Power Sector: Fashola’s New Approach

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Barely a week ago, at an event in Lagos which was a public lecture, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing,  Babatunde  Fashola,  SAN  gave an account of his stewardship in the last five months.  In a paper titled “Nigeria’s   Electricity Challenge: A Roadmap for Change”,  Fashola  acknowledged the shortfalls in meeting  the electricity demands of consumers in the country over the past years .  He however ended on an optimistic note that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has all it takes to overcome the electricity challenges  the country currently faces.

One noticeable trait in the minister’s paper is the sincerity  in his presentation. Fashola neither claims that all is well in the electricity sector, nor claim to hold the magic wand that will transform it. In his characteristic candour, the minister bared his mind thus, “In charting the roadmap for change, I am of the view that we must first tell ourselves what is wrong. The simplest way I can put it is to say that we do not have enough power”.

From the above quote, it is clear that the minister is modest in describing the nation’s power situation. It can also be deduced that the minister is more concerned about new perspectives that will lead to what he called “A Road Map for Change” and how we as a united people, can resolve the electricity challenge in the country. In charting   a way forward, he has refused to be distracted by calls from a section of the public to probe his predecessors over the amount of fund spent on power in the past or to recommend cancellation of the privatization process. His major preoccupation is on how to bring about power that will satisfy the needs of Nigerians. This objective he intends to achieve through a three pronged process: incremental power, stable power and uninterrupted power. The ultimate goal of these processes is to take Nigeria to a point where people can enjoy stable and uninterrupted power supply.

The Buhari administration has demonstrated both in words and actions, its avowed commitment to boosting the power sector. It hopes to achieve this goal through a combination of energy mix and energy preservation policy. For instance, the government just approved about 14 different solar projects to generate a combined capacity of 1,286mw. It is noteworthy here to state that this is the biggest aggregation of solar projects that the country has ever undertaken. These solar projects are expected to be delivered in the next 12 to 18 months. Again, in the 2016 budget, government will spend N99 billion to revamp the nation’s power sector.

In an attempt to bridge the power gap created partly by ageing and weak transmission infrastructure, a number of repairs and rehabilitation projects are currently being executed.  The government is also looking at technical possibilities that support the decentralization of the grid while keeping them interconnected. At the 5th  Monthly  Power Sector  Operators meeting  hosted by  Fashola  at Shiroro Hydro Power Plant in Niger State, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) provided  progress update  on 16 critical projects identified by distribution and generation companies. These projects include the repair of the Owerri /Ahoda/Yenagoa line which now connects the newly commissioned Gbarain plant to grid. TCN   also announced completion of repairs to transmission projects in Ajah, Akoka, Afam and Kainji.

The nation’s hydro power plants are also being rehabilitated. For instance the first overhaul of Jebba Hydro power plant since it was commissioned in 1985 has just been completed and more of these will be undertaken. The turbines were supposed to be overhauled once every 5-6 years but this never happened. The Egbin power plant in Ikorodu which hitherto had only 2 functional turbines in 2013 now has all of its 6 turbines operational.  Government is accelerating repairs of the Forcados pipeline damaged by vandals.  Repair works should be completed by the end of this month which will allow gas to be supplied to thermal, power stations and result in an increased quantum of power on the grid.

Attention has been focused on the front runner Azura Independent Power Project in Edo State which is expected to deliver 450mw upon completion in 2018.  Government securities and guarantees have already been issued to enable the financing of the project.  Government has resolved the Zungeru Power plant dispute in Niger State which was held up in court for several years. Parties are out of court and over 800 workers are back on site. The power plant when completed is to deliver 700mw to the national grid.

There is also plan for the completion of rural electricity projects which have been left uncompleted for up to 10 years in some instances. In addition about 2,000 rural projects, most of them constituency projects, are being pursued to completion in the 2016 budget. There is also a well-coordinated inter- agency collaboration in place aimed at achieving an optimal energy mix that will assist power producers, investors and all stakeholders in siting of solar and hydro projects in the North, coal ones in the North- Central, and South East as well as  gas plants in the South-West and South- South.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources will facilitate the    provision of gas  and  encourage investors to produce and allocate gas for  power production while  the  Ministry of Water Resources is to provide access to  dams and river basins for hydropower use and  the Ministry of Solid Minerals is providing coal data to assist the  revival of some coal-to- power initiatives

The   minister deserves commendation for taking the advantage of the Lagos event to give account of his stewardship since he assumed office. It is also encouraging to see a well-articulated Road Map for Change in the power sector to address   Nigeria’s electricity challenge. It is hoped that these efforts will actually lead to stable and uninterrupted power.

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