June 21, 2024

Unending power grid failures in Nigeria: Weekend phenomenon, TCN’s technical inefficiencies

Solomon Ezeme
Breakdown of six major power outages often dubbed “system collapses” recorded in Nigeria in 2022 in less than five months, showed that most incidents happened during weekends and Mondays while only one occurred on Tuesday.
This was established in a review conducted by EnergyDay interrogating the cause of the crisis, rate of occurrence and factors that may have triggered the incidents.
Investigation shows more collapses are likely to happen in both weekend and Monday when electricity consumers are to consume more.
EnergyDay’s study of the dynamic of failure revealed that the collapse often happens when the transmission network is unable to evacuate the quantum of electricity being generated into the distribution network.
Evidently, while Nigeria is struggling to fully upscale the capacity of all the power generating plants including thermal and hydro, the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN’s wobbly facilities have been struggling to wheel out available power to various Power Distribution Companies (DisCos) operating in the country.
EnergyDay in a data obtained from the System Operator (SO), the agency responsible for exchange of operational data, load forecast and reports, revealed that the Power Generation Companies (GenCos), within the period under review jointly evacuated more than 3,000 MW (megawatts) of electricity to the TCN’s network, on a daily basis.
The review of the data for the period showed that TCN has continuously been struggling to transmit between 2,000MW to less than 3,000MW to the DisCos, accounting for the several power losses recorded daily in Nigeria.
Generation, at some points, have even come as close as 3,981MW, but transmission within the period has always peaked below 3,000MW.
Evaluating the frequency of collapse, EnergyDay gathered that the first grid system collapse occurred on Monday February 14, another incident happened on Monday, March 14.
Barely 24 hours after the March 14 incident happened another system failure occurred on Tuesday March 15.
The last three collapses which happened at the weekend were recorded on Friday, April 8, Saturday June 4, and Sunday, June 12, 2022.
EnergyDay however gathered that Friday June 3, 2022, was 3,647MW before it dropped to 1,936.90MW on Saturday, June 4,2022, when the system failure occurred.
The last incident happened on Sunday, June 12. During this period TCN struggled to transmit 510MW out of a total of 3,628MW quantum of electricity generated at a time when the country witnessed nationwide blackout. This amounts to a total loss of about 3,118MW unaccounted for within the TCN network.
TCN in a statement by Mrs Ndidi Mbah, General Manager, TCN Public Affairs, in a statement faulty the idea of system collapse, stated that there was no collapse, neither has there been any recently, even though power generation from both the Thermal and Hydro Stations have been very low.
She said, the current dip in electricity generation was caused by the Partial Shutdown of Oben gas plant to address some Process Safety Critical Equipment failure, which led to a total loss of about 565.5MW of generation from seven thermal stations.
Speaking with EnergyDay recently, Busolami Tunwase, spokesperson of the IBadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), said that complaints received from customers immediately after the grid collapses have been a major challenge.
She explained that the situation at the DisCo is such that, once there is a grid collapse, “everything in the network shuts down immediately”, leading to a disruption in their operations.
“Customers do complain. That’s the major challenge. We are just doing our best to make sure the little we receive is equitably shared amongst our customers.
“Whenever there’s low supply, customers do complain. We are a distribution company, we don’t generate power. We only distribute what we receive. What the TCN does not give us, we cannot give out,” she said.
She, however, expressed optimism in the possibility of DisCos receiving and being able to supply about 5,000MW of electricity in the coming days, based on a recent directive by the National Electricity Regulation Commission. (NERC).
“It’s a dire situation. But we hope for better days ahead just as NERC has promised,” she said.
Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa. So, it is expected that a great deal of production and commercial activities takes place within the country, on a daily basis.
Many stakeholders have maintained that the about 2,500MW of daily electricity available for DisCos to supply to citizens is largely insufficient, considering the volume of economic activities taking place in the country each day.
Dr Godwin Orovwiroro, MD/CEO of Winman Nigeria Limited (and former Head of Operations at the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company), in a chat with EnergyDay, recommended a stronger collaboration and coordination between the GenCos and the TCN, to ensure the power grid does not collapse again.
He said, “The grid reacts to spikes resulting from the sharp increase in demand. Sometimes, this happens during weekends when domestic consumption rises.
“If the grid fails to respond to these system frequency fluctuations, it leads to a series of reactions resulting in grid collapse.
“There has to be operational synergy between the Transmission Company of Nigeria and the GenCos with information sharing.
“If a generator is shutting down or coming up, information has to be shared and planned so that it does not create a system imbalance.”
He noted that transmission has been a major challenge in the power sector that needs to be addressed to improve energy supply to citizens who often endure epileptic electricity supply.
“The recent grid collapse is a sad reminder to electricity consumers that the utility management team handling electricity transmission and distribution in Nigeria has failed the nation on their critical assignment.
“The usefulness of electricity is wrapped up in its simultaneous production and consumption.
“Whenever there is energy generation and the capacity to transmit it to load centers is absent, it means end-users who need the energy will be denied access,” Dr. Orovwiroro noted.