Except appropriate counter measures are taken, the entire country is headed for a nationwide power outage as the strategic Egbin power station is on the verge of a system shut down. Addressing reporters in Lagos recently, Managing Director of the Egbin genco Mr Dallas Peavey lamented over its pallid state of affairs and listed three factors that are most debilitating to the facility. These include a N110 billion debt burden, shortage of gas to operate the turbines and the systemic inefficiency of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN. According to Peavey, the combined effect of these challenges is the spectre of the station being forced to shut down in a matter of days.
Egbin is one of Africa’s biggest electricity generating plants and easily Nigeria’s biggest, with an installed capacity of 1,320 megawatts, comprising of six units of 220 megawatts each. With its various units commissioned at various times between 1985 and ’86, it is located in the north eastern part of Lagos from where it supplies on the average over 30% of the country’s power requirements. Power generated by the plant is sent to the national grid by three main transmission lines namely Ikeja West (330 kV) line; Aja (330 kV) line and Ikorodu (132 kV) lines.
The debt burden of N110 billion is owed to it by the Federal government-owned Bulk Electricity Traders (NBET) which has been reneging on payment obligations. In turn the plant owes gas companies which it cannot oblige for them to guarantee regular supply of the fuel. Beyond the gas shortage is the fact that TCN is unable to lift all the power generated by Egbin due to the failure of the Distribution Companies [Discos] to utilise and market same, leaving TCN to carry less power from the generating station. The Discos in turn complain of problems associated with recovering revenue from recalcitrant electricity consumers.
The foregoing scenario clearly points to a glaring case of deep seated corruption in the value chain of electricity power generation and supply in the country, in a situation where Egbin qualifies as a metaphor. Needless to point out that other power generating plants in the country are not faring better. While generation remains handicapped by a shortage of fuel (gas for Egbin), much of the electricity generated by the power plants does not get to the consumer, and even the quantity that successfully accesses the market is exposed to a web of abuses. For instance, Egbin’s MD said it can currently generate 1,100 megawatts but that TCN is only able to evacuate 350 megawatts, which is all that the Discos require at this time because of cost recovery issues. On the flip side of the nation’s electric power supply challenges is the uninspiring story of hydro power sector which is subject to its own matrix of issues. One of these is seasonal fluctuations of water supply to the hydro electricity plants, which leaves some of their turbines out of water for many months every year.
Without doubt the alarm raised by Mr Peavey qualifies for prompt attention give the unpalatable consequences associated with a nationwide power outage as can arise with a shut down by Egbin. Even in the best of times with Egbin in operation, the country experiences power supply shortages. The situation therefore calls into question the revised power sector road map which Minister of Power Raji Fashola recently presented to the country. In the context of the Egbin metaphor, a complete overhaul of the country’s power sector service delivery regime is needed. For instance under no circumstances should Nigeria see an avoidable national electric power outage as feared over Egbin’s challenges.
The time has come for the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to wake up to its statutory responsibilities to stabilise the sector by ensuring that all stakeholders deliver as required by law.