NIGERIA’s frequent grid collapse has been attributed largely to delays in unbundling of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) by the Federal Government, The ICIR findings have shown.
The unbundling is expected to do two things to the grid. First, is to have a market and a systems operators working interdependently; second, is to enforce interdependent coordination.
Accordingly, the unbundling will enable independent roles for the market operator (MO) and the systems operator (SO). This would enhance proper monitoring of the grid, while also ensuring sanctions on defaulters in the power value-chain.
Also, the market operator oversees the administration of Nigeria’s electricity market (NEM), while the system operator can best be described as the soul of the grid performing several functions.
Another reason for the frequent grid collapse is traced to poor collaboration among the various players in the value chain – the transmission, the distribution, and the generation companies.
Currently, the TCN performs the dual role as one and not independently. As a result, analysts are worried there hasn’t been an enforcement of proper sanctions on defaulting power sector players.
“Let’s think of the market as one that can serve itself and not a market of subsidies. Decentralisation of the grid is not isolation of the grid; it is opening up the grid for more investor-friendly environment,” the Lagos State Commissioner for Natural Resources, Olalere Odusote, said at a NEXIER power dialogue in March, in which The ICIR participated.
Odusote expressed a concern that grid collapse was recurring because no power sector player had been sanctioned.
He further identified the weak infrastructure of the distribution companies as a key cause of load power rejection. According to him, this put pressure on the spinning reserve and forces eventual collapse of the grid.
The ICIR findings further showed that the distribution companies do not have the capacity to absorb about 7,000 megawatts of power, which the TCN often wheels out to them.
Their capacity to absorb power, according to records, hovers between 3,500 and 4,000 megawatts. This inadvertently forces intermittent load rejection and eventual grid collapse.
“The market operator will enable appropriate sanctions for distribution companies and systems operator who reject loads which put pressure on the grid. Right now, it is not so because TCN hasn’t been unbundled fully,” an energy lawyer and power sector analyst, Chuks Nwani, told THE ICIR.
According to records, the country’s power sector in post-privatisation Nigeria has witnessed about 130 grid collapses, a challenge that experts and operators said would linger for a long time.
Further findings showed that the sector recorded a total of 45 partial grid collapses and 82 total collapses between 2013 and 2020.
The nation witnessed the highest system collapse in 2016 and the least in 2020.
Nigeria’s national grid is known for experiencing disruptions. It collapsed in February, May, July and August 2021.
The grid has collapsed six times so far in 2022.
A former chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, (NERC), Sam Amadi, said grid collapse was a symptom of a larger problem in the sector
Amadi said, “The Ministry of Power and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission both as policy drivers and market regulators need to drive the market and stop weak regulation to stop incessant grid collapse.
He told The ICIR that the continuous collapse of the national grid was evidence of underlying problems in the electricity policy, adding that the policy framework and its implementation had been very poor.
He advised government to, in the medium term, “radically” review the performance of the distribution companies through a regulated benchmark that would be transparent and consensual.
“After a period of time, say six months, the regulator should revise the franchise area of each DisCo based on performance on these benchmarks. This process will be powerful incentives for drastic improvement in performance.
“Also, in the long term, the government should review the policy by re-engaging with investment in power under a new market model that is more aligned to the Asian model, rather than the Anglo-American business model,” Amadi said.
Poor energy access has seen over 80 million people denied a chance at a better life due to decreased economic opportunities.
Nigeria already loses about $29bn annually, due to epileptic power supply, according to a recent World Bank sponsored study in April 2021.
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.