Abuja â€” Worried about the poor state of electricity generation in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the ministry of power and other relevant agencies to immediately restart the implementation of power sector reforms.
The Federal Government is also jointly executing a $300 million pilot project in renewable energy, with the provision of $100 million, while the World Bank is making available $200 million.
And the Presidential Action Committee on Power has said it is working assiduously to fast track improvement of electricity supply within the next three to six months. The Minister of State for Power Mr. Nuhu Somo Wya who conveyed the president’s order also said processes leading to the privativation of the generation and distribution networks had already commenced.
The power sector reform formulated by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration was designed to have the electricity generation and distribution assets of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) privativatised. But after the initial unbundling exercise to create semi-autonomous entities, the reform was discontinued.
Speaking yesterday at the opening of a workshop on renewable energy jointly organised by the Ministry of Power and the World Bank, Wya said the government had the will power to reform the power sector. He disclosed that international investors had shown interest in developing the power sector.
They have however expressed reservations about the unfavou-rable environment which the Federal Government is working hard to address, the minister explained.
“President Goodluck Jonathan who is the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commit-tee on Power has directed that reforms in the power sector be recommenced immediately. We are already putting machinery in place to make sure these reforms are implemented,” said Wya.
“In the reform, all the obstacles are to be removed to ensure that whoever wants to participate in the generation of electricity is encouraged to go through the regulatory framework that is enacted for the sector to ensure that they do their business in ernest. Nigerians can have regular power supply when these regulatory frameworks are put in place and are working.
“Federal Government is dismantling all obstacles that impede the smooth operation of the power sector as robustly and efficiently as possible. We are providing enabling environment for everybody to participate. We are already in discussions with some state governments to partnering with them in the area of generation and distribution,” he said.
THISDAY had exclusively reported that the Federal Government had held talks with state governments in the South-south geo-political zone over the possible acquisition of the Port Harcourt distribution company.
However, it has been gathered that the progress of the Presidential Committee on Power mandated to find solutions to the challenges of electricity supply in the country is being slowed down by personality clash involving key appointees on the committee.
On what government is doing to promote the development of renewable energy resources in the country, Wya said at the federal level, the ministry was trying to develop a pilot scheme to assure people that renewable energy projects could work.
“We have started with a 10MW wind energy farm in Katsina, another one in a place called Waya in Bauchi State and there is one solar energy project in Plateau State,” he stated. According to him, the Federal Government could not solve the problem of the power sector alone.
He said government was also working to create the enabling environment for the integration of renewable energy-based power supply by removing barriers to investment and market development through robust policy actions.
Wya explained that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is currently developing a feed-in-tariff for renewable energy power and regulatory framework/technical standards for distribution, generation and decentralized solutions for off-grid and mini-grid systems in rural and semi-urban areas.
“It is a thing that everybody will participate. For instance, the requirement of electricity for small community in the country may not be more than one per cent and the local government should be able to pull resources to solve their needs,” he said.
Commenting on the criticisms trailing the recent increase in consumer electricity tariff from N6.00 per unit to N8.50, the minister said Nigerians should be prepared to pay whatever it costs to provide stable electricity supply.
He said the cost of paying for the increase in tariff is far cheaper than the cost of darkness Nigerians are experiencing now. He maintained that government would from time to time undertake review of the tariff structure to enable the power generating comapnies stay in business.
The Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank Mr. Waqar Haider said the components of the proposed renewable power project with the government include independent mini-grid development (for remote areas with concentrated loads), Standalone energy systems (with scattered small loads) and Technical Assistance and capacity-building for federal, state and local governments, community associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on how to operate renewable facilities on a sustainable basis.
In a related development, a statement by the Head of Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Power Mr. Greyne Anosike made available to THISDAY yesterday said the committee has promised that within three to 12 months, it would take steps to promote medium to long term sustainable electricity supply.
It also emerged that the consumer debt profile of the PHCN has hit N70 billion.
Anosike said the committee’s undertaking was made during a preliminary presentation to donor agencies, members of the diplomatic corps as well as stakeholders in the industry on Monday in Abuja.
Addressing the stakeholders, which included Wya and the Minister of National Planning Commission, represented by the Secretary of the Commission Prof. Sylvester Monye, a member of PACP and Senior Special Assistant (Special Duties) to Mr. President Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo hinted that in line with the yearnings of Nigerians, PACP was working towards sustaining electricity availability in major industrial and commercial hubs.
Nwankpo said the president had directed the Task Force to restore sanity to the sector within three to six months, adding that in order to realise the objective, the task force had been focusing on all initiatives that would sustain availability, quality and reliability while simultaneously implementing short, medium and long term solutions that would make electricity availability predictable in Nigeria.
He emphasized that though the report would be approved soon, its broad objectives, nonetheless, is to restore within six months, consumer confidence in the electricity supply sector and make every Nigerian a responsible consumer that complies with tariff and service obligations as well as establish a competitive power procurement framework that delivers increased generation to meet increasing consumer demand.
The minister said PHCN is being owed more than N70 billion by consumers and observed that no agency whether private or public could perform miracle with this volume of debt owed it for service already rendered. He warned that government would henceforth hold communities which allow their power facilities to be vandalized responsible.
The statement further said the approved Report of the Task Force would be unveiled in the next one or two weeks.