[INTERVIEW] Interview with: Prof. Sambo, CEO, Energy Commission of Nigeria on Nigeria's energy challenges
What is the current state of electricity provision in Nigeria, i.e., megawatt hours of power supplied versus megawatt hours demanded?
"The Nigeria situation is such that the current electricity provision is short of the electricity demand in the country. The present average electricity generation is about 3 500
MWh as against an average electricity demand as projected by the Commission of more than 10 000MWh."
What are the main reasons for the shortage in electric power supply?
"The funding provided to add new and improve the existing generation capacity has been grossly inadequate, and the funding pattern has not been consistent. Growing or sustaining the available capacity has been very difficult.
Inadequate supply of gas for the thermal plants due to either shortage or pipeline vandalization has not allowed full utilization of available capacity. Low gas pressure and poor gas quality with condensate sometimes results in plant shutdown. The embargo on [public sector] employment has created a huge gap in the skills required in the industry.
The insufficient generation capacity creates the difficulty of leaving enough spinning reserves to cushion the effect of loss of generation in the grid. There is also an absence of local manufacturers of simple components that are frequently required to maintain our plants."
What are the government’s plans to address power supply?
"The present government has come out with a comprehensive Roadmap for Power Sector Reform, which, if implemented, will address the power supply problem in Nigeria. If you are looking at the role of the Commission in addressing the present power supply in the country, based on our mandate as the apex government organ in the energy sector with the statutory mandate for the strategic planning and coordination of national policies in the country’s energy sector in all its ramifications, you will discover that the Commission has an enormous role to play in that direction. Our role here is basically that of advocacy to the governments, stakeholders and the private sector.
The Nigeria situation is such that the current energy demand in the country surpasses the supply as a result of the population growth rate. The National Energy Master Plan already developed by the Commission, which has short, medium and long-term measures in tackling the energy crisis, is one of the steps the Commission has already taken. Also, the National Energy Demand Projections, being the outcome of the Model for Analysis of Energy Demand (MAED) articulated by the Commission, are geared toward solving the present energy crises in the country if the short term measures as outlined are implemented."
Nigerians have already been made many different promises to resolve the power shortage, so what sets current plans apart from those that came before?
"The reform has not changed; the Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act came into being on 11 March 2005. It provides the legal backing for the reform of the sector and repealed the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) Act and the Electricity Act. The aim was to improve power supply to consumers.
The Act further provided for the establishment of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and the National Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO), which is a special purpose entity that shall take over and manage the residual assets and liabilities of the defunct NEPA after privatization of the unbundled companies.
The present government outlined the plan to accelerate the pace of these reforms and improve on short-term service delivery by establishing the Presidential Action Committee on Power (PACP) to remove “red-tape,” achieve policy consistency and cut through the bureaucracy in decision making by key stakeholders in power. The Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP) was also created for overseeing the day-to-day planning as well as developing and driving forward the reform of the Nigerian power sector."
What are the main challenges to implementing these plans?
"The main challenges are the apparent slowness in the implementation of the power sector reforms and inadequate financial provisions for the reform."
Is privatisation the only solution to the power crunch?
"Yes, because the Government alone cannot shoulder the financial requirements of the sector."
How will the government deal with opposition to the privatisation plan, especially from PHCN employees?
"The government will have continuous dialogue with stakeholders of the sector and especially the PHCN employees."
How will the government ensure that private companies act in the interest of Nigerian citizens?
"The Federal Government established the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in 2005 in order to regulate the power sector by setting operating codes and quality of service standards, protect consumer and public interests and monitor the power market. NERC can warn, suspend and revoke licenses if necessary."
What are your plans to root out corruption and increase transparency in the electricity sector?
"The ECN does not have that mandate. The Commission was established with a statutory mandate for the strategic planning and co-ordination of national policies in the field of energy as well as all of their ramifications. By this mandate, the Energy Commission of Nigeria is the government organ empowered to carry out overall energy sector planning and policy coordination. The Government, however, has established two anti-corruption agencies and they are empowered to handle matters of corruption in all sectors of the Nigerian economy."
What is your opinion on the use and future development of renewable power resources like hydro, wind and solar to generate electricity in Nigeria?
"A lot has been achieved by the Commission in the area of development of renewable energy resources. Two of our research Centres in Nsukka and Sokoto have been able to extensively carry out research activities in renewable energy, which resulted in the design and production of some renewable energy products such as solar water heaters, solar chick brooders, solar dryers, biogas digesters, improved wood and solid fuel stoves. The outputs are ready for mass production by interested entrepreneurs.
Other renewable energy activities carried out by the Commission and the Centres are wind electrification projects, solar water pump installations and solar PV power plants located in various parts of the country. Also, it might interest you to note that in 2005 the Federal Government of Nigeria through the ECN and with the support of UNDP developed the National Renewable Energy Master Plan for Nigeria. In this arrangement, the target is for solar to contribute 5.0 MW, 75 MW, and 500 MW in 2010, 2015 and 2025 respectively and for wind power generation to contribute 1.0 MW, 19 MW and 38 MW for the short term, medium term and long term as in the case of solar. Other renewable sources are also covered. In fact, the plan is very holistic as it takes into account all available opportunities the country can exploit in renewable energy. However, the biggest challenge to the implementation of the plan is funding."
The Federal Government has a lot of things on its agenda. As Director General of the ECN, how do you plan to ensure that power supply remains a top priority?
"The economic blueprint of the government is attainable only with a sustainable energy sector. In other words, I know you are aware that it is energy that propels and drives economic growth. That means no meaningful economic development can take without a consolidated and vibrant energy sector. What the Commission will do to ensure regular power is submit periodic electricity generation expansion plans based on our modelling work to the Government."
Are you optimistic that the country is on the road toward meeting the power needs of Nigerians?
"Yes, definitely so."
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