Over the weekend, the Minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nebo set up a committee saddled with the responsibility of looking at how to turn coal into an alternative source of power generation. According to the Minister, Nigeria should be able to generate 4,000 megawatts from the abundant coal deposits in the country.
Street Journal’s findings have however shown that between the time the committee will submit its report and the time the actual generation from coal will commence, Nigerians may have to endure power cuts and the darkness that comes with it for some time to come.
Though when the Yar’Adua administration came on board, its plan was to ensure the generation of at least 10,000 MW by the end of 2011, what the country presently generates is about 4,400 MW at the peak and at the minimum, it stands at about 3,900 MW. Not even the installation of 4 power stations at Omostosho, Sapele, Alaoji, Olorunsogo and Sapele by the Power Holding Company has caused a noticeable change in the power generation. The capacity of the 4 stations installed between January 2011 and December 2012 have been altogether put at 1,688 MW.
Expectations are high that with the sale of the Federal Government owned power plants, things will change in the powers sector. That change can however not be immediate.
When President Goodluck Jonathan’s Power Sector Reform was launched in 2010, it was estimated that by the end of 2013, Nigeria would be able to generate a minimum of 14,000 MW. The calculation was based on the generation from the existing PHCN plants as well as the one from the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) and IPPs (Independent Power Plants).
With more than half of 2013 gone already, it has become clear even to those at the helm of affairs that the projection is no longer feasible. Presently, the capacity of the NIPP plants so far installed is 1,688 MW while the PHCN plants are generating about 2,000 MW. The IPPs in Nigeria including Shell’s 660 MW plant in Afam, Agip’s 450 MW plant at Okpai and Akwa Ibom State’s 190 MW plant in Ikot Abasi are all generating only about 2,000 MW thus putting the amount of power generated by the IPPs, NIPP and PHCN at a figure below 4,000 MW.
Street Journal has found out that though completed and installed, most of the power plants are not firing on full cylinders because of shortage of gas to power them, no thanks to improper planning.
Contracts for the construction of 10 gas-fired power plants had been awarded well over a year before the government deemed it fit to ask companies to turn in “expression of interest” for gas supply to the plants, an indication that gas supply was not put into consideration while awarding the construction contracts.
Another casue of concern is that some of the plants are generating below what they were originally designed for. Examples include the plant at Alaoji which is generating 110 MW than what it should. Geregu II Power Plant was designed to generate 434 MW but presently generates 144 MW.
One of the main reasons that may ensure the continuity of the power situation is the gas supply issue. While the ownership of some of the plants has started changing, the same cannot be said of the gas pipelines. As such, the new owners are left to find out how to fire the plants. Agip is expected to supply gas to the Omoku Thermal Station through its OB-OB (Obiafu Obrikom) line but the pipeline will not be completed until 2014.
The Gbarain Ubie Integrated Gas Project is in s similar situation, Shell is expected to supply gas. The plant and the pipeline to feed it are yet to be completed. While the Government tries to explore coal as another source of power, many Nigerians have opined that unless something magical happens, the situation will linger for a while, the change of ownership of the plants notwithstanding.
Some observers are however of the opinion that truly it may remain dark for a while, but Nigerians will have a cause to smile.