Nigerians have complained about a noticeable drop in power supply across the country since the beginning of October 2022, compared to the power supply rate in September 2022. They are right, as there has been a decline.
Nairametrics earlier reported an 8.07% increase in power supply between July and August 2022, a 1.47% increase between August and September 2022, and a 6.52% drop in power supply between September and October 2022.
Further investigations by Nairametrics have shown that the drop in supply in October was due to several factors including flooding, vandalization of transmission and distribution infrastructure, aging transmission and distribution infrastructure, and a deficit in gas supply.
All these challenges have contributed to lower transmission and distribution efficiency. It is important to note that Nigeria has two main supply sources of electricity – natural gas plants and hydropower plants.
A glance at current flooding data in Nigeria
Between June and October 2022, floods have taken over communities across some states in Nigeria. The floods have also inevitably affected the power supply rates in the country.
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Data from SBM Intelligence shows that in June 2022, some parts of Ebonyi, Cross River, Ondo, Anambra, and Kano states experienced some level of flooding.
In July 2022, some areas in Bauchi, Borno, Delta, and Yobe states experienced some level of flooding as well. In August 2022, parts of Plateau, Jigawa, Adamawa, and Benue states experienced flooding.
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In September 2022, some places in Niger, Taraba, and Kogi states experienced flooding and by October 2022, Gombe, Rivers, Nasarawa, Lagos, Katsina, and Bayelsa states became flooded as well.
Thousands of communities across 33 states are underwater, alongside the transmission and distribution facilities (including natural gas plants) that are located in some of these communities. The implication is that some of Nigeria’s power plants cannot function at 100% capacity due to flooding. And even power-holding companies cannot distribute effectively due to the flooding.
How flooding has affected the power supply in Nigeria
Tekena, a Bayelsa state resident, told Nairametrics that before the floods came to some communities in Bayelsa state, residents on the regular supply line enjoyed up to 72 hours of power supply in a week. But when the floods came, the transformers in flooded areas got disconnected to prevent permanent damage to the infrastructure.
Tekena said the areas that are not flooded in the state still enjoy power supply based on their tariff plans because their power infrastructure is not affected by floods.
What happens to power transmission and distribution facilities in a flood?
Electrical Engineer Chukwuemeka George Eze told Nairametrics that whenever there is flooding, power infrastructure like electric poles, transmission, and distribution lines hold the lowest risk. Instead, power substations hold the highest risk and the authorities usually take preventive measures when there is a flood close to where substations are by taking the substation offline. Unfortunately, doing so means that all areas served by such substations will have no power throughout the duration of the flooding.
For context, if 15 out of 18 communities in a Local Government Area get flooded and a substation is present in one of the flooded communities, the substation will be taken offline. And by so doing, the other three communities that are not flooded would be affected, meaning that there would be no power supply in all 18 communities until the water recedes.
Power systems Engineer Ebuka Asadu also corroborated what Eze said. He told Nairametrics that when there is a flood in a particular area, there is usually a high level of electric shock especially when the power system is not properly earthed. Consequently, the power supply in such areas is usually shut down to reduce the electrical hazards that could occur in flooding.
Hydropower capacity drop
As Nigeria gradually leaves the rainy season, hydropower capacity which contributed to an increase in power supply rates as of September 2022, has dropped. Michael Mbrekpadiaha, a hydropower systems expert, told Nairametrics that during the dry season when there is low hydropower capacity, power generation will and Nigerians will suffer lower power supply rates.
He explained that whereas natural gas capacity is constant, hydropower capacity varies seasonally. As a result, when hydropower drops, there is bound to be a drop in total power generation.
With the current flooding across the country, you may be wondering whether hydropower capacity is really threatened. The answer is yes, it is. According to Mbrekpadiaha, floods will affect hydropower capacity. The major problem with the flood is possible structural damage leading to system breakdown or failure of hydro-generators. He said:
“Sometimes those generators have to be shut down to avoid damage by the flood, turbulence from the flooding can cause damage to the hydropower plants. Every generator has its required operating specification and if there are changes to that specification, there might be adverse consequences.”
When hydropower capacity drops, the power supply is affected.
When Nairametrics reached out to the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), the DisCo explained that several causes are not flood-related.
According to AEDC, the major reason is the drop in hydropower capacity which will extend through the dry season. Other causes identified by the AEDC are;
Inadequate natural gas supply
Growing debts along the power value chain and
Dilapidated power infrastructure which makes it difficult to transmit and distribute power efficiently
Meanwhile, the government said it is tackling the issues of aging transmission and distribution systems through the Siemens power deal under the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI). The Minister of Power, Engr, Abubakar Aliyu, said that two transformers already arrived in September and two are scheduled to arrive in October. Three more will arrive in November, two in December, and one in January 2023.
In addition, 10 mobile power substations are expected in Nigeria between January and May 2023. According to the Minister, all these will enable Nigeria to transmit and distribute power more efficiently.
During the Nigeria Energy conference held in September 2022, power stakeholders explained the reasons why there are debts along the value chain. According to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer at the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Dr. Nnaemeka Ewelukwa, Nigeria will resolve its power-related debts when all power consumers are metered and can pay their bills regularly. He also said:
“When distribution companies (DisCos) are efficient in their operations and are making payments to NBET, it becomes possible for NBET to pay generating companies (Gencos). In turn, Gencos would be able to pay gas suppliers.”
It is important to note that until these issues are resolved, Nigerians will continue to experience epileptic power supply.