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Grid collapse persists in Nigeria despite government’s interventions

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Frequent collapse of the national grid in Nigeria will persist, despite federal government’s interventions, unless a proper unbundling of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, (TCN) is enforced.

The unbundling, industry analysts say, will enable an independent role for the market operator (MO) and systems operator (SO) to enhance proper monitoring of the grid, while ensuring sanctions on defaulters in the power value chain.

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.


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The system operator undertakes control of the physical operation of the electricity system.

It is also saddled with managing the transmission grid lines, ensuring their reliability, and maintaining the grid’s technical stability through its operations of planning, dispatch, and control of the grid.

Currently, the TCN performs the dual role as one and not independently. As a result, analysts said, there hasn’t been enforcement of proper sanctions on defaulting power sector players.

“Let’s think of the market as one that can serve itself and not 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 recent NEXIER power dialogue, where THE ICIR participated.

Odusote expressed concern that grid collapse was recurring because no power sector player had been sanctioned.

The weak infrastructure of the distribution companies was identified as often leading to load power rejection, and putting pressure on the spinning reserve, which forces eventual collapse of the grid.

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THE ICIR findings showed that the distribution companies don’t have the capacity to absorb about 7000 megawatts of power that the TCN often wheels out to them.

Their capacity to absorb power hovers between 3500 and 4000 megawatts, while forcing intermittent load rejection.

This inability to absorb wheeled-out power further puts intense pressure on the spinning reserve at the National Control Centre located in Oshogbo, which results in recurring 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 which 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.

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Nigeria’s national grid is known for experiencing disruptions. It collapsed in February, May, July and August 2021.

The grid has collpased five times so far in 2022.

Most industry analysts are further worried that following the privatisation of the power sector since 2013, the sector has been enjoying subsidies from the Federal Government.

These subsidies running into trillions of naira have, however, failed to lift the sector from its present doldrums of epileptical power supply and frequent grid collapse.

Last month, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) declared that subsidy on power amounting to about N600 billion had been stopped by the Federal Government.

The NERC chairman, Sanusi Garba, explained that the role of the commission was to make a determination of the rates that consumers should pay, thereby striking a balance between consumers and investors.

“Now, subsidy is a policy issue determined by the government. The government will decide that the rates calculated or agreed by the regulator may at this time not be passed on to consumers. It has happened many times.

“In the past four, five years, the level of subsidy has gradually been reduced because you cannot run the electricity market on life support and say that investors cannot get their return on investment until government steps in to provide the required funding,” Garba said.

Some industry analysts also said the frequent grid collapse was a symptom of the wobbling nature of Nigeria’s privatised power sector.

A former chairman of the NERC, Sam Amadi, stated 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.

While proposing options to make the system work, Amadi noted that the obstinate collapse showed that the electricity reform was not working.

To change the game, the government, Amadi advised, has to establish a functional presidential task force outside the Ministry of Power but working with it to track interventions to optimize improvement in the short term.

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 noted.

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.

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