ABOUT 200 mega watts, MW, of power is now being kept under strategic reserves as stabilizer for the National Grid to prevent power collapse during frequency fluctuations.

The Commissioner, Market Competition and Rates, in the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Mr. Eyo Ekpo, who disclosed this recently on the sidelines of a power conference organized by the industry regulator, to Vanguard, said, “We now have what we call a generation reserve.

In other words, 200MW of power doesn’t go to homes, it’s just there and it provides a buffer that protects the grid against drops or spikes in frequency of the grid and in the nominal voltage of the grid.”

He also explained that the Grid has to operate at the frequency of 50 hertz and a tolerance of 49.75 and 60.25. “Anything above or below this range, we’ll have a collapse. If its voltage range, the grid must operate at a voltage of 130 or 230 volts, depending on that particular line. So when there are fluctuations or spikes, the 200MW comes in.”

Ekpo further revealed the 200MW generation reserves are being supplied by the Geregu Independent Power Plant, IPP and Kainji Power Plant, saying, “The 200MW is like a big stabilizer in the national grid being provided by Geregu and Kainji because the Grid Code has a provision for that kind of facility and we are beginning to obey the code.”

Explaining the benefit of the power reserves, he noted that since the year started, there has been no total collapse in the national grid since January 1. “Never in the history of this country has there been 60 days plus that there has been no total system collapse. It has happened only because, finally, people are beginning to obey the system operator, in terms of dispatch.”

Hitherto, the electricity system has been bedeviled with frequent grid collapse occasioned by power spikes, but with such generation reserves, it is expected that such occurrences would be reduced to the barest if not completely eliminated.

“I am not saying we are no longer going to have systems collapse, am saying that we are no longer going to have them at the frequency we used to in the past, Ekpo added.”

With the increase in operational discipline, it is expected that electricity service delivery will improve significantly than ever before, especially as two more plants from the National Integrated Power Projects are expected to come on stream before the end of the second quarter and will be fired to the grid, while more are nearing completion.

However, a director in the Ministry of Power, Mr. John Ayodele, noted that the issue now is not so much of power generation but more of gas supply to feed the power plants.

He noted that notwithstanding the fact that the Federal Government has given assurance of adequate gas supply and is putting everything in place to ensure that the gas supply issue is resolved, but how to transport the gas to the plants remains an even bigger issue in view of the integrity of the existing pipelines, some of which were laid over 50 years ago by the International Oil Companies, IOCs.

According to him, “One thing we must understand about these gas pipelines is that apart from vandalism, some of them are very old and so the integrity of the pipelines needs to be fortified. But that will be at another development stage, and until we have a parallel supply, we can’t break what we have now just because you want to lay new pipes, it will take time.”

Although, at every given opportunity, the IOCs continue to vouch for the integrity of their plans, while claiming to laying new ones, and prefer to blame pipeline mishaps on vandalism rather than operational hazards.

While the country awaits the new pipelines, Ayodele said, “What government is doing is to set up some other roots that gas can take before they go back and rehabilitate the old one. Even the PHCN assets are old plants, and until the NIPP plants or new plants start replacing some of these old assets  to enable them retire or be rehabilitated and brought back, what we are doing is cut and paste. We try to manage what we have in the presence of nothing else to the system.

If we had added the 5000MW expected from the NIPP, by now we would have had the opportunity to supplement what we have and be able to take some plants out for long time rehabilitation.”

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