Our expectations of the Transmission Company of Nigeria in 2013

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By Akintola Omigbodun

The Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, is the link between the electricity distribution companies and the power generation companies. TCN will remain 100% owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, while the electricity distribution companies and the power generation companies will be partially privatised.

Two events characterize for me the performance of the TCN. One evening early in 2002, I was driving out of Lagos Island on the Eko Bridge. At the moment I arrived beside the power complex of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, at Ijora, there was a spark – a short circuit – at the top of a transmission tower and there was instant darkness from that spot and through all the neighborhoods on my journey that night on the Lagos mainland.

Power supply had not been restored 36 hours later when I had to travel out of Lagos. Also, early in 2002, I had to visit Delta Power Station, now Ughelli Power Plc. On my road journey from Warri to Sapele, I observed that the 132kV transmission lines had been vandalised with a large number of spans of cable missing between transmission towers. If these 132kV transmission lines had been available, they would have carried the power from newly installed Mitsubishi turbines which therefore remained unused at the Delta Power Station.

It would appear that the TCN was not providing adequate protection systems against short circuits at its installations and the transmission system was not being operated such that it would deliver all the power from the power stations connected to the transmission system. These characteristics of the TCN still persist judging from the reports by Clara Nwachukwu in the Vanguard newspaper of 24 December 2012.

*PHCN transformer

*PHCN transformer

The reports indicate a long list of unavailable breakers, isolators, transformers, transmission lines and ground switches. In one instance, a transformer was awaiting the installation of a secondary lighting arrestor. One would expect that the FGN would give instructions and funds to the new board of the TCN for putting in working order all the components of the existing transmission system.

At present, the transmission system of TCN is delivering about 4000MW of power to the electricity distribution companies. If we look back at the period in 2001 – 2002 when the electric power sector reform was being contemplated, we will find the projections were that 12500MW of power would be delivered by the transmission system by now.

One would be forgiven if one believes that the figure of 12500MW was arrived at simply because someone felt the figure 12500MW could be achieved in a 10 year period. In fact, there were specific projects making up the 12500MW. However, some of these projects such as the Zungeru Hydro and Mambilla Hydro have only recently had construction and procurement contracts awarded by the FGN.

Access to the transmission system poses a significant constraint to anyone outside of the FGN who wants to undertake a power generation project. Agura Independent Power Plant, IPP, with maximum output of 700MW – 800MW is been proposed by Chevron Nigeria next door to the Egbin Power Station with first phase output of about 300MW. Agura IPP will use the existing power lines from Egbin Power Station to evacuate power to Aja and Ikeja West Transmission Stations.

Reports have indicated shortfalls in the capacities of the 330kV transmission lines and 330kV/132kV transformers in the situation where the maximum output of 700MW-800MW is available from Agura IPP. Chevron Nigeria is committed to completing the first phase by 2016. However, without additional transmission capacity Chevron Nigeria would not take the investment decision for the second phase.

The system operator estimates current demand on the transmission system at about 10000MW. However it is obvious the system does not have the transformers in the sequence 330kV/132kV/33kV to deliver this 10000MW to the electricity distribution companies. The TCN therefore has to provide additional transformers and transmission lines.

In most places across Nigeria, transmission lines near urban centres provide ready access to land through which the transmission lines pass. The result is that human settlements spring up very close to these transmission lines. The settlements near existing transmission lines will be affected by additional transmission lines. The TCN has to take a longterm view and should set about acquiring land for transmission stations and transmission lines looking towards the day when the transmission system will be able to deliver 40,000MW.

This figure of 40000MW is not from some policy maker’s desk. If we look at Saudi Arabia and Iran, we will find that in 2003 Iran had 31000MW of installed generating capacity with plans to increase this to 47500MW by 2010 and to 96000MW by 2020.

Saudi Arabia had 25000MW power production capacity in 2001 with plans to increase this to 66000MW by 2023. Both countries have announced economic strategies for industrial diversification away from dependence on crude oil revenues. If we set ourselves the less ambitious target of adding 1000MW per annum to the generating/transmission/distribution network, we should arrive at 40000MW in another 35 years.

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