Rivers Quest For Stable Power Supply

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Sometime last year, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi
promised the citizenry of the Rivers State 24 hours power supply by December
2012. Amaechi made the promise at the 2011 edition of the Nigeria’s
Independence Anniversary celebration organised by the Shell Club, Port
Harcourt.

He asserted that though power outage cannot be fixed
in a hurry, his administration would achieve the goal within the set time.

You know the power problem cannot be addressed overnight,
but once our independent power projects come on stream, power outage would be a
thing of the past,” he said.

Bent on achieving this feat, the sum of N25 billion
was allocated to the power sector this year. The governor in his budget speech
last year said, “We have made real progress in this regard but more investments
in support of infrastructure needed to be done to enable us enjoy 24 hour power
supply which is our target for 2013. This is achievable considering what we
have on ground.”

Governor Amaechi believes one way to achieve this feat
is through privatisation policy.

Making public his views on the need to privatise the Power
Holding Company Of Nigeria (PHCN) during the visit of House of Representatives
Committee on Power and Steel led by its Chairman, Hon. Patrick Ikhariale in
December, last year, the Rivers State Chief Executive argued. “The country has
no choice. It is make or mar situation on the issue of electricity
deregulation. Let me delve into the constitutional provision of distribution
and say to you that it is frustrating us. PHCN and all the entities that are
involved in the electricity power business in Nigeria are frustrating the Rivers
State Government from distributing power to her people and it is the
responsibility of the National Assembly to perform their oversight functions
and compel them to allow the Rivers State Government get involved in
distribution of electicity.”

Governor Amaechi disclosed that the Rivers State
Government generates about 180 megwatts of electricity from its various
independent power stations, stressing that if that was added to 180 megawatts
generated by PHCN, then it is possible to achieve the 24 hours power supply
target.

Unfortunately, there is a bottleneck stemming from the
monopoly status of PHCN since it is the only agency mandated to distribute
power. It is against this backdrop that Governor Amaechi has intensified
campaign to unbundle the agency saying, “…We should all work together to
unbundle that part of the law and allow States to produce, transmit and
distribute power.”

Explaining his position further, he remarked, “we
cannot understand what kind of law that will allow you to generate, if you
generate and there is no transmission line, you can’t convey power to anybody’s
house or business.”

Apart from the hiccup of distribution and
transmission, the Rivers State Governor also appealed to the Federal Government
to reimburse monies spent on power projects. He told the House of
Representatives Power Committee Chairman, “I am glad you said we tried to sort
out the problems of PHCN in terms of land acquisition; they have not sorted out
our problem of paying us our money.”

Touched by Amaechi’s assertion, Hon Ikhariale stated
that, “there is a correlation between generation, transmission and
distribution. It is a chain of events. You don’t generate power and store it.
As you generate, you should be ready to transmit while transmitting station should
be ready to distribute to the end users. So, it is a tripartite arrangement, a
wheel that each must keep rolling; otherwise, a halt in one definite will
affect the other.’’

By the visiting lawmaker’s estimation, Rivers State
alone, if given the free hand, can generate 500 megawatts of electricity,
especially from its three independent power stations at Omoku, Trans-Amadi and
Afam.

State Commissioner for Power, Hon. Augustine Nwokocha also
affirmed this during a media briefing tagged, “Dissecting the Amaechi
Administration’’. He stated that government has adopted a novel approach to
achieve its target.

“What we have done differently is that we have divided this
work into smaller units that are deliverable, faster and better. We have also
focused on getting the quality of men that can deliver this work and deliver
them well and on time,” he added.

Nwokocha assured that before the end of the year, more
power sub-stations are expected to be built at NTA, Rumuosi,School of
Nursing,Elelenwo, Elekahia, Rumuolumeni,Tam David West Airport Road and
Ada-George Road to boost electricity distribution and transmission in the
State.

Explaining  the
power situation before the inception of the Amaechi led administration,
Nwokocha said “…When we came into gover nment, the total transmission
capacity in the State between Oginigba and Nzimiro was under 100 megawatts. So
if you are generating 150 and your warehouse can only take 100, there is
redundancy; there is a bottleneck that needs to be broken.”

In order to boost the power distribution in the State,
Amaechi’s administration decided to upgrade PHCN facility at Oginigba by
supplying the place with three transformers of 60 MVA each. This has increased
power transmission to 180 megawatts while the one at Nzimiro rose from about 75
MVA to 120 MVA. Put together, the sub-stations at Nzimiro and Oginigba transmit
a total of 250 MVA.

Still believing that there are bottlenecks in
distribution, the state government has set up a committee made up of
technocrats to deliver on the mission Amaechi’s government set on power.

Schneider of France was recently engaged by the
government to supply all materials that are required to stabilize power supply
in Port Harcourt. Efforts are also being made to commission two 80 MVA
transmission line at Rumuosi while contracts for the building of two 40 MVA
substations at Onne and another one at Rumuolumeni have been awarded.

At present, about 466 megawatts, according to Nwokocha, is
being generated. He hinted that the capacity would increase to over 700
megawatts by the time the phase 2 of the Afam Independent Power project is
completed next year.

Giving this estimation and the 500 megawatts
consummation capacity of the State, it means the power generation capacity of
the State will be in excess of 200 megawatts, and the State may be the first to
sell power if the system is deregulated.

Chairman of House Committee on Power already said
plans have begun by the National Assembly to enable State governments
participate wholesale in the business of electricity adding, “so if Rivers
State alone, having the free hand of opportunity, can generate 500 megawatts of
power, then that brings to bear exactly what we are saying.”