By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
There is no hope of improved power supply in the country, unless the current sabotage and indiscipline in the sector are firmly addressed.
A top executive of one of the Electricity Generation Companies (Gencos) who spoke with Vanguard in Abuja, revealed that the phenomenon of grid collapse would continue until the federal government took drastic measures to address the new threats to power assets across the country.
He added that regulatory agencies, such as the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) must also wield the big stick to punish infractions in the industry, for Nigerians to enjoy improved power supply.
According to him, a stakeholders’ meeting early in the week, revealed that the sabotage of transmission lines was beginning to gain ground in Southern parts of the country, where criminals vandalise power infrastructure and extort money from officials of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) before they are allowed access to the sites for repair works.
“The last system collapse was due to an attack on the power transmission line. This is a new twist to the problems we are having in the power sector. It will make our situation worse, if left unchecked.
“You can’t imagine that people use catapult s to break insulators and when officials of TCN go to the community for repair works, members of those communities would deny them access to the sites, telling them to pay money before they would be allowed to carry out repairs or replace the destroyed insulators.
“A similar thing happened in Benin, in the town, not in an obscure community. This should not be allowed to continue because if it festers in the South, you can be sure that it will go across to the North and we will have a worse situation.
Besides, the official said that the failure of the Distribution Companies (Discos) and the TCN to invest heavily in the provision of necessary infrastructure for their operations has become a cog in the wheel of electricity supply in the country.
He explained that the TCN does not have the necessary infrastructure to wheel all of the power that the Gencos have the capacity to produce and put on the grid.
Besides, he said that the problem of power rejection by Discos had worsened since January this year, when they were given a target of 80 per cent Minimum Remittance Level of the cost of power consumed.
According to him, the Discos have relapsed into the sole excuse of consumers’ failure to pay for power consumed, even when they (Discos) have failed to meter consumers, as originally conceived, in the Power Sector Reforms Plan under which the industry was privatized.
With the failure of both TCN and Discos to invest in infrastructure to wheel power and supply consumers, respectively, the source said that there has been a stiff competition among Gencos to put as much power into the grid as each could, resulting in the frequency always being high.
He said that the Gencos have to individually put as much power as possible into the grid because they get paid for the power put on the grid, not according to capacity, as earlier envisaged in the privatization arrangement.
According to him, the normal operational system by the Gencos should be to ensure that each generator was on Free Governor.
The Free Governor allows an automatic modulation of the volume of power to be sent on the grid by each generator, such that when the frequency is too high, the generators automatically reduce their outputs and increase them when the frequency reduces, because power cannot be stored.
The official said that unless NERC took a firm stand against the practice it would continue and that it would bring about a more frequent grid collapse.
He added that the federal government must also take steps to clear the huge debts owed Gencos, which he said run into over N100 billion for some individual companies, as they were finding it increasingly more difficult to operate.
Some government agencies, stated, also owe Discos huge debts, he said, adding that despite several promises by the federal government, those debts remain unpaid, resulting in a cash crunch in the industry.