MANY electricity consumers in Nigeria have confirmed improvement in power supply in the past one month.
The improvement levels have, however, varied, in line with the government’s introduction of different tariffs for consumers.
The Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had in 2020 introduced a ‘service reflect tariff’, which classified consumers into bands A, B, C, D and E. The initiative seeks to address load rejection from distribution companies (DisCos), which could lead to grid collapse if left unaddressed.
The idea, in other words, seeks to address power allotment to the respective DisCos according to their load capacity.
It also seeks to track their payment returns.
According to the service reflective tariff groupings, band A enjoys an average of 20 hours per day; band B, 16 hours; and band C, 12 hours, while bands D and E receive a minimum of only eight and four hours daily.
One electricity consumer confirmed an improvement in supply.
“Our estate is in band A, and we are enjoying a minimum of 20 hours of power supply per day. This is quite commendable, and I hope they sustain it. I sell food in the estate, and meat in the refrigerator is preserved because of the constant power,” a restaurant operator in Kubwa, a satellite town in Abuja, Oluchukwu Mgbemena, told The ICIR.
The Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, said he has been receiving feedback from some distribution companies on the improved power supply.
In a recent Tweet, Aliyu referred to a post by the Yola Electricity Distribution Company hailing its ability to sustain power supply despite the heavy downpour in the state.
The ICIR survey showed that the Federal government’s work on grid expansion and current dam water level improvement were major factors contributing to power supply stability to homes.
Also identified as having a huge impact on the recorded improvement are transmission expansion and rehabilitation of sub-stations.
“Nobody can tell us that they have generated power that we have not evacuated. The stability we are currently enjoying in the sector is as a result of so many things. We are doing aggressive grid expansion. And now, we have water in the dams,” the managing director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz, told The ICIR.
Abdulaziz stressed that Nigeria now has the transmission capacity to deliver 8,100 megawatts of power to the grid because of expansion.
He added that due to constant rehabilitation of sub-stations across the country, evacuation of power to homes and commercial activities had improved.
Last month, the TCN deployed a high technology scheme called the Internet of Things (IoT) and Virtual Private Network (VPN) as a stop-gap solution to improve the national grid.
The technology, TCN said, was for real-time grid operations and management at the National Control Centre in Osogbo, Osun.
Some industry voices attributed the improved power situation to the contract-based performance that the value-chain players in the power sector – comprising the generation, distribution and transmission companies – signed in July this year.
“There has been a deliberate regulatory strategy championed by Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission to hold operators in the market accountable. This strategy is premised on Service Level Agreement (SLA)/Partial Activation of Generation Contracts,” the engineer in charge of the market operator at the TCN, Edmund Eneh Ejeh, told The ICIR.
According to Ejeh, market discipline had been activated in the value chain, with the players playing according to the rules.
What other experts are saying
A former chairman of the NERC, Sam Amadi, speaking on the stable power supply situation, told our correspondent that what is happening currently are reductions in technical losses and efficient grid management.
Amadi said, “What is happening currently is not about more generation, it is about the improvement of system management. It’s all about lessening inefficiency and control of aggregate technical and commercial losses.
“They improved marginally in their uptime, which has improved supply at homes. Nothing drastic has really happened.”
He added that the distribution companies had been able to manage their loads take, and stop load rejections.
He urged the government to fix gas turbines to enable grid stability and sustain power supply.
Also, the Executive Director and Convener, Powerup Nigeria, an electricity consumer rights and policy advocacy group, Adetayo Adegbemle, advised the NERC to build on the current trajectory to improve power supply.
Adegbemle said, “There have been reports of improved power supply in key parts of the country. This is commendable. However, key followers would know that this is a regular occurrence at this period of the year. It’s a cycle.
“So, let’s see if this good trajectory will be maintained, especially now that the NERC has started the contract-based power market since July 1st, 2022.”
He stressed that the impact of regular power supply on the economy cannot be underestimated as it increases productivity.
Commenting on whether the noticeable increase is linked to the Federal government’s deal with Siemens, he said, “It definitely has nothing to do with the Siemens deal, as installations of the first set of Siemens transformers are just starting.”
He also said it would be too early to assess the impact of the recent restructuring of the ownership of some DisCos on the appreciable development in the power sector.
“The effect of the recent management restructuring of some of the Discos cannot be felt yet as they’re still finding their footing, but some of them have come out to promise changes. We can see some traction already with Abuja Disco, and Enugu, too, with a new MD. IBEDC has made promises,” Adegbemle said.
Generation companies share their own perspective and concerns
The Executive Secretary, Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC), Joy Ogaji, told The ICIR that the general consumption nature was still largely supplied to homes.
Ogaji said, “If 4,000 megawatts is enough or is deemed an improvement, then do we really need more than 4,000? It shows two things: one, that our power consumption is only on residential; and two, that it confirms the assertion that we are a consuming economy and not a productive one. This is because our commercial activities have tactically stayed clear from the grid due to the abysmal state of power supply in quality and reliability. The micro, small and medium enterprises have refused to connect to the grid.”
This is because our commercial activities have tactically stayed clear from the grid due to the abysmal state of power supply in quality and reliability.
She stressed that the improvement also proved that the country was experiencing a surplus.
“Are we really there yet? We are talking about 4,000mw for 216 million population, with over 60 per cent of the population falling within the youth class who are restive and energy-hungry, not to mention the threat that poor supply portends to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCTA),” she said.
Ogaji suggested that to harness the full potential of the AfCFTA, Nigeria needed to coordinate relevant MDAs and stakeholder groups to undertake a wide range of actions at the domestic, sub-regional and continental levels to prepare Nigeria and Nigerians to take advantage of the benefits of the AfCFTA, while protecting them from identified trade threats – domestic, sub-regional and continental power.
“In a bit to resolve these issues, the government has embarked upon various interventions such as policy reforms, increased infrastructure development, unbundling of the heritage Power Holding Company, declaration of the eligible customer policy, distributing/franchising special performance vehicles (SPVs), the establishment of increased mini-grids and capacity generation, infrastructure concessioning through public-private partnership, and increased international development partnership along the electricity value chain,” she said.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.