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Nigeria focuses on powering economic growth

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THE Nigerian government is looking at all energy options in a bid to widen electricity supply that will help power the country’s economy. The huge growth of the country’s population and of businesses has placed great strain on Nigeria’s weak electricity infrastructure, and this needs to be seriously addressed, participants at the recent UK-Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum in London were told.

There are 98 million people in the country without electricity while 65 per cent of schools in the country lack access to power, according to the UN.

Sanusi Garba, Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), said: ‘There are about eight million electricity consumers on the billing platform of the 11 electricity distribution companies, as at April 2018, and about 50 per cent are metered while the balance is on estimated billing.

‘The base customer size for electricity consumers is expected to significantly increase as a result of the ongoing customer enumeration exercise prescribed by the regulator.’

This figure is put at between 10 and 15 million new customers on the billing metre.

Nigeria is currently generating installed capacity of about 7,000 megawatts but cannot distribute most of this because of poor infrastructure. The country has four major oil refineries with a capacity of 445,000 barrels per day but they are not working at optimum level and are delivering less than half of their capacity, according to Dauda Garuba, Technical Adviser at the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

‘Even if the refineries were to be working at the optimum capacity we still could not generate what we need to power the economy,’ he said, noting that the electricity problem was having an adverse effect on Nigeria’s manufacturing sector. ‘So, the new thinking is to explore the energy mix option,’ Garuba added.

He mentioned coal, which he said had a long history of extraction in Nigeria, such as the Enugu coal mines. ‘Oil was a later development that we latched on to and then neglected the coal sector,’ Garuba said.

Now, N30bn is being invested in the coal sector to ‘complement the energy mix.’ Garuba said that coal was among the top seven natural resources in Nigeria that had a huge commercial potential. The country has coal reserves of 25 billion tons, which the government wants to exploit.

Reacting to climate change activists who decry the use of coal because of emissions, Garuba said: ‘The challenge for us now is how we get to power this huge economy until we reach a stage where we can make a choice regarding which energy sources to use.’

This was backed by the NERC’s Garba who said: ‘There are several coal-powered independent power projects (IPPs) at various stages of development by investors. It is one of the objectives of the industry regulators to diversify the power generation mix of Nigeria by promoting [the use of] coal and renewables.’

US President Donald Trump has called on multilateral development banks such as the World Bank to help developing countries make coal production cleaner through the use of the latest energy technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS). This has been welcomed by countries such as Nigeria, India and Bangladesh, which have tens of millions of citizens without power.

‘Nigeria will always explore the most environmentally friendly methodology for the mining and usage of coal. Where necessary, the IPP developers would partner with appropriate technical partners,’ said the NERC’s Garba.

Garuba also welcomed technical cooperation, which he said was needed ‘because energy security is capital intensive, both at the level of financial resources and human capacity,’ adding: ‘So, we can’t go it alone, but with collaboration, this would present opportunities for experience sharing. Nigeria will do everything to clean up coal production responsibly while mitigating the impact associated with its extraction.’

Meanwhile, in Kenya, GE has signed a deal with Amu Power to supply its Ultra Super-Critical clean coal technology components and air quality controls systems to the 1,050 MW Lamu Coal Power Plant.

The Lamu plant will account for up to 30 per cent of power generation capacity in Kenya and is seen as a key player in the government’s plans to provide the manufacturing sector with steady, reliable and affordable power.

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