There are strong indications that the current unreliable electricity supply in the country will soon worsen due to the seasonal drop in the level of water at the hydro power stations during the period of March, April and part of May every year, THISDAY has learnt.
THISDAY gathered from a source close to the hydro power stations at Kainji, Shiroro and Jebba that the drop in water levels, which is referred to as â€œlow deepâ€ is a cyclic natural phenomenon that occur during this period of the year as a result of drought.
Investigation also revealed that the situation has worsened in recent years by poor water management and lack of maintenance of the hydro stations, which on many occasions, has resulted in excessive leakage of water in the dams during this critical period of the year.
It was learnt that all the five units in the 760megawatt capacity Kainji Electricity Power Station could generate about 330megawatts; while the 578 megawatt-capacity Jebba plant has the capacity to generate between 418megawatts at peak periods and 339megawatts at off-peak.
The Shiroro Station, it was learnt, generates between 409megawatts and 380megawatts.
â€œPower generation will certainly drop by about 1,000megawatts in the event of the imminent drop in the water levels at the stations. The adverse effects of the low water level at this period of the year have been compounded by poor water management and inadequate maintenance of the stations, which has resulted to occasional leakage of water in the dams and flooding of the power stations,â€ a source close to the stations said.
According to him, Kainji, for instance, has not been overhauled since it was built in 1968.
But the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi, however, told THISDAY yesterday that the solution to the cyclical problems at the hydro stations was to increase gas supply to the gas-fired power stations to compensate for the expected fall in generation from the hydro stations.
â€œThe answer to the cyclical hydro problem is to increase gas supply so that we can compensate the expected fall in hydro power generation to the national grid by enhanced supply from gas turbines,â€ he said. Amadi said if there was enough gas to support the thermal stations, the generation from the thermal plants would compensate for the expected drop from the hydro stations.
THISDAY also gathered that with sufficient gas to support additional capacity at the thermal plants, there would be â€œspinning reserveâ€ to take over when the water levels drop.
The Group Executive Director (GED) in charge of Gas and Power at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. David Ige, told THISDAY yesterday that gas supply to the gas-powered generating plants had increased considerably since the repairs of the Escravos-Lagos Gas Pipelines.
He said though there had been routine operational hiccups, the development had not affected gas supply in recent weeks.
â€œSince the pipelines came back, we have sustained gas supply to the power stations. Supply can trip today and come back tomorrow. For instance, it tripped in Seplat Petroleum Development Company at the weekend but came back midnight on Saturday. Pan Ocean also reported leakage on Sunday morning and we have sent people to check. If it is serious, we will shut down gas supply from Pan Ocean but it will affect only 30million standard cubic feet per day (mmscf/d) of gas,â€ he explained.
Ige also disclosed that gas pipeline was sabotaged at Alakiri area in Rivers State but it did not affect supply to the power stations as supply was diverted.
The acting Group General Manager in charge of Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, also told THISDAY that since the Escravos-Lagos pipelines were repaired, gas supply to the power stations has not dropped.
â€œI am not aware of any sustained issue since repair,â€ he added.
The NNPC last month completed repair of the Escravos-Lagos gas pipeline, restoring supply of about 200mmcf/d of gas to the grid and ending almost seven months of gas supply outage to the power stations as a result of vandalism of the pipeline.