September 15, 2023

Outrage as national power grid collapses twice in 6 hours

Outrage as national power grid collapses twice in 6 hours

By Udeme Akpan, Energy Editor, Obas Esiedesa, Ediri Ejoh & Mariam Eko, Lagos
Businesses and homes were again left without power supply for several hours yesterday after the nation’s national grid collapsed twice in less than six hours, dropping power generation by 93.5 per cent to 273MW.

The latest collapse came barely two weeks after the controversial celebration of 400 days of stable or incident-free operations by the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN.

In 2022, the grid collapsed seven times, with the Federal Government promising to end constant power grid instability.

Data supplied by the National System Operator, a semi-autonomous unit in the Transmission Company of Nigeria showed that the grid collapsed around 12.35 am yesterday.

After several hours, it collapsed again around 6.40am, leaving the entire country without public power supply.

As at 1.30 pm yesterday, data from NSO showed that the grid had begun a slow recovery with load allocation to distribution companies at 585 Megawatts.

The highest loads were allocated to Ikeja DisCo (150MW), Eko DisCo and Abuja DisCo with 80MW each.

Why grid collapsed—TCN

The Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, blamed the collapse on a fire incident on Kainji/Jebba 330KV Line 2, adding that the incident is being investigated, with “the view to forestalling future occurrence and invariably further strengthening the grid.”

A statement by TCN General Manager, Public Affairs, Ndidi Mbah, stated that “grid restoration nationwide is in progress and has reached advanced stages, with power supply now available in the West, North-Central, South, East, and a large portion of the northern parts of the country.

“The power supply restoration is sequel to the total grid collapse, which occurred at about 12.35 am, this morning (yesterday), causing outages nationwide, after over 421 days of consistent grid stability.

“In the course of grid restoration, the process initially suffered a setback; this does not amount to another collapse. In the course of any grid restoration process, challenges may be encountered. This happened today while the grid restoration was in progress, but it was promptly addressed”.

Minister of Power confirms system collapse

In his X (formerly Twitter) handle, the Minister of Power, Bayo Adelabu, said: “At 00:35Hrs this morning, Fire outbreak with explosion sound was observed on Kainji/Jebba 330KV Line 2 (Cct K2J) blue phase CVT & Blue phase line Isolator of Kainji/Jebba 330KV Line1 was observed burning. This led to sharp drops in frequency from 50.29Hz to 49.67 Hz at 0:35:06Hrs with Jebba generation loss of 356.63MW.”

Grid unstable

Another government official, who pleaded anonymity, said: “The grid has been very unstable for days before the latest system collapse. As we speak, there is a blackout.”

Checks by Vanguard showed that Nigeria’s electricity generation dropped, Tuesday, by 59 per cent to 1,705 megawatts, MW, from 4,182 MW recorded the previous day at 06:00hours, due to grid disturbance.

DisCos appeal to consumers

In notices informing customers of the outage, DisCos blamed the countrywide blackout on the national grid collapse.

Enugu Electricity Distribution Company PLC in a statement by its Head, Corporate Communications, Emeka Ezeh, stated that “a total system collapse occurred at 12:40am today (yesterday), September 14, 2023. This has resulted in the loss of supply currently being experienced across the network.

“Due to this development, all our interface TCN stations are out of supply, and we are unable to provide service to our customers in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states.”

On its part, Eko DisCo, stated: “Kindly be informed that a system collapse occurred yesterday at 6:41 a.m. This has resulted in a total loss of supply across our network. We are in continuous communication with our partners at the National Control Centre, NCC, Osogbo. You will be updated as we get more information.”

Also, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC, reported the collapse, stating: “The management of AEDC wishes to inform its customers that the power outage currently being experienced is a result of a system failure from the national grid in the early hours of today, 14 September 2023.

“Be rest assured that we are working with the relevant stakeholders to restore power as soon as the grid is stabilized.’’

$7.5bn loans fail to halt collapses

Under former President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria secured about $7.5 billion loans to improve transmission infrastructure and halt unending collapses witnessed by the national grid.

The loans came from the World Bank, African Development Bank, the government of Japan, and the Islamic Development Bank among others.

A $486 million loan was advanced by the World Bank under the Nigeria Electricity Transmission Project, NETAP, while another $2.5 billion was taken to finance the Siemens deal targeted at improving the transmission network.

Also, Japan granted a $242.4 million loan to Nigeria for the implementation of the Lagos and Ogun Power Transmission System Improvement Project.

In 2017, the House of Representatives disclosed that foreign loan to the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, totalled $1.5bn, with a separate $500 million loan being negotiated with the Islamic Development Bank.

The IsDB in 2022 eventually approved a total financing of $1.8 billion for Nigeria, with the electricity loan expected to be a part of it.

Then Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, had in 2020, said the Federal Government requested a $3 billion World Bank loan to finance the transmission network. The fund was provided in four tranches of $750 million each.

The African Development Bank, AfDB, in 2019, approved a $210 million loan for upgrade of the electricity transmission and distribution network.

TCN, others’ efforts not sufficient — Geotechnics boss

However, in an interview with Vanguard yesterday, the Managing Director/CEO of Geotechnics Services Limited, Dr. Adesina Adedeji, who holds a Ph.D. in Geographic Information Systems, with specialisation in Energy Poverty from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, noted that efforts so far made by many stakeholders, including the government and its agencies, are insufficient to generate, transmit, distribute and supply adequate power on a sustainable basis.

FG should adopt renewables

He said: “Globally, many households, organisations and governments are currently focusing attention on renewables because of the clean energy it provides. It is also targeted at achieving and sustaining a cleaner environment.

‘’Take Germany for example, it produced about 26,000 Megawatts from Solar as of 2006, whereas Nigeria cannot say exactly what it produces.

“Everything is lip service. Until the Federal Government comes up with a guided programme of funding and implementing mixed energy, it will be a tall dream to achieve the required megawatts, whereas it is not rocket science.

‘’The government only needs to put in place people with adequate knowledge and expertise like the saying ‘putting a square peg in a square hole.’ “Therefore, ensuring universal access to affordable electricity by 2030 means investing in clean energy sources such as solar, wind and thermal. Renewables have the capacity to accelerate growth without a negative impact on the environment.

‘’It also has the capacity to impact and improve the nation’s power sector and economy through expansion of the infrastructure.”

Experts react

Reacting to the development yesterday, the Executive Director, Networks, Niger Delta Power Holding Company, Engr. Ifeoluwa Oyedele, said it had become critical for the sector to acquire the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, SCADA, system.

Oyedele said: “The national grid is too large geographically. A SCADA System is an absolute must for the efficient operation of the transmission network. For the SCADA to function seamlessly, it must not be encumbered for any other purpose as this may further complicate the SCADA project.

“There is an urgent need to improve the distribution networks which are decayed and contribute significantly to system collapse.”

Also reacting, electricity market analyst, Mr. Lanre Elatuyi, noted that system imbalance happened when generation and consumption were not matched in real time, which results in frequency going beyond the threshold allowed.

He explained that because the grid also relied mainly on a small group of power plants, any drop in generation output by any of the plants could trigger grid collapse.

National grid system not solution

On the call by some operators for the national grid to be broken into regional grids, he pointed out that the regional grid system was not the solution to the problem. “It is not a question of national or regional grids. Many countries, including Great Britain, have a national grid but they don’t have the problem we are facing.

‘Grid can’t transmit 4,000 MW consistently’

’Our grid can barely transmit 4,000MW consistently. It has a length of about 20,000Km. It is a small grid. We need strict adherence to the grid code.

“There are technical reasons our grid is collapsing and we need to find out and sort it out. The way the grid operates is that at every time, generation must be equal to consumption. In real time, it must be balanced and that is where ancillary services come in.

‘’Ancillary services are those the system operator can call on, including the spinning reserve. We must have a synchronized plan that ensures that when a plant goes down, another one can be called up immediately by the system operator”.

Consumers react

In his reaction, the President, Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Kola Olubiyo, said incidents of grid collapses would continue in the country until causes were addressed.

“As long as we refuse to address the fundamental root causes of the system’s collapses, system distortions, system instability and related concerns. the problem will persist,’’ he said.

He insisted that the recent claim by TCN that it achieved grid stability for over 400 days was a “flash in the pan”, adding it came “at time there was low generation, low load dispatch and low energy utilisation.

“If we peak load at 5,800MW or say 6,000MW and sustained load at 6,000MW, the grid will collapse. It might not be out of place to describe the feat as a fluke.’’