By Udeme Akpan
The activities of households and businesses were stalled in Lagos, Kaduna, and other towns, yesterday, following a major system collapse, which culminated in a nationwide blackout.
An investigation by Vanguard showed that the households and various businesses resorted to the generation of their independent power at a higher cost.
In a telephone interview with Vanguard, General Secretary, Network for Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria (NECAN), Engr. Uket Ogbonga, who spoke for the consumers, said: “The losses incurred by households and businesses have increased because of the system collapse. Many of them have resorted to the private generation of electricity at a higher cost, considering the current high cost of petroleum products.”
He added: “Those on essential services, including hospitals have also suffered major setbacks. Many lives, especially those on life support, have also been affected.”
However, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) attributed the development to ‘multiple tripping’.
In a statement obtained by Vanguard, General Manager, Public Affairs, TCN, Ndidi Mbah, stated: “The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) regrets to inform the electricity consumers nationwide that at 11:25 am today, the nation’s electricity grid experienced multiple trippings, which led to the collapse of the system.”
On the restoration, she stated: “TCN has since commenced grid restoration; power has been successfully restored to every part of the country, except for Calabar, Ugwuaji, Markurdi, Jos, Gombe, Yola, and Maiduguri axes. An effort is however ongoing to ensure full restoration nationwide.”
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She added: “We regret the inconvenience this has caused electricity consumers. Investigations would be conducted to establish the immediate and remote cause(s) of the multiple trippings as soon as the grid is fully restored – considering that the grid had been relatively stable in the last couple of months.”
Nevertheless, in its 2020 First Quarter Report, obtained by Vanguard, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, stated: “The industry recorded one (1) incident of total system collapse (i.e. total blackout nation-wide) during the first quarter of 2020. There was no incident of partial system collapse (i.e. failure of a section of the grid) during the first quarter of 2020 as compared to one (1) partial system collapse recorded during the fourth quarter of 2019.”
The Commission stated: “As highlighted in the preceding reports, to further improve the grid stability and prevent system collapse in subsequent quarters and beyond, the Commission in collaboration with the TCN shall intensify efforts to ensure further improvement in the grid performance. The Commission shall intensify the monitoring of strict compliance to the SO’s directives to generators on free governor and frequency control mode in line with the provisions of the subsisting operating codes in the electricity industry.
“Furthermore, the Commission has reviewed the outcome of the competitive procurement of spinning reserves conducted by TCN. This is to guarantee adequate spinning reserves for proper management of the grid by the SO. Based on the provisions of the Grid Code, the system frequency, under normal circumstances, is expected to be between a lower limit of 49.75Hz and an upper limit of 50.25Hz. The Grid Code, however, provides for grid frequency to operate between 48.75Hz – 49.75Hz (lower bound stress) and 50.25Hz – 51.25Hz (upper bound stress) when the grid is stressed.”
“Similarly, the system high frequency, which hitherto was substantially above the upper statutory limit with a significant margin of the average of 0.66Hz in the fourth quarter of 2019, was converging towards the upper limit during the first quarter of 2020 with an average margin of 0.47Hz at the end of March 2020.”
It added: “Although there was a significant improvement in the actual high voltage level between October 2019 and March 2020, both the high and low system voltages were outside the prescribed regulatory boundaries throughout the period. As stated in the preceding quarterly reports, frequency fluctuation, and other harmonic distortion will result in poor power quality that could damage sensitive industrial machinery and equipment that are connected at high voltage levels. To minimize the frequency and voltage fluctuations, the Commission shall continue to work with TCN and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that system voltage and frequencies operate within the prescribed regulatory limits in order to ensure safe and reliable electricity supply.”
System collapse persists
Despite the repeated promises, an investigation by Vanguard showed that system collapse would remain until the major stakeholders, especially TCN and DisCos, have been able to overhaul their old facilities as well introduce new technologies, capable of leading to stability.