By Bassey Udo
With electricity distribution through the national grid restored, the Federal Government says responsible agencies are working with relevant industry operators to resolve all challenges causing the current epileptic supply situation in the country.
Electricity consumers were thrown into total darkness nationwide on Tuesday after the national grid, which experienced serious hiccups on Monday, finally collapsed completely barely hours after it was recovered.
But giving updates on the situation on Wednesday both the Minister of Power, Mohammed Aliyu, and the Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sanusi Garba, gave various reasons for the crisis and the efforts to resolve it on a permanent basis.
In a statement on Wednesday through his Special Adviser on Media, Sanusi Isa, the Minister blamed the crisis in the power sector to the current energy crisis confronting some key sectors of the country’s economy, particularly the oil and gas industry.
“We are where we are today also because of the increasing vandalism of pipelines that also supply gas to the power plants,” he said.
Assuring that the problem was being resolved in collaboration with the relevant government agencies, the Minister said the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) and other gas suppliers in the oil and gas industry were working relentlessly to restore gas supply for optimum power supply.
The government, he said, was working with the relevant security agencies to stop the vandalism of pipelines, adding that routine maintenance of power generating plants also contributed to the current power outages the country was experiencing.
He solicited the support of all Nigerians, as the government continued to increase and stabilize the electricity supply across Nigeria.
On his part, the Chairman of the power sector regulator, Garba attributed the crisis to issues in the country’s electricity supply chain.
The NERC Chairman, who was briefing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday on ongoing efforts to resolve some of the bottlenecks in the electricity supply chain, said some of the issues that culminated in the two-day systems collapse and nationwide blackout bordered on legacy issues dating back to the period of the privatization of the power sector in 2013.
Part of the problems, he said, included the level of electricity generation capacity, which dropped drastically in recent times from a national average of about 5,300 MW in October 2021 to about 4,300 MW in March 2022.
The drop in power generation, the NERC Chairman said, was traced to the decline in electricity generation from the country’s hydropower plants, which dropped from 1,350 MW in October 2021 to about 1,100 MW, and massive vandalism of pipelines supplying gas to the power plants, cleaning of liquids in the gas pipelines, among others.
“The reality is that normally at this time of the year when the hydropower plants are down and power generation from the three hydropower plants is down, the gas plants, which currently contribute about 80 percent of the country’s total generation capacity, will ramp up to cover the shortfall in generation from the hydropower plants.
“Unfortunately, at this time of the year when the gas plants are supposed to increase electricity generation, we have a number of multiple events that contributed to the lack of capacity to deliver to cover up the shortfall in generation capacity by the power plant owned by AIG and NNPC. That problem had to do with vandalism on the pipeline, which obviously subdued generation in those plants,” he said.
Also, he said the problem has to do with gas supply to the 500 megawatts (MWs) capacity Nigerian Integrated Power Plant (NIPP) in Calabar, owned by the Niger Delta power holding company.
He said the government had planned to clean the gas pipeline of liquids in the gas pipeline to ensure uninterrupted supply, but the cleaning exercise did not go as planned, resulting in the disruption of gas supply to the plant for power generation.
The NERC Chairman, however, expressed optimism that the catalogue of challenges would soon be resolved, as all hands were on the deck to remedy the situation, particularly gas supply, which was being restored to the pipelines.
This story was edited to correct the wrong reference to the former NERC Chairman, James Momoh. Apologies to the current Chairman of NERC, Sanusi Garba.