Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nigeria: Will Darkness Continue Forever?

By Adanu Moses
The power sector in Nigeria is no doubt one of the most inefficient in meeting the needs of its consumers anywhere in the world. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) which before now was a wholly government-owned venture before it was sold to private entities was the organisation governing the use of electricity in Nigeria. Renamed PHCN, it was formerly the National Electric Power Authority (abbreviated NEPA).

For a better part of power generation history in Nigeria, consumers have experienced more power outages than supply. This accounts for why Nigerians humorously represented the acronyms NEPA and PHCN to mean -Never Expect Power Always, Please Hold Your Candle Now. For a better share of history, Nigerians have also blamed the power outages on the distribution companies, saying they are in the habit of always holding onto power and releasing only the bills. This is one of the stack truths and another is the fact that Nigerians seem to have gotten themselves used to the incessant power outages.

This leaves an inquisitive mind asking, who is to blame? Considering the history of system failures in Nigeria, can we say the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is actually holding unto the power? The simple answer is not farfetched. There is no power to hold unto.
At the end of 2014, according to statistics gathered by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, Nigeria, the country had an installed power generation capacity of 8,000 MW.But only 4,000 MW was being fed into the national grid. Several reasons were given for this huge difference between capacity and actual generation but the reasons do not reduce the energy need of the country which is ever on the increase. As at the end of 2015, the electricity need of Nigeria stood above 40,000 MW and research says 192,000 MW will be needed by 2030. With this huge gap, 80 per cent of the population is left in darkness. 

With an actual generation of 4,000 Megawatts in 2015, attaining 192,00 MW by 2030 will sound like a day dream but the optimist will say it is achievable. The almost non-existence of power adversely affects living standards of the population and reduces the income of small and medium scale businesses that form the core of the economy of most African societies. Right from the point of starting the business, they are made to spend a huge bulk of their start-up capital on ensuring there is power. Billions of dollars leave the shores of Nigeria in exchange for generating sets and their spare parts.
In Nigeria, where the poverty level is said to be one of the highest according to statistics from the World Bank and others despite the enormous natural resources, one cannot explain why a country with such enormous wealth cannot power herself. Most of the electricity used by both businesses and homes in Nigeria is generated with generating sets.  In an economy where the majority of the people live on less than $2 a day, depriving them of one of the basic items in the list of social amenities like power in the 21st century makes the poverty bites even harder.
Professor Iwayemi Akinbolaji Philip, an expert, once said: “Energy and income poor Nigeria is energy resource rich and the sixth largest exporter of crude oil in the world. Nigeria’s persistent energy crisis has weakened the industrialisation process, and significantly undermined the effort to achieve sustained economic growth, increased competitiveness of domestic industries in domestic, regional and global markets and employment generation”.
Lack of electricity also hampers employment generation. Nigeria is known for its rich deposit of fossil fuels. On the list of these natural blessings are natural gas, coal and, of course, solar power. At the moment, 22 per cent of global electricity comes from renewable such as solar, wind and biomass. Nigeria currently is underutilising these resources. It has been noted that if and when Nigeria effectively harnesses them, the country will be able to generate 40 per cent of the electricity Nigeria needs to provide the economic backing she needs for development, improve infrastructure, create employment and importantly improve the standard of living in most communities.
A few weeks ago, power generation went below 1000 megawatts. Meaning, there was no electricity in the entire country for hours. It is like going back to the Stone Age in the 21st century. In the new order, even our yam pounder runs on electricity.
What is then responsible for this? Experts say lack of commitment and vision may be responsible for this. There is no concrete road-map to combat the energy crisis in the country. Every year, various government agencies budget billions for generating sets and the gas to keep them running, not minding what it takes the common man on the street corner to do same for his business or his home. And for a larger percentage of the population who cannot afford generators, the darkness continues.
How do we close the gap? What source of energy will be more efficient, sustainable, cost-effective, less time consuming to set up (since the need is immediate). These and more are some of the questions that the nation needs to answer.
*Adanu Moses is a freelance digital journalist. 

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