An interview with Dr. Ransome Owan, Chairman CEO NERC
The Reforms in the power sector has been receiving more knocks than praises from different quarters while building massive support for the reforms on one hand and sourcing for investors on the other, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is leaving no stone unturned to keep the lights on as it campaigns for a ‘made in Nigeria electricity solution’.
In his office in Abuja, NERC Chairman and CEO, Dr. Ransome Owan spoke to Publisher, Uzo Nzeogu on the achievements of the commission and the challenges
Facing the Nation’s Power Sector.
Question » Sir, what is the present state of power generation in Nigeria?
Response » The picture for Nigeria’s electricity as of now is not a very rosy story to tell. We have an installed capacity of about 6,000MW. However, because of lack of prior maintenance, it is generally about 50 percent availability. And if you add that to the problems we have had like the breaking of the pipelines in the Niger Delta, we lost 30 percent of our power. So, the current story may not be a rosy one. However, with the potential to bring in 11 power plants for the Nigerian Integrated Power Project (NIPP), we are very hopeful that we can get our 10,000MW.
Question » What are the major problems militating against satisfactory electricity distribution in Nigeria?
Response » They are many. Before now, Power Holding Company of Nigeria was in charge of all three sectors of the business, generation, transmission and distribution. They depended on national budget to do their planning, equipment and system upgrade and maintenance. Unfortunately, those payments and government votes have not been on a stable track.
The problem with distribution in Nigeria is as follows: Network is weak. There is a lot of power theft, what we call non-technical losses, that is, non-accounted for energy, illegal connections. There is also the problem with people paying their electricity bills, both the citizens and governments be it federal, state or local. If you consume power that is not free, and you do not pay for it, you cause a problem in the system. When you look at the two problems; lack of system planning and funding, and having a poor network to operate and then non-payment of regular bills, you can see that this is not a good mixture.
Question » What are the main constraints for transmission and generation?
Response » The problem with the transmission network has been that the network is too long and does not have redundancy. So you have a single line going from Kaduna to Jos and beyond. If something happens in between, as it did recently, about eight states were in the dark for about eight days. Now with the NIPP, they are going to install dual circuit lines around the country that will be fed from different power stations. These lines will increase reliability in the transmission network.
The other aspect of transmission network that will change is that it is going to go under private management. Government will not privatize transmission network. It will remain a national asset but managed by private hands.