Nigeria’s acute problems within its energy sector and the proposed solutions have generated numerous debates and elicited countless newspaper columns over the years; not to mention the huge amount of taxpayers’ money gone down the drain trying to revive it. However, in the midst of this darkness, there seems to be a ray of light with the Independent Power Plants (IPP) and private investments trickling into the sector.
On Friday night, Azura disclosed through its official Twitter handle that all its three turbines had been synchronised to the grid with their generation outputs at 450MW. This completed milestone improves power generation and provides a template for project completion in the country.
“Azura did its first whole plant run today i.e. all 3 turbines on the grid at the same time. Pic shows control room as we approached 450MW base load. Huge milestone. Kudos to all in FGN that have kept the faith. And hats off to our commissioning crew,” read the tweet.
The Azura-Edo IPP is a 450 megawatts (MW) Open Cycle Gas Turbine power station constructed near Benin City in Edo state, Nigeria on a 100-hectare site. The current milestone is Phase 1 of a 1, 500MW IPP facility, which is almost a third of the average generation level in the country. It is also larger than the country’s biggest power plant, the Egbin power plant, with an installed capacity of 1,320MW. The plant had been situated just 1km away from Nigeria’s main trunk line, the Escravos Lagos Pipeline System (ELPS).
The Minister of Power, Babatunde Raji Fashola, had earlier explained in the roadmap for the power sector under this current administration, stressing the need for “incremental power” generation before achieving “steady” and “uninterrupted power” supply. The incremental power as described by the Minister was that “every Megawatt of power must be harnessed and made available to our people.”
This $900 million power project, which is privately financed, and was completed before the slated December 2018, also marks a wide departure from often delayed government-financed projects. Government projects have always been riddled with bureaucracies and corruption, and have, over the years, turned out to be unable to achieve the desired effect in the sector.
Nigeria is endowed with large oil, gas, hydro and solar resources, and already has the potential to generate 12,522 MW of electric power from existing plants. Sadly Africa’s largest economy only reached a high of 5,156 MW in December last year.
Generation is merely one part of the solution, transmission, distribution and storage of the generated power are also as integral to the sector. The transmission and distribution sectors are facing deep infrastructural challenges that would need large financing that can easily be sourced from the private sector when there’s a strong, transparent regulator.
Building more power plants, and using a mix of the available resources in the country is most imperative to ensure improved supply. Earlier this month, the South African government which is currently trying to build its own renewable energy base, signed renewable energy agreements with about 27 independent power producers. The country plans to add 2,300MW to the grid over the next five years, powered by solar and wind resources.
Private-sector financed infrastructural projects have become the best alternative in many developing economies. Nigeria must put its house in order for the country to attract the highly needed funding for the sector.