The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) said it is launching an investigation into the claims by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) that the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) in the country frequently reject volumes of electricity sent to them for distribution to Nigerians.
The Chairman of NERC, Prof. James Momoh, confirmed on Monday that the regulatory agency had set up a six-man panel, which included independent external industry operators, to investigate the claims.
He said from the preliminary observations of the investigative team, the country could retrieve up to 3,800 megawatts of electricity for distribution to end-users.
Momoh’s disclosure came just when the TCN and Discos resumed their war of words over poor electricity supply with the Discos accusing the TCN of spending $1.6 billion on transmission projects without visible results.
A chief executive officer of one of the Discos said that the regulatory agency was probing the allegations that they were rejecting electricity allocated to them.
“We complain of poor supply and someone is saying that we reject supply. If I don’t have power to sell, how do I make money?
“What will I present to my shareholders to justify the huge investments they have made?
“We don’t have power because TCN facilities are very weak, among other factors. But the TCN has repeatedly accused us of rejecting electricity allocated to us.
‘Their accusations are in the public domain. And you know that we receive the bashing because we are the only ones in the electricity value chain that deal directly with consumers.
“To get to the root of the matter, NERC is carrying out investigation,” the source stated.
The TCN, however, fired back, saying it has not spent $1.6 billion on transmission projects.
It equally claimed that the Discos were ignorant of the procurement processes for its transmission infrastructure.
Momoh, while shedding light on the recriminations between the two key players in the power sector, said: “The commission initiated a fact-finding initiative on load rejection because we had engaged them regularly on this issue without any results.
“We organised a team of six and set them up with a specific mandate to call a meeting with all the Discos and TCN. They all came and we met them for five days to discuss the bottlenecks at the interface and they opened up and at the end of the day, we put them in a room to negotiate a resolution to the challenges. We enumerated about 25 points that are the challenges and they were able to agree on common challenge and how they will resolve them.
“They all signed and we were very happy that they had finally agreed on how to resolve the issues. We subsequently wrote them letters to intimate them we will be monitoring their progress on the issues.”
He added that the meeting was to address the technical challenges identified as reasons for the load-shedding while the next phase of the investigation would be the commercial aspects.
He said: “We were about to go on site visits to inspect the extent of their work but I stopped that because we need to also be abreast with the commercial issues so we can engage them comprehensively and that is where we are.
“We know the issues are also commercial, but we are putting our hands first in the technical challenges. But all these challenges we will get into them fully and our staff will find out why the MYTO allocations are different from the daily nominations.”
According to Momoh, the NERC has “no choice and we will get into it.”
But the timeline for resolving the challenges would depend on the project timeline the Discos and TCN presented to NERC.
“We discovered that if the interface challenge is resolved, we will be able to release 3,800 megawatts of the stranded power to the grid,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Discos through their trade association – the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), said the TCN still used analogue system to run the grid.
ANED in a statement from its Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, said the analogue system of the TCN had caused inefficiencies and 5,311 interface disruptions in the first 18 days of September.
It also added that despite $1.6 billion multilateral funding of TCN, its equipment has caused over 100 electricity grid collapses since privatisation in 2013 and nine collapses this year.
ANED said it was responding to a recent TCN report that the Discos misrepresented crucial power evacuation and distribution data, adding that contrary to TCN’s claims, the Discos have not rejected energy load.
It also accused TCN of falsifying data that conflicts with the data presented to Discos by the National Control Centre (NCC) which is under TCN and coordinate power allocation to Discos.
“While TCN headquarter data published on September 20th, 2019, shows 19,173 megawatts (MW) of energy was delivered to Discos between August 22nd and 24th of 2019, the NCC data actually shows it was 13,963MW,” ANED stated.
It said there was a difference of 5,208MW data within the same company.
It said: “It raises questions as to the veracity and accuracy of TCN’s response in terms of the energy that it delivered to the Discos. How could TCN’s supposedly sent-out or delivered energy exceed that recorded by its control centre, the singular source for such information?”
While urging the TCN to focus on improving its network, ANED said except for February 1, 2016, when TCN wheeled 4,557MW, it has never wheeled sufficient energy to meet the Disco’s energy off-take assumptions specified under Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO) 2015.
“Despite TCN saying it is implementing its Transmission Rehabilitation Expansion Programme (TREP) with the $1.6 billion fund, the reality is otherwise. The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) continues to deal with, largely, a TCN that finds it difficult to move away from a PHCN-legacy of uncleared equipment containers, analogue-based and informal communications systems and frequent explosions and burnings of transmission sub-stations and transformers,” it added.
But in a swift response, the General Manager, Public Affairs of the TCN, Mrs. Ndidi Mbah, said ANED was ignorant of the TREP procurement processes and that the TCN had not spent $1.6 billion as claimed by the association on transmission infrastructure.
Mbah said: “We have not spent $1.6 billion. Words are usually cheap, and anybody can say things to their desire but let the Discos show prove that we have spent $1.6 billion.
“Let them prove the expenditure and numerous collapses. It is ignorant of them to make such claims and that shows they actually do not know how the procurements for transmission infrastructure is done in the TREP.
“The multilateral funds have been secured but we have to go through procurement on each of the transmission projects that they cover and so far, we have only done that for the Abuja project. These processes take time.”