The Senate will in the near future screen the new board of Directors of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), This comes on the heels of the earlier postponement of their screening due to the absence of the proposed Chairman, Professor Akintunde Akinwande at the Senate screening session.
With the eventual screening and subsequent inauguration of the new board, Nigerians are hopeful that more positive changes in the electricity and power sector will come into play to enable the country meet up with its energy needs.
This, it could do by ensuring that the Power Sector Reform Act of 2015 is not only made robust, but strengthened to encourage more private sector participation in power generation and distribution.
Although certain aspects of the Act are encouraging, some of the clauses giving a licence time frame of 10 years to power generating companies is too short rather it should be extended to between 15 to 20 years to give confidence to such operators, as building of power plants like dams for example could take up to 20 years or more while coal and gas fired plants take between three to five years for completion.
Also, we expect the new board to put on its thinking cap to dream big by fashioning out the energy requirements of Nigeria for the next 50 years with an ambition plan of generating power output of nothing less than 50,000 megawatts of electricity, in the first 20 years of the plan.
For example, China which had a similar plan has the “Three Gorges Dam, the third highest plan in the world it started in 1994 and completed in 2012 with a capacity to generate 22,500 MW.
This shows that when people with vision dream big, laudable projects could be completed in any given time frame.
As the nation’s population and industrial needs grow, the present problem of power outage caused by inadequate facilities will soon be a thing of the past, if such plans are made practical in this sector.
Currently, Nigeria has an installed capacity of 7,445 MW but can only generate between 2,983 to 4,285 MW which is grossly inadequate to meet the industrial and domestic power needs of the people.
Although the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said what the country needs right now is 12,000 MW, we believe that even this figure is grossly inadequate.
How can we as a country think small when industries, artisans and other business houses are calling for a 24-hour uninterrupted electricity supply to enable them increase production of goods and services, which will eventually bring down the cost of production, generate more jobs as well as reduce inflation.
The Tide believes that though the tasks before the new board are enormous, they are not insurmountable. As a first step, it should liaise with the manufacturing sector on a new road map on their energy needs as well as with the DISCOs on a more robust and far-reaching power generating platforms.
Also issues of pre-paid meters, infringement of right of way of transmission lines, corruption and staffing in the power sector should be promptly tackled.
NERC must ensure that public institutions with huge debt profile should be encouraged to pay up to enable the DISCOs function effectively.
The Tide while congratulating the next board urge, it to be impartial in its duties as to enjoy the confidence of all stakeholders in the energy sector.