Today, Nigeria – ‘the giant of Africa’ – is marking its 59th independence anniversary but it is unable to keep the lights on.
I just checked official data and gathered that power generation in the country stood at 3,146.4 megawatts as of 6.00 am today. Can you beat that?
After almost six decades of being governed by our own people, debilitating blackouts are still the order of the day in most parts of the country.
The country achieved its highest electricity generation of 5,375MW on February 7, 2019 at 9.00 pm, according to data from the Transmission Company of Nigeria.
Our population (201 million) is more than three times that of South Africa, but we have less than a third of South Africa’s installed power generation capacity. We have 12,910.40MW, according to the TCN, compared to over 51,000MW in South Africa.
Ours is a country that has what it takes to produce sufficient electricity – which is essential for economic development – but has continued to fall behind in tapping its massive energy resources.
Aside from being Africa’s biggest crude oil producer, Nigeria boasts the largest natural gas reserves on the continent.
Only eight countries in the world – Russia, Iran, Qatar, Turkmenistan, United States, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela – have more gas than Nigeria.
The country has about 202 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves plus about 600 TCF unproven gas reserves, according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Sadly, only about 25 per cent of the nation’s gas reserves are being produced or under development. Worse still, a large percentage of the gas produced are exported.
Is it not ridiculous that less than 20 per cent of the nation’s gas production are used domestically despite the acute energy poverty facing many households and businesses?
A total of 2.83 trillion standard cubic feet of gas was supplied last year, but only 430.2 billion scf was commercialised for the domestic market while 1.23 trillion scf was exported and the rest were either flared or re-injected by oil firms into their reservoirs, according to the NNPC.
It is deeply worrisome that Nigeria imports gas (Liquefied Petroleum Gas or cooking gas) from countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria, India and Argentina. Check data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
For many countries, natural gas is the leading fuel in power generation. While that is the case in Nigeria, many power plants still sit idle or are under-performing as a result of gas constraints.
The US Energy Information Administration said in its latest International Energy Outlook that natural gas is expected to be the world’s fastest-growing fossil fuel out to 2050, with demand rising by 1.1 per cent per year.
Iran, Nigeria’s counterpart in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting countries, grew its electricity generation capacity by more than 1,100 per cent in 40 years to 80,299MW, Iran Daily reported in January this year.
The Asian country’s population is estimated at 83.4 million, less than half of Nigeria’s. Since 2013, when President Hassan Rouhani’s administration took office, over 11,000MW of electricity was said to have been added to Iran’s power generation capacity.
How do you describe a situation where Nigeria sells (exports) electricity to the Republics of Benin and Niger when the vast majority of its population continue to suffer severe power shortages, with households and businesses regularly plunged into darkness?
Our electricity generation has continued to hover around 3,500 and 4,000 megawatts in recent months, despite the privatisation of the power sector more than five years ago.
There is clearly an urgent need for the government and private investors to step up efforts to bridge the electricity deficit in order to stimulate economic activities and improve quality of life.
The importance of stable electricity to education, health care, and agriculture, among others, cannot be over-emphasised. Many small enterprises have closed shop due to poor power supply as they could not cope with the cost of maintaining petrol- or diesel-powered generators in running their businesses.
“Access to reliable electricity is the backbone of any modern economy. It is even more important with the digital revolution. If African nations want to see their economies transform, the issue of electricity must be tackled head-on,” the World Bank said in a recent report.
The jury is out on whether our policymakers and the private sector stakeholders will pull out all the stops to ensure that the energy poverty in the country becomes a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future.
I hope we will be able to celebrate our 60th anniversary next year with improved electricity supply.
Femi Asu is a business journalist