Urhobo Historical Society

The Energy Problem In Nigeria

By Olusegun Owolabi

Engineer and Renewable Energy Consultant, California, United States of America

Culled from:
Sunday, 30 May 2010 00:00 

Nigeria needs a minimum of 60,000.00 Mega watts of electrical energy for sustenance to be called an industrial nation. By international standards, each household should be able to lay claim to 3.45KW of energy at any time of the day continuously. To be an industrialized nation it then presupposes that Nigeria should be able to generate 90,000.00 MW of energy at any time non-stop. The question which is then being asked is: why then can we not generate more than 4000 MW of electric power which is considered not enough to power the Lagos Metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants with skyscrapers and heavy industries?  Is it that we do not have the oil, gas, wind, water, ocean current, geo thermal, bio thermal and solar sources of energy to do it?.  Yes we have that in abundance. Is it that we do not have the technology to utilize the above natural resource to actually generate 300,000.00 MW at our disposal?. Yes we do have. Do we have the manpower to manage the energy successfully and profitably? Yes we do. Do we have the financial resources to do it? By the Grace of God we do have.

Then what is our problem? It is simple: we are not sincere with each other. Everybody is selfish and what goes around comes around and it is affecting us in all aspects of our economy and administration. But the case of energy is a task that must be done because without us getting a minimum of 30,000.00MW within 5 years, we should forget Nigeria as a nation because  Oil revenue will surely diminish. The United States, our biggest customer is looking within for gas and also shall surely reduce its external importation of crude oil. Alternate energy sourcing within the US is imminent and most of their automobiles would either be hybrid or full electric cars. It therefore behoves on us to properly channel our resources now towards providing energy and maintaining it, without it there can be no economic progress for the nation.

It is no news that already established industries are opening new and bigger branches or embarking on outright relocation out of Nigeria to neighbouring countries due to lack of power. But when the country is turned into darkness and employment rate gets to 90%, since less than 10% of our graduates get employment every year, and those that think they are safe because they have big generators start being kidnapped, we will all know that this is a national problem and we all have to fight this endemic problem once and for all. Those of us who are overseas are not safe either because all it takes is for the jobless to start kidnapping our families for ransom.

There is no doubt that PHCN cannot handle the power problem. This is not a problem created by the company but jointly created by the bureaucracy of government we have been running since we became a nation in 1960. The issue of PHCN is not a matter of whether the company lacks the necessary manpower or focus; it is purely a question of bureaucracy which is a bottle neck to efficient management of available resources. Until the company is unbundled for efficiency with empowerment and financial independence there will also be expenditure down the drain as it happened in the last administration. It may be painful but I believe that PHCN should only handle the transmission grid as a government organization for security purposes. Generation and local distribution (Utility) should be privatized.

The National Network will need a minimum of 1 trillion naira to be able to handle power above 15000MW. Our 132/133KVA national network must be fortified, maintained, modernized with the latest technology and also expanded into other areas with restitution lines to other areas that deserve higher demand like Lagos, Porthacourt, Abuja, Kano and Aba axes.  The Interstate Transmissions of 33KVA can be jointly owned by local distribution or generation companies as per convenience and logistics of operations.  Since it is the local distribution(Utility) companies that give bills to the consumers, all classification of sources and its elemental costs must be shown on the bill with legislation backing it up for NERC to sue or penalize any company that circumvents the law and guidelines to protect the consumer as it is done in the United States.

In the small town of 100, 000 inhabitants where I live in California, we generate electricity by Wind, biomass and hydro. The distribution company for my town and some central valley areas is PG&E. The company must show in my bill every month where the energy consumed was generated and the elemental cost for generation, transmission and local distribution cost. Because the local company has the right to buy first from the local generation company if it is cheaper and more reliable than the national transmission line and can change anytime the local generation company cannot meet demand or when it is idle for maintenance. This competitive attitude guarantees stability for electricity to consumers and improves the economy.

Whilst it will be advisable for PHCN to continue to maintain and manage all the present hydro power stations for the next 2 to 5 years until there is stability above 10000MW national requirement, all other sources of gas power like Egbin and the new gas powered companies must be privatized unless the FGN is ready to secure a new and bigger restitution fortified pipeline from Brass to Lagos.
I will advise that the sale of these establishments should not be handled by the BPE but by the Stock Exchange through its normal shares handling process. This process enables some staff within PHCN who are interested in Gas generation  posted to these establishments and private ones to join them to manage profitably whilst individuals and companies that are interested in them can buy the Federal Government shares profitably instead of allowing an under the table system. If this system had been adhered to in the sale of NITEL, that organization would not have encountered the problems it has today. The system will allow foreign companies to invest without fear of insecurity of their investment and instability of government and its insincerity.

As part of localization of generation through hydro process there are more than 100 water dams located in various communities in the federation that can generate between 500KW to 100MW of electricity. With latest technology step up transformers it is expected that the generation can be improved by 400%. The generation is expected to first benefit the locality by first option purchase from local utility distribution companies and the second option directly selling it to the National Transmission Company at prices regulated by NERC. The River Basin Authorities of the Federal Government and States Water Resources Dams have a lot to do in this area. There is no reason for the River Basin Authorities going into PPP agreement with any company; it will be a diversion of primary duties despite their good intentions wanting to be like other nations’ Departments of Water Resources.

National interest is very important; making sure that all these idle Dams are fully utilized for generating power, providing raw water to the communities and irrigation for localized farming and agriculture. If private entrepreneurs are allowed to use the Penstocks of these dams, it is possible to generate 2400MW of electricity to the locality within 15 months and also improve generation to 5000MW utilizing the existing idle dams and new technology step up transformers.

About 75% of the Nigeria land mass is on what is called grid 4 of solar array map. It is therefore possible and viable to farm solar via Solar Thermal and Solar PV. Though Solar PV (Photovoltaic) requires large land mass, this is available in the Northern Part of the country and Borno state shares part of the grid 5  of abundant Solar energy (as in Sahara Dessert) which has enough land mass to generate multiples of  500 MW that is enough to power 140,000 homes per farm. About 70% of the land mass in Borno State has 10 hours of direct sunlight which has excellent photons for direct energy.

Due to urgent call for renewable energy in the United States, many Solar companies are presently involved in such ventures on very large scale. A vivid example is SunPower and OptiSolar companies having a joint venture with PG&E California to build the largest solar PV plant in the world, 800 megawatts in total, powering 239,000 homes in California. In order to reduce load on the National Grid and assist local utility distribution companies to meet demand, large Corporations like CBN can get incentive to utilize roof tops in 15 of her branches to generate at least 14kw energy that will be more than enough to power lightings and computers. It is not just about solar panels or specialized batteries but much more of planning - expensive initially but cost effective for long term investment. The Solar Thermal technology type can be also very useful to our Telecommunication companies for their base stations, hospitals and government secretariats.

State Governments in conjunction with private companies can create solar thermal farms. Kano State is a good example. A 280 megawatt solar thermal plant will produce electricity for 60000 homes as it is being done near Phoenix Arizona, USA. The project alone will create construction employment for more than 3000 people at a go which will reduce unemployment of youths in that area.

Enough wind blows in the Northern part of the country at speed more than 40m/sec which shows that wind farming is very profitable in the area. Abuja metropolis (FCDA) can take advantage of undeveloped areas as prototype areas for wind farming for sale to interested entrepreneurs. Ocean current wind along Victoria Island in Lagos is a very vivid source of multiples of 500 KW turbines for 10 MW to 100MW power generation.  Wind farming is a clean alternate energy source. Gas thermal generation is very costly and also involves annual routine maintenance, companies should be encouraged to establish Ocean wind and under current wind turbines in multiples of 500kw to 2MW in Rivers and Bayelsa Ocean fronts.

Coal mines in Taraba and Enugu States are areas that Nigeria must invest in and sell to private companies. If properly channeled, it is possible to sell the coal in Taraba  for good processed coking coal.
There are enormous wastes in our cities to generate Electricity. There is no reason why large cities like Lagos, Ibadan, PH, Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Benin, Onitsha, Aba, and Abeokuta cannot take a lead in this process. It takes 285 metric tones of wet soiled city waste in Nigeria to generate 10MW of electricity even when it is wet and sandy.

Though our wastes are not classified like many city wastes in developed countries, the new technology of preheating the waste with calendaring vibrator or rotator drums  gets the waste ready for thermal furnace chambers that will generate 10MW in turnkeys at multi locations.  It is a fact that Lagos Metropolis produces waste close to 10000 metric tones everyday and its Ikorodu area dump can accommodate more than 1 million metric tones. That alone for a start can be a source of 200MW in 10MW multiples.
The Cement industries in Ewekoro, Sagamu and Ubajana are vivid examples of companies that have excess energy up to 80 MW each that can be encouraged to sell to the local utility companies which can industrialize or boast the economy of areas of location.

If Ajaokuta was in operation, the gas flared from the Open Heart furnace was expected to generate 180MW to the national grid and also to the locality. ASCON is a sorry case of a beautiful well planned project that has gone down the drain. I have not seen a developed country without a full Steel mill. We have only one in the country. Aladja which is on ‘direct reduced system’ was established to meet the ever-increasing construction needs of Nigeria whilst ASCON was set up to create many downstream industries like Automobile parts, Railway construction parts, plastic industries heavy designs and parts, specialized designs customized for Nigeria, Naphthalene to mine Bitumen for road construction, Oil and Gas parts, Slag for road construction, and so many others including power generation. What a waste!