• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Blackouts dim Christmas mood amid cost of living crisis

The worsening power outages in many parts of Nigeria have combined with the rising prices of everything from food to fuel to take a shine off Christmas for households.

“This is supposed to be a time for joy, but it feels like another burden; blackout in the festive period. Everywhere is just dark,” Olarinde Olufemi, an environmentalist, said on social media platform X.

Last Monday, it emerged that the country would face increased electricity outages as Egbin power station shut down for maintenance.

Egbin Power is the largest power generating station in the country with an installed capacity of 1,320 megawatts, consisting of six units of 220MW each, contributing over 16 percent of the total electricity generated to the national grid.

The management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria said Egbin Power Station will be shut down for three days starting Monday on the back of gas pipeline maintenance.

BusinessDay’s findings showed the station was shut down at 11:13 hours on December 18, to allow the Nigeria Gas Company (NGC) to maintain a linking gas pipeline supplying gas to Egbin Power Station.

“This means a reduction of 676 megawatts of bulk power generated into the nation’s grid for three days and consequently the quantum of bulk power available to be delivered to distribution companies load centres nationwide for the period,” the company said.

Ikeja Electric, a distribution company (DisCos) with over one million prepaid and postpaid customers, said on Wednesday attributed power supply disruption to the maintenance work on NGC pipeline supplying gas to Egbin Power Generation Company.

“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused by this situation and assure you that normalcy will be restored upon the completion of the maintenance work,” he told customers on X.

Eko Electricity Distribution Company, with at least 450,000 customers, said the maintenance has resulted in reduced allocation from the grid, causing massive load shedding across our network.

Ibadan Disco said on Tuesday that its customers in Abeokuta metropolis were experiencing power outage due to the maintenance.

A source with direct knowledge of the maintenance told BusinessDay that the NGC successfully carried out the maintenance work on its gas pipeline supplying gas to Egbin power plant.

“The maintenance exercise was successful; however it will take some time to get back to regular programming. It’s a normal engineering procedure,” the source said.

For Abosede Adebayo, the Christmas lights in her house remain unplugged, with their colourful bulbs gathering dust in a corner.

“We thought this year would be different,” she sighed, fanning herself with a newspaper. “We saved up to buy a turkey and even managed to get some new clothes for the children. But without light, how can we cook, how can we even gather together comfortably?”

Vandalism poses new threat- Adelabu</H3

Chris Nwakele, who runs a local bakery, said four days after the statements of the Discos, power had not been restored to regular programming.

“It feels like a nightmare,” Nwakele said on a national radio evening programme.

With the prices of petrol and diesel at record highs, many households have reduced the usage of their generators amid the rising cost of living in the country.

“We can barely afford to run the generator for a few hours, let alone for the whole Christmas,” said Joseph Okonkwo, a farmer in Anambra State. “We’ll have to make do with candles and hope for the best.”

Total electricity generation in the country stood at 4,591.92MW as of 6am on Sunday, down from 4,678.33MW on Saturday, data from the Nigerian Electricity System Operator show. The power the DisCos distribute to consumers is usually less than what is generated owing to transmission and distribution challenges.

Bayo Adelabu, minister of power, has decried the recent act of vandalism on electricity infrastructure.

“A transmission tower in Yobe State, tower T372, was deliberately brought down, causing a ripple effect that led to the collapse of tower T373 along the same transmission line. This criminal act occurred at 21:18 and has disrupted power supply to parts of the North East, affecting Yobe and Borno States,” Adelabu said on Saturday via X.

He said his ministry was working closely with law enforcement agencies to investigate the incident thoroughly.

“In addition to immediate actions, we are mobilising resources to quickly reconstruct the damaged towers. Restoring power supply to Yobe and Borno States is our priority,” Adelabu said. “This act of vandalism not only caused inconvenience but also raised concerns about the safety of our power infrastructure.”

There are laws that criminalise the stealing of transmitting lines, according to Tunde Adeniyi, an energy expert with an investment bank, who said the challenge affects all the operators, with the DisCos being the direct victims.

“Nigerians need to know that electricity is a commodity, and just like every other commodity, there is a cost of production of services that goes into producing electricity and distributing it from the grid,” Adeniyi said via phone.

Other experts pointed out that attacks on transmission lines are leading to stranded power in a country where businesses are shutting down over a lack of reliable supply.