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Setting power sector agenda for the incoming administration

Setting power sector agenda for the incoming administration
May 26
17:39 2023

BY ADETAYO ADEGBEMLE

I have read a number of write-ups, trying to set agenda for the new administration led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, but many of them have fallen short of addressing the major issues facing the power sector. While it must be said clearly that President Muhammadu Buhari has built on the progress of the power sector, there is also the need to build and consolidate on the successes and review a couple of decisions here and there.

There is the continued call for a truly independent regulatory commission, devoid of political interference, and one of the best ways to achieve this is to bring in individuals who have shown commitment to the growth of the power sector in one capacity or the other. The era of making political appointments and then expecting a quick delivery of key performance indicators should be dispelled.

Proper interviews and presentations on what challenges facing the power sector should be done, and the best candidate be given the political powers to turn around the fate of the sector. Once this can be achieved with NERC, it will send a clear message and tone to whatever follows in the power sector.

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One of the structures to be clearly made away with is the Presidential Power Initiative, which at best, should function as a desk in the ministry of power, which should handle such bilateral relationships with companies like Siemens. Keeping an “agency” like the PPI increases our overhead unnecessarily, duplicating tasks and command chains, and asking questions of the professionals in the ministry of power.

With the success recorded by the Muhammadu Buhari administration in deepening our fuel/energy mix, we should be having more generating capacity coming mainstream, our focus should therefore be on how to align the new wheeling capacity being achieved by the Transmission Company of Nigeria and their numerous projects, with the off-takers in the DisCos. The focus should also be on harnessing the present over N50 billion naira the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria spends on alternative energy into the national grid.

All the funds being expended on TCN projects would come to noughts if electricity distribution companies (DisCos) are not able to utilise these capacities.

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Market liquidity has become a perennial problem for the power sector, but our policymakers are not considering the root cause, and in dealing with the issue, how to solve this effectively. The truth remains that unless the issue of metering is resolved, we would continue to experience stunted growth in the power sector.

This metering covers every interface in the power sector. From the generation interface with the transmission, from the transmission interface with the distributors, and ultimately to the distributors’ interface with the final consumers.

In solving this problem, I have been advocating for the establishment of the local metering ecosystem and local metering standards. This will ultimately lead to deepening our local meter manufacturing capacities, removing the foreign exchange components in meter pricing, increasing/creating employment, and ultimately solving our local metering problems.

Beyond encouraging the local meter manufacturing ecosystem, we need to also establish local transformer manufacturing and repair units, we need to develop this local capacity.

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Resolving our huge local metering challenge will automatically also a more accurate figure of the number of connections that we have to the national grid, thereby helping with more accurate data for national planning.

Not knowing what our demand looks like will make us continue to make abstract plans that will continue to fail. I have heard many commentators saying that a nation of over 200 million people should have access to over 100,000MW of electricity but we cannot, and should not continue to extrapolate with scientific data to make sensible decisions.

Yes, this can be achieved in four years if we have the political will to proceed, and if in making appointments, factors like what their earlier contributions have been.

I will continue to hammer on national interest first as the basis to make appointments and forming policies. Without this, the power sector will continue in its doldrums and the potential to be great unachieved.

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Adegbemle is a public opinion commentator/analyst, researcher, and convener of PowerUpNigeria, an Electric Power Consumer Right Advocacy Group. He tweets @gbemle and @PowerUpNg

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Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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