By Zayyad I. Muhammad
When ordinary Nigerians are faced with epileptic power supply, their first grumble is on Discos and the Minister of Power. They don’t bother where the problem is coming from because Discos and the Minister of Power are the two ‘entities’ who the common-man rely on electricity matters. Discos charge them for electricity bills, while they view the Minister as the overall head of the power sector in Nigeria, which is true. This is the dilemma every Nigerian minister of power and Disco faces.
Discos often blame poor supply from the transmission end. The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) says the insufficient power supply experienced nationwide is due to low power generation by the generation companies (GenCos).- some of the problems are- Technical hitch in Egbin plant and poor gas supply etc
We must admit that the transmission sector has witnessed tremendous progress – Nigeria witnessed only four grid collapses in 2020 as against the 42 in 2010.
A total system collapse means a total blackout throughout the country, and this is one of the biggest challenges Minister for Power, Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu has to get an alternative to- because once the country witnesses a total grid collapse, Nigerians will quickly forget the progress made in many years- thus, for example, a 24-hour failure will erase a one-year success.
What should the Minister and his team do to bring a shorter-term solution once the country witnesses a total system collapse? The answer – we need a reductionist approach. Our electricity sector operates on a holistic system – for example, once the Egbin Thermal Power Station in Ijede / Egbin, in Ikorodu, Lagos witnessed a technical problem, a consumer in Jimeta, Adamawa state will feel the impact, thus blaming his Disco and the Minister of power
The best solution to tackle this issue is Neighborhood Solar Power and Wind-power model. Each neighbourhood in Nigeria that is connected to the national grid has an electricity-transformer site. Technicians and experts in the Ministry of Power, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), and Discos, in collaboration with other private firms, should look into a model to build solar panel farms and mini wind turbines at these transformers sites or near it at each community. This will help connect the neighbourhoods with alternative power –this will allow members of a community to share the benefits of solar energy when the national grid collapses, even if they lack solar panels on their properties. This system is being operated globally; Nigeria should benchmark it.
Lightweight, flexible wind turbines and small solar panel farms within the neighbourhood can be used to power communities when the national grid collapse without the people feeling any impact- thus, the Minister of Power and Disco will be free from public criticisms. At the same time, Gencos will have ample time to rectify any technical glitch.
Though Community solar panel farms and Community wind turbines are basically for the population in rural areas without access to the national grid, Nigeria’s electricity system should be a combination of a ‘hybrid power system’- national grid, mini solar, and mini wind turbine at communities. A decentralized electricity supply system that alternates between the national grid and renewable energy can be one of the best technical options available for Nigeria.
We must admit that these two alternatives- neighbourhood solar and wind turbine are not new to the government – some reports say there are ten large-scale Solar Power Plants in Mega Watt in some locations in Nigeria. Nigeria has not put much interest in such a project because of the country’s capacity to generate enough power from its plants. However, transmission and distribution bottlenecks should be a big reason for the government to seriously look into utility-scale solar and mini wind turbine power generation in neighbourhoods to serve as an option when the country is faced it total or partial national grid failure, as the country is witnessing now
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Abuja via email@example.com.