacies, customers purchasing fuel in Jerry-cans now out-number vehicular purchases.
While speaking on the government’s targeted 6000 MW power generation, Alhaji Mohammed Umar, a Kano based industrialist described it as bogus, adding that, ‘if you generate that amount of electricity and people don’t have electricity supply, then what have you achieved’?
â€œGovernment never runs out of excuses. I am sure that by December they will come up with another excuse why they could not achieve the target,â€ he said.
On the issue of gas supply, Alhaji Umar noted that government was well aware of the situation in the Niger Delta when it set the target.
â€œIt is only an irresponsible leadership that would set an unrealizable target for itself. Why did government set a target when it knew it was not in control of a critical component such as gas supply? In more advanced countries, this is more than enough to cost a government its tenure. But not here, I bet you nothing will happen,â€ he noted.
Power ministry’s excuse:
While speaking with Sweet crude Dr. Babalola explained that two factors including demand and gas supply determines actual power generation on any given day.
He said the power supply situation has improved and that this was largely due to improvements in gas supply
â€œTowards the 6000 MW target, PHCN is repairing some of the generating plants units in Afam, Sapele, and Ughelli. In terms of machines available to highlight some of the issues in gas supply, we have about 5300 MW of capacity available. With those units being repaired and one of the IPPs being finished, we should be able to have the 6000 MW.
â€œTwo things at any point in time will determine what you generate, number one is the demand that I just explained and the other one is gas supply. Gas supply has actually improved as we have seen over the past several months that it is a pure constraint in power production in Nigeria.
We expect that production will vary from base load which is when demand is low especially at night. Anything from about 4000 MW during the day, that is why we want to ensure that we have at least 6000 MW to be able to cope with the demand when it is needed,â€ he pointed out.
â€œWhat determines actual generation is gas. It’s just like your car, what determines the distance it covers is the amount of fuel in it. If you have a full tank you can cover more mileage. What we have seen so far is that if gas supply improves, and we expect more to be available before the end of the year.
With the Niger Delta issue then, most of the gas supply pipelines were badly affected and one of the major plants, that is the one operated by Chevron was out for a long time but they are fixing that now and that alone accounts for about 2000 mmscf per day or 800 MW of electricity generation per day,â€ he volunteered.
Additional Power underway:
Even though the government may not have achieved the targeted 6000 MW power generation in December, indications are that beyond that date Nigerians may begin to enjoy some measure of respite especially when ongoing construction work on independent power plants achieve completion.
Sweet crude checks revealed that the Shell operated Afam integrated gas and power projects which consists of the 650 MW Afam VI power plant and the Okoloma gas plant both located in Rivers state may be ready for commissioning in December.
It was gathered that the Afam power plant’s advanced design enables it to consume 30 per cent less gas per MW than older plants.
This process generates lower carbon emissions, provides sustainable and efficient power and shall increase Nigeria’s power supply by about 20 per cent and account for upwards of another 20 per cent of Nigeria’s domestic gas supply when fully operational.
Similarly, other power plants being constructed under the aegis of the Nigeria Independent Power Projects (NIPP) appear set to come on stream from the end of the first quarter of 2010, beginning with the Sapele power plant.
â€œI think the first plant to come on stream if I am not mistaken will be Sapele. Basically, it is a phased completion programme so you find that before this time next year, we will have additional megawatts added to the national grid.
â€œIf you go to Alaoji, Sapele, Olorunshogo formally known as Papalanto you actually find that the work is progressing and we are confident that by the beginning of next year, by first quarter next year or thereabout, some of those plants would be coming on stream,â€ the minister of power disclosed.
Despite indications improvement in power generation may be underway, there are widespread concerns that the problems besetting the sector also include critical elements such as gas pricing, electricity tariff, the available infrastructure for power transmission and distribution as well as the need to create an atmosphere conducive for private sector participation.
Dr. Babalola noted that the Nigerian power sector has peculiar challenges, adding that while the ideal is to attract private sector investment, ce3rtain things required to be put in place before this can happen.