The shortage of gas supplies to electricity generation companies has worsened Nigeria’s power crisis. The country requires an estimated 30,000 megawatts to achieve electricity sufficiency, but has only been able to generate 5,000 megawatts, falling short of the Federal Government’s target set last year, OPEOLUWANI AKINTAYO writes

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission declared last year that from July 1, 2022, the country’s power sector would aim to generate a minimum of 5,000 megawatts of electricity. However, this is far below the country’s requirements.  The Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, which represents Electricity Distribution Companies, estimates that the country requires 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation to meet its immediate needs.

The last time Nigeria generated 5,000MW of electricity was three years ago. A lot of challenges plaguing the power sector have made it underperforming despite currently having a generation capacity of 7,000 MW.

The unavailability of feedstock, especially gas, has remained a top challenge limiting electricity generation on the grid, according to the NERC in its latest report for the first quarter of the year.

The report showed that the capacity for electricity of 17 power plants declined in the first three months.

Nigeria used to pride itself on being able to produce 5,000 megawatts of electricity. However, the current data from the Systems Operator indicates that the country’s electricity generation currently hovers around 4,000MW. As of August 6, the country’s 29 power plants generated 3,803.60 MW.

According to NERC’s 2023/Q1 report, Rivers IPP with a capacity of 180MW, and Afam VI with 624MW reported gas shortage-induced outages. Similarly, 600MW Shiroro reported outages due to water management to maintain its reservoir through the dry season.

Insufficient gas supply has consistently been reported as one of the major challenges bedevilling the power sector.

A report by The PUNCH last year June detailed how 20 gas power plants underperformed, leading to power generation dropping below 2000MW. The affected plants were Omotosho units 5 & 6, Olorunsogo units 3, 4 & 6, Omoku Units 3 & 6, Omotosho NIPP units 3 & 4, Delta units 15, 17, and 18, Afam VI units 11 & 12, Olorunsogo NIPP unit 3, Ihovbor NIPP unit 2, Sapele Steam unit 3, Sapele NIPP unit 1, Odukpani NIPP units 1 & 3, and Okpai units 11, 12 & 18.

In 2023/Q1, the average hourly generation on the grid was 4,334.41MWh/h, which indicated an increase of 92.05MWh/h (2.16 per cent) compared to 4,242.36MWh/h in 2022/Q4.  Only three plants recorded increases in their average hourly generation over the two quarters – Afam VI (+142.12 per cent), Egbin ST (+50.63 per cent), and Odukpani (+19.19 per cent). The overall increase in average hourly generation within the quarter was due to an increase in the available capacity of Egbin, Afam VI, Geregu and Sapele power plants.

The biggest improvement recorded in Egbin’s hourly output was virtually proportional to the improvement in its availability. This is to be expected because Egbin plays a critical role in meeting demand in the Lagos region, which regularly accounts for 25–30 per cent of national consumption.

Conversely, Delta GS (-15.23 per cent), Azura (-3.24 per cent), Jebba (-3.49 per cent) and Kainji (-2.52 per cent), had reduced hourly generation in 2023/Q1 compared to 2022/Q4. Cumulatively, the average hourly generation of the remaining 19 power plants decreased by 15.35 per cent in 2023/Q1 compared to 2022/Q4.

Another challenge that continues to limit output on the grid is the prevalence of unscheduled corrective outages. Alaoji NIPP lost one of its units (GT2) throughout the quarter due to emergency repair works on the unit following a fire outbreak, according to the report.

The total electricity generated in 2023/Q1 was 9,350.24GWh, indicating a decrease of 15.41GWh (-0.16 per cent) from the 9,365.65GWh generated in 2022/Q4.

According to NERC, 10 power plants reported increased generation in 2023/Q1. On the flip, 17 plants recorded a decrease in generation during this period.

The average load factor for all grid-connected power plants was 86.39 per cent in 2023/Q1, meaning that 13.61 per cent of available capacity was unutilised during the period. The 86.39 per cent load factor recorded in 2023/Q1 represented a decrease of 9.04 per cent from the 95.43 per cent average load factor recorded in 2022/Q4.

The load factor is a measure of the utilisation of a power plant’s capacity, calculated as the ratio of the average electricity generated to the maximum possible generation over the period, based on the available capacity. A higher load factor results in better capacity utilisation, reducing the cost per unit of energy and increasing profitability, as fixed costs are spread over a larger amount of dispatched energy. The load factor reflects both demand for energy and a plant’s ability to supply it.

The NERC report disclosed that 18 power plants recorded dispatch rates of at least 90 per cent in 2023/Q1. Omoku (100 per cent), Trans Amadi (100 per cent), Ihovbor NIPP (100 per cent) and Afam VI (100 per cent) were the four plants that had the highest utilisation rates.

All the hydro plants except Shiroro, continued to experience a high dispatch rate (> 90 per cent) in line with the commission’s order. NERC had in a circular, NERC/182/2019, mandated that all hydro plants should be dispatched with priority to reduce wholesale energy costs for consumers.

There are also environmental considerations for the prioritisation of the hydro plants as they have a major impact on water flows further downstream. The reason Shiroro had a dispatch rate below 90 per cent was due to water management initiatives being implemented by the System Operator to guarantee the plant could run through Q2 ahead of the rainy season.

Call for investment

NERC has stressed the need to ramp up investment in the sector to address the drop in the quality of electricity supplied to consumers.

According to the report, the average daily maximum and minimum system frequencies of 50.86Hz and 49.08Hz electricity quality produced in the quarter under review were outside the higher and lower bounds of the normal operational limit (50Hz±0.25Hz) approved in the grid code.

It added that the averages of daily maximum and minimum system voltage in 2023/Q1 were 352.96kV and 299.97kV, respectively, and that they were also outside the limits set in the grid code (330kV±16.5kV).

The continual operation of the grid outside the normal operational limits contained in the grid code remains a major problem for the System Operator, which has an obligation to run the system as close as possible to the set targets for the respective parameters.

“Operating the system with deviations from these set targets reduces the quality of electricity being supplied to consumers (this is particularly important to industrial customers that operate highly sensitive equipment),” NERC said.

Continuous supply of low-quality electricity compromises the long-term health of power system infrastructures at both the transmission and distribution levels.

“The SO must invest in infrastructures and incorporate operational procedures that will improve its real-time grid visibility thereby enabling it to enforce grid discipline among the various market participants,” the commission continued.

Electric power quality is the degree to which the voltage, frequency, and waveform of a power supply system conform to established specifications. Power quality problems can cause processes and equipment to malfunction or shut down.

While Nigeria currently has one of the largest numbers of people lacking access to power globally, low-quality supply is also one of its major challenges.

The Energy Progress Report 2022 released by Tracking SDG 7 said Nigeria had the lowest access to electricity globally, with about 92 million persons out of the country’s 200 million population lacking access to power.

The report in partnership with the International Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Agency, United Nations Statistics Division, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation, explained that Nigeria was followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 72 million, Ethiopia’s 56 million and Pakistan’s 54 million access deficits.

According to the report, the latest, Nigeria remained poor because electrification advances failed to keep pace with population growth. That, it said, was in contrast with Kenya and Uganda’s fastest progress in electrification due to their annualised increases of more than three per cent points between 2010 and 2020.

The report added, “Special attention to these countries is essential through prioritised investments and improvements in policy and regulatory frameworks to scale up electricity access toward the SDG 7 targets.”

Generation Mix

Experts have said Nigeria cannot survive on just one type of power solution. According to them, a mix would rather be advised owing to the country’s large population, and the percentage difference between the served and the unserved.

The electricity generation mix refers to the combination of fuel used to generate electricity over a period. The composition of the generation mix varies across countries and is influenced by factors such as natural resource availability, government policies, environmental considerations, type of power plants, energy demand, and seasonal fluctuations.

NERC said an ideal energy mix must balance the three key objectives of the energy trilemma- cost reduction, reliability, and energy security.

According to the NERC report, there was a decrease in hydropower contribution to the energy mix from 31.10 per cent (2,912.47GWh) in 2022/Q4 to 25.35 per cent (2,713.43GWh) in 2023/Q1. The decrease was consistent with expectations regarding Nigeria’s energy mix. Energy generated by hydropower plants was limited by water availability in the months of January to July.

Solar panels booms

The Nigerian solar panel market is currently witnessing a boom owing to the power crisis and high diesel costs, The PUNCH findings have shown.

A solar panel is a device that converts light energy from the sun to electrical energy. Solar panels consist of polyvoltaic cells (PV cells or solar cells) that absorb energy from sun rays and convert it to DC current. It can then be further processed by a power inverter to deliver energy to appliances in a home or business.

With rising costs of diesel and petrol to above N600 per litre and the numerous national grid collapses, findings showed that Nigerians are currently turning to renewable energies, especially solar panels for succour.

The PUNCH market survey showed that solar panel prices start from N10,000 and above depending on its power capacity and quality.

According to Visual Capitalist, a business platform,  the global energy mix by 2040 would comprise oil (28 per cent), natural gas (25 per cent), coal (21 per cent), modern bioenergy (seven per cent ); nuclear (five per cent); solid biomass and hydro (three per cent each).

The Council for Renewable Energy Nigeria said it had identified over 100m untapped market opportunities in Nigeria’s solar sector for the unserved electricity consumers.

A Director at Asteven Group and member of the Renewable Energy Association, Dr Segun Adaju, told The PUNCH that the solar market was currently witnessing an increase in demand due to low power supply and the high cost of diesel.

“There is a boom in the solar market because the grid is always collapsing and everyone needs power. We now have more people coming to ask about the cost of installing solar panels. And you know there’s also an increase in the price of diesel,” he said.

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