A Smart Grid for Nigeria's Energy Woes?

Published on 19th October 2009

No doubt, without daily supply of uninterrupted electricity, it is going to be hard for any nation to join in the 21st century economy. Since Thomas Edison discovered electricity, not very much has changed in the basic content of what 'electric' is. In the case of Nigeria, it does not matter 'smart grid' or the old 'grid', the problem with Nigeria, is that its leadership wants to lump Nigeria into one system.


Granted that electricity first showed up in Nigeria in 1894 [Ijaro Paower Station] about 20 years after Washington DC got theirs, Nigeria 115 years later, is still largely a dark country. NEPA that came in and replaced the various regional power service corporations dropped the ball in the 1970s. In the then Eastern Nigeria, ECN, using Oji Power Station fired by coal from Onyema Mines Enugu, supplied and ensured uninterrupted power in many parts of eastern Nigeria.


It was after the war, when Nigerians elected to vandalize and undermine public utilities that power started to be unreliable. On top of that, NEPA became highly inefficient, and power supply in Nigeria descended to what many Nigerians have come to associate NEPA as 'Never Expect Power Always'.


States need not jump into the business of power generation. Reasons are plenty to support why such a move will further crumble a bad situation. Apart from a handful of states, many Nigerian states are hardly economically and financially viable to afford the long term capital investment required to own and operate efficient power generating plants. Private corporations are no better. Nigeria needs Public Utility Corporations granted right of eminent domain to acquire right of ways; easements, for power lines. They must be regulated. Instead of states, there should be regional power supply, highly regulated and managed, but linked in a seamless grid.


Electricity is never and cannot be delivered in cyber. There is still need for a medium such as line, poles and substations to ensure constant supply. All that a smart grid does is to ensure regulation, reliability and ability to move power from point to point. Its supply must be regulated via an efficient network of sophisticated computers that monitor loads and needs.


In Nigeria, land use development hardly takes any pattern, hence it is hard to differentiate between purely residential areas from industrial, retail and commercial areas. The unintended consequence is that every part of Nigeria urban is constantly at full load, making delivery hard and more challenging. Although a city like Houston does not have zoning, it still maintains an efficient power supply system. But Lagos is chaotic in its land use and with illegal tampering of power, it is hard to keep the supply constant. The technology is available to enhance delivery of electricity, but with the type of lousy attitude given to public utilities, Nigeria may never benefit.


NEPA’s existing grid should be expanded and used strictly to transmit while other service providers distribute to consumers. The old idea and management whereby NEPA generates, transmits and distributes, coupled with its inefficient and poor administrative system, helped nailed Nigeria as a 'dark' country.


Smart grid or not, the human attitude must first be cured and addressed, before any technology can function. Nigerians like to work against anything to help them live better lives. Some attitude adjustment will do the country a dose of help than anything else.


By Ejike e Okpa ii

Dallas, Texas.

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