BusinessDay

Can artificial intelligence solve Nigeria’s ailing power grid

For the umpteenth time, Nigeria is trying yet again in 2022 to fix its ailing national grid which suffered a system collapse last Friday — the third incident in less than one month.
Reacting to the latest grid collapse, the Federal Government says it would fast-track the purchase and installation of a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to curb the rate of grid failures.

“We wish to assure Nigerians that the Federal Government is working assiduously to deliver on the much-needed reforms and investments, including SCADA, that are critical to improving the capacity and reliability of the national grid,” Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu said over the weekend.

What is SCADA system
According to the World Bank, the SCADA system is an artificial intelligence device used to monitor and control an electrical grid system based on the information it collects from the substations within that system.
It performs automatic monitoring, protecting and controlling of various equipment in distribution systems with the use of Intelligent Electronic Devices which restores the power service during fault condition and also maintains the desired operating conditions.
SCADA improves the reliability of supply by reducing the duration of outages and also gives the cost-effective operation of the distribution system.

Read also: Power Ministry confirms national grid collapse

Countries with SCADA experience
The first system-wide SCADA project financed by the World Bank, was in Thailand, dates back to 1996.
That project involved the installation of 1,600 remote control switches, 156 remote terminal units (RTUs) in as many substations, an extensive microwave radio network that spanned most of Thailand, and a comprehensive EMS and business management system to improve power system efficiency, strengthen system operations, and automate billing.

“The project successfully increased the reliability of the Thai power grid and significantly improved the financial health of the utility,” World Bank said in a document titled Managing the Grids of the Future in Developing Countries.
Between 2010 and 2016, the World Bank has invested about $162 million for SCADA in eight power projects in seven countries such as Paraguay ($16 million), Turkey ($32.5 million), Kenya ($10 million), Vietnam ($55 million) and Morocco ($5 million).

Why the technology matters for Nigeria
Nigeria’s creaking grid with a transmission wheeling capacity of 8,100MW cannot move more than 5,000MW without the entire system cranking up. Within the last 25 days of 2022, the grid has collapsed three times.
Between 2010 and 2019, Nigerian electricity consumers have had to contend with 206 power grid collapse, nine of which occurred in 2019, records obtained from the system operator (SO), a section of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), indicate.

A breakdown of the data showed that Nigeria witnessed 146 total collapses of the national grid and 73 partial collapses between the periods.
“SCADA will allow utilities in client countries to improve availability, reliability, and quality of power supply to consumers and industries,” World Bank said.

Expert’s take
Eyo Ekpo, former Commissioner at the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC)
At what point will our leaders connect the dots and recognise the unavoidable link between energy security and national security and comprehensively remake our electricity policy in that light?

Ayodele Oni, energy lawyer, partner at Bloomfield law practice
Having states produce the power they consume may work, but doing that could also be replicating the same problems.
Age is not the only reason for the problem of the grid. Many countries have a single national grid and don’t necessarily have the same problem. Pertinent to understand the problems properly first.

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