NDPHC and the journey towards energy independence

 The importance of solar as a source of power cannot be overemphasised especially in developing countries, including Nigeria, where the economy and almost all other aspects of life are affected by inadequate power supply. In this report CHIZOBA OGBECHE examines the country’s exploration of the alternate power supply as regards the Presidential Initiative on Rural Solar Home Lighting Systems.

“If we are serious about moving toward energy independence in a cost-effective way, we should invest in solar energy. If we are serious about cutting air and water pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we should invest in solar energy,” the quote by American politician Bernie Sanders captures the imperative of solar energy in providing solutions for modern electricity challenges.
The magnitude of solar energy available makes it a highly appealing source of electricity. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 2,000 World Energy Assessment found that the annual potential of solar energy was 1,575–49,837 exajoules (EJ). This is several times larger than the total world energy consumption, which was 559.8 EJ in 2012.

Quite mindful of its obligations to Nigeria and Nigerians, the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) in January 2017, launched the Solar Home Systems (SHS) project. The project was anchored on the Presidential Initiative on Rural Solar Home Lighting Systems, aimed at extending power to the country’s rural communities that have no form of access to electricity from the national grid.

Beyond the grid project

The NDPHC project tagged: Beyond The Grid benefited from the company’s long term experience in developing power projects, as the NDPHC identified many rural communities in the six geo-political zones of the country where these solar projects would be implemented.
Also, NDPHC has deployed 200 units of the SHS (Solar Homes Systems) as pilot programme at Wuna community in Gwagwalada Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
In addition to the SHS unit, NDPHC’s solar project is also directed at auditing and re-activating 1,073 solar powered boreholes. Two of these boreholes are in the Wuna community and are the first to be repaired and have provided access to clean water for the community.
Aside from this solar project, NDPHC has installed 150 MVA transformers at Asaba 330/132 KV transmission Sub-station. This transformer was initially installed and energised in February 2015. It failed in circuit in May 2016 and several investigations and tests were carried out to rectify the fault.
This transformer was eventually re-energised and put in the grid on Thursday 23rd March, 2017 after it was certified by the technical team of NDPHC, Engineering & Procurement consultants (EPC) contractors and the Project Consultants (PC).This development at the Asaba transmission Sub-station will enhance power supply to Asaba and its environs including the overloaded Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) transformer at Onitsha which currently services the entire Asaba and its environs.

The NIPP challenge

The National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) is the largest single intervention in power infrastructure in Africa and the implementation has not been without challenges which include: community restiveness, security situation in the Niger Delta region. Such challenges are not unexpected in the process of executing multi-billion dollar projects in emerging economies like Nigeria.With a firm belief in dialogue, the current administration in NDPHC under Mr. Chiedu Ugboh, a Managing Director/Chief Executive, has engaged stakeholders at all levels in resolving some community issues to advance projects delivery and power to Nigerians.
For instance, NDPHC engaged the Oronta Community in Abia state and the issue was settled out of court and paved the way for contractors to resume work on the Transmission Line.
Similarly, the management engaged the Governors of the Eastern region, especially the Enugu State Governor, to solicit his support and that of his colleagues from the region in resolving community issues in the region where project delivery is being threatened.
In Calabar, NDPHC management was able to resolve community issues affecting operation and evacuation of Power from Calabar Power Station.The resolution of this community crisis made possible the evacuation of power from Calabar Power Station. The Power Plant currently contributes 380MW through 330KV line into the Grid.

In its quest to ensure steady gas supply to Calabar Power Station, NDPHC also signed a Partial Risk Guarantee (PRG) with the World Bank to ensure regular Gas Supply to Calabar Power Generation Company.

The PRG which amounts to $112million is a form of securitization for Gas Supply under the Gas Sale Agreement (GSA) between NDPHC/Calabar Generation Company Limited and Accugas. This is for a period of Nine (9) months during which about 500MW additional electricity will be wheeled to the grid for the benefit of Nigerians.
To ensure accountability in the system, due process as a cardinal tool in the operations of NDPHC was resuscitated and became effective as the current management saw the need to streamline the work process at all levels with strict compliance with due process and approval limit. Meetings/interaction with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) was also explored for this purpose in line with the focus and policy thrust of the current Federal Government.
In line with government economic blueprint, reviews and new strategy are adopted for the completion of the privatization of NDPHC Power Stations which occupy a front burner of government policy and to that effect three Power Stations in Calabar, Geregu and Omotosho in Cross River, Kogi and Ondo States respectively are being concluded as a first phase of this strategy. This process was pursued with great vigour in 2017 with the target of completing the privatization of the remaining plants bearing in mind that preferred bidders for these plants have already emerged for 80 percent share sales.
With an overall level of completion of projects in excess of 80%, the balance of which are on the verge of completion, the NDPHC has definitely delivered on its mandate of providing robust power infrastructure for the nation.

 Way forward

Regrettably though, in spite of the feat recorded by NDPHC/NIPP in a difficult environment, the power output in Nigeria remains at about 12GW at generation level, 5.5GW at transmission level and about 5GW at distribution level, a situation that has restricted the improvement of service delivery at the last mile to consumers. In recognition of the subsisting gaps in power infrastructure, the Board and management said it was poised to do a lot more under NIPP Phase II for the nation to benefit from a world-class transmission infrastructure and a more diversified generation-mix underpinned on the utilization of alternative sources of power generation, including renewables.
Under the initiative, the NDPHC/NIPP plans to close the infrastructure deficit arising from the continued growth of the economy and gaps associated with other critical stakeholders in the power-value-chain.

Sustained commitment to doing these and more will no doubt continue to prove the Niger Delta Power Holding Company to be an essential part of the mix in the quest to tackle Nigeria’s electricity needs.

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