Whither Electric Power? …Yar’Adua Commissions 100 MW Gas Turbine, Soon

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Successive governments in Rivers State since 1999 have committed enormous resources to the development of the power sector in the state. The state Independent Power Project (IPP) was initiated by the Dr Peter Odili administration. That government had inherited the Eleme Gas Turbine, a project of the former Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC).

A project, which hardly worked effectively from inception, the Eleme Gas Turbine was meant to generate, transmit and distribute electricity to parts of Rivers State, particularly the Ogoni areas. But poor technical application of specifications, official corruption and lack goodwill combined to stop the project from serving the people from day one.

But Odili’s desires to make Rivers State self-sufficient in power supply spurred his administration to embark on a programme to resuscitate the facility, after it was handed over to the state by the Federal Government. That effort, however, did not yield much fruits, as the plant failed to serve the people as anticipated. Although a lot of rhetoric was unleashed on the people on the effective state of the facility, many Rivers people knew that the power plant was dormant.

To save the state from the embarrassment, the administration began another quest to construct the Trans Amadi Gas Turbine Station at the location of the Trans Amadi Water Station. That station was to generate about 3.2megawatts. The administration also began another project to construct a 125megawatts gas turbine station at Omoku. That project was barely completed before the end of 2006, and the events of early 2007, impacted heavily on the successful delivery of what would have passed as the best legacy of the Odili administration. The effective performance of that facility has been hampered by the non-completion of substations designated for Abalama, Teme, Rumuosi, Ahoada, and Kaa. Some located within Port Harcourt were also hardly completed. Thus, the distribution of the power generated from Omoku could not be properly managed to the benefit of Rivers people, whose over N60billion was spent on the project, even though Port Harcourt is estimated to require about 25megawatts of electricity daily to make life more meaningful.

But with the emergence of the present administration of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi two years ago, desperate effort has been made to correct the anomaly, and make the state self-sufficient in power supply before the end of 2011. One of those efforts is the payment of the debts owed the former contractors handling the gas turbine project amounting to about N14billion, and the payment of another €27million to the new contractors handling the Trans Amadi Gas Turbine project, which is now being  upgraded by additional 100megawatts. The government has also awarded contract to a Korean firm to take over the management of the Omoku Gas Turbine Station, to ensure efficiency and optimum performance.

In fact, Governor Amaechi assured last Saturday during a tour of the Trans Amadi gas turbine, that the government would hand over 100megawatts of power generated from the facility to the Federal Government, through Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), on November 28, when President Umaru Yar’Adua is expected to commission the new turbine plant. This would bring the total power generated from the state’s gas turbine facilities to 280megawatts. In a situation where each megawatt of power costs about $1million to generate, it follows that the government has invested so much in the power sector. It, therefore, requires frugal management of the electricity generated in such a fashion that returns on investment are guaranteed.

This means that the government’s plan to sell its power to neighbouring states of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa and Delta as part of a new initiative, as well as PHCN would rake in huge revenue to the state on a daily basis. In fact, this means that the state would be putting out for sale about 270megawatts of electricity daily to its customers by 2011, assuming that other parts of the state need just about 5megawatts daily.

Another area where the Amaechi administration has focused attention has been the improvement of power supply to grassroots communities at the local government level. The government estimates that about 500 communities, up from 470 earmarked to benefit from rural electrification by the previous administration, require electricity in the state. Buguma, Opobo, and a lot of others have been electrified or are being electrified at the moment. Already, the Amaechi administration has spent well over $1.1billion on the electrification of rural communities in the last two years, with each community taking more than N30million.

As the administration celebrates two years in office, Governor Amaechi has said that it is the expectation of his government that every community in the state enjoy effective electricity supply. For this reason, the government has procured a number of transformers for communities to enhance rural power supply. It is also facilitating the completion of the substations and injection stations to boost power supply from the gas turbine projects. The huge investment in this sector clearly points to the seriousness the administration attaches to stable power supply as an elixir to speedy socio-economic growth and development of the state. When this is achieved, the state can then begin to reap the fruit of sustainable development.

Of course, the stability of the power situation in the state would translate to the vibrancy of the entire system, the economy would be buoyant and the people would begin to relish in affluence, progress and prosperity. It is not in doubt that the result of a stable power supply environment means more employment opportunities for the people, greater windows for capacity development for all, full industrial capacity utilization and improved productivity as well as quality and cheaper goods and services. In addition, the environment would be more peaceful, families would witness more happiness and mutual concord.

Obviously, investors want to see such in the environments they plan to do business in. And the Rivers State Government wants to accomplish this by its massive investment in the power sector.  Amaechi realizes that this is a daunting task, but he plans to overcome, very soon!

 

Nelson Chukwudi