The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) is seen since early 2020 to have taken bold steps aimed at subduing its challenges including perennial revenue loss and inadequate load from the national grid. The Disco is seen to rather initiate homegrown solutions so as to boost power supply in its four states of Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.
This is said to be to support industrialisation and economic growth which only adequate power supply can push. PHED’s new Managing Director, Henry Ajagbawa, a professional chartered accountant with a doctorate degree to his belt, had informed newsmen that the Disco has worked hard with other partners to build a sub-station at Rumosi near Port Harcourt to boost power available for distribution, something that is not its duty.
The PHED under Ajagbawa has also confronted revenue loss by hiring over 355 workers to man the transformers and contend with customers to extract PHED’s revenue through effective bill distribution, monitoring and supervision. Revenue is said to have risen first from N1.8bn per month to N2.2bn and now N2.7bn. The loss per month has reduced to about N2.5bn.
The measures that plugged various loopholes through persons within and outside were diverting revenue or even stealing power seem to have annoyed some categories of persons. Now, apparently out of frustration, some have resorted to open physical attacks on PHED technicians (linesmen) trying to disconnect erring lines while some bypass consumers have rather taken to lawsuits to restore their stealing projects.
Most citizens have hailed this push by most Discos including the PHED seen to be working hard with the Federal Government in a renewed push to bring adequate power supply to Nigerians as a key factor for industrialization and economic growth.
The power sector is relatively one of the most challenged in Nigeria. The defunct NEPA, like many government owned and managed entities, was unable to make much inroad in resolving them which led to its unbundling and the subsequent privatization of the sector. GENCOS, TCN AND DICOS make up the present power sector in Nigeria today.
Since inception, the electricity distribution companies (Discos), in collaboration with the Federal Government, have made concerted efforts to sanitize the power sector and are determined to provide adequate power supply to Nigerians as power is considered a key factor for industrialization and economic growth.
This drive is, however, being hampered in Port Harcourt by a disturbing trend of hostility ranging from outright violence against PHED workers to lawsuits. More worrisome is the fact that most of these actions are carried out by people who are caught in criminal act relating to illegal connection, meter bypass or non payment of bills; persons that ought to be apprehended and prosecuted by law enforcement agents.
The most pervasive of these crimes is meter bypass, one that is embraced by most prepaid meter users. The very rich and elites are not left out in this act although they can well afford to pay for energy consumption. Sadly, this category of persons are conversant with the consequences of their action but still indulge in the act and would rather secure court injunctions against the company and pay their way through to evade prosecution rather than pay their bills.
The effect of this is that Discos lose a lot of money and are therefore unable to meet their obligations to the Gencos and the TCN for power generation and transmission. For instance, the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc (PHED) loses monthly revenue of N2.5 billion to energy theft alone. This, no doubt, impairs their operations and results in inadequate power supply.
Furthermore, it also hampers the Discos ability to replace obsolete items with new ones for effective distribution of power. The cost of procurement, installation, maintenance and repairs of their infrastructure is huge and so the loss of income to energy theft significantly affects their efficiency.
Consequently, anyone, no matter the status or social standing, who encourages energy theft, either by omission or commission, should be considered an enemy of the society because their action or inaction has far-reaching effect on the Nigerian economy and the nation’s collective goodwill. It is an economic sabotage.
Violence against staff is another menace bedeviling the Discos. Staff members, in many instances, have been attacked by the public/thugs for merely carrying out their duties. A recent case in point is the one involving a former Commissioner in Bayelsa State who unleashed his thugs on PHED staff. The staff members were beaten up and are still in the hospital where they are receiving treatment. Their crime is that they tried to carry out their duties to ensure service is delivered to Nigerians.
The new trend of attacks seems to come from those who can no longer easily steal electricity like before. Some even attack or visit vindictiveness on any electricity worker living in their midst who did not want to close his eye to bypass. A PHED engineer, Magnus Uchechukwu, suffered such and was eventually framed of murder charge and was detained for almost two months in the State CID by his co-tenants.
Another big challenge confronting the Discos is incessant court cases against them by the rich and elites in society. Cases abound where they secure all manner of injunctions which all but compel the Discos to supply them free energy. The question then is, who pays for that? Should Peter be robbed to pay Paul? Also, are the Discos obliged to pander to the whims and caprices of the rich and influential? The judiciary is complicit in this regard and their action undermines the Federal Government’s resolve to fix the power sector.
Fixing power is a collective effort but could be easily undermined. As much as the Discos are expected to operate in accordance with global best practices, the public, on the other hand, is required to shun illegal and pernicious acts that are inimical to the power sector transformation. Payment of bills is, in fact, sine qua non and a duty the public owes the society.
Harassment, intimidation and oppression of PHED staff are not a way to resolving issues. Observers point to the mechanism in place for conflict resolution in the sector where aggrieved customers are encouraged to exhaust the dispute resolution window before recourse to the courts. It means well in all related issues.
Observers said there should be a clarion call for the public to partner with the Discos for improved service delivery in the power sector to foster a complementary growth in the economy. Resort to physical violence and lawsuits is not in the best interest of the public.
Chukwu, a journalist, writes from Port Harcourt.
Rivers Communities Lament Neglect By NNPC, Others
The indigenes of Umuapu, Ihie, Obitti, Awarra, Ochia, Assa and Obile communities of Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, have appealed to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, the govenrment and Oil Companies operating at their area to quickly reconstruct the Oil Access Road that links these communities and others.
They said the prompt reconstruction of the road would ease traffic tension, reduce road accident to the minimal, encourage commercial activities as well as strengthen social comfort and security at the region.
The appeal followed a peaceful protest staged by the women of the area on the Oil Access Road, recently.
The protesters, who wore black clothes, carried placards which had different inscriptions, chanted songs as they demonstrated.
Speaking through one of their leaders, Nwada Ruth Amadi, the women urged the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC), the present administration of Sen. Hope Uzodimma, and other Oil Companies operating in their region to quickly reconstruct the link road in order to reduce suffering, agony, avert danger and spur the locals to enhance productivity and comfort.
Amadi expressed regret that the road has been in a deplorable condition over the years with NNPC, Government and Oil Companies such as Waltersmith Petroleum, Seplat Petroleum, Sterling Global Petroleum among others, doing nothing to reconstruct the link road.
According to them, lives have been lost, just as many sustained severe degrees of injuries due to the bad state of the said road, insisting that authorities concerned liaise with the people including leadership of the church and the civil society for a way forward.
Amadi said “we regret the negligence and maltreatment we get from NNPC/Government and Oil Companies milling oil in our land.
“Despite the huge revenue being generated and carted away by these oil companies whose vehicles cause huge damage on the road, those concerned keep dead mute towards the reconstruction of the road, leaving us and other ordinary road users to suffer adversely.
“Hence, we deemed it right to stage a peaceful protest on the spoilt road, to appeal to authorities concerned to immediately reconstruct the road to save us from suffering, pains and imminent danger. We expect these authorities to be proactive, not reactive.
“We cannot continue to fold our hands and suffer. The NNPC, government and the Oil Companies have never hugely done things that benefit the entire Ohaji enclave. Rather they allow some leaders of the area to mislead them”.
Hydrogen Set To Compete With Fossil Fuels
University of Houston energy researchers suggest hydrogen fuel can potentially be a cost-competitive and environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline and diesel, and that supplying hydrogen for transportation in the greater Houston area can be profitable today.
The research team is offering a white paper titled, “Competitive Pricing of Hydrogen as an Economic Alternative to Gasoline and Diesel for the Houston Transportation Sector”, where they examine the promise for the potential of hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
The white paper offers that traditional liquid transportation fuels like gasoline and diesel are preferred because of their higher energy density.
Unlike vehicles using gasoline, which releases carbon dioxide, and diesel, which contributes ground, level ozone, fuel cell electric vehicles refuel with hydrogen in five minutes and produce zero emissions.
The paper then pitches “According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Houston had approximately 5.5 million registered vehicles in the fiscal year 2022. Imagine if all these vehicles were using hydrogen for fuel”.
Houston, home to many hydrogen plants for industrial use, offers several advantages, according to the researchers.
The study explains, “It (Houston) has more than sufficient water and commercial filtering systems to support hydrogen generation. Add to that the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure, which makes hydrogen production and supply more cost effective and makes Houston ideal for transitioning from traditional vehicles to hydrogen-powered ones”.
The study compares three hydrogen generation processes: steam methane reforming (SMR), SMR with carbon capture (SMRCC), and electrolysis using grid electricity and water.
“The researchers used the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)’s H2A tools to provide cost estimates for these pathways, and the Hydrogen Delivery Scenario Analysis Model (HDSAM) developed by Argonne National Laboratory to generate the delivery model and costs.
Additionally, it compares the cost of grid hydrogen with SMRCC hydrogen, showing that without tax credit incentive SMRCC hydrogen can be supplied at a lower cost of $6.10 per kg hydrogen at the pump, which makes it competitive.
Professor Christine Ehlig-Economides said, “This research underscores the transformative potential of hydrogen in the transportation sector. Our findings indicate that hydrogen can be a cost-competitive and environmentally responsible choice for consumers, businesses, and policymakers in the greater Houston area”.
Your humble writer is full of suspicion. As regular readers know, hydrogen is gaseous at any sensible consumer operating temperature and pressure. Its the smallest atom and slithers through most everything.
Its not something one would want stored in an attached garage. The fuel cell tech isn’t quite there yet. And the study relies on power numbers for steam that likely come from natural gas. Just where the electrical watts needed from the grid would come from is anybody’s guess.
For all the contestable points the work does suggest that hydrogen fuel cells have economic potential. Maybe someday there will be a few models of hydrogen fueled automobiles to choose from.
But right now, the market forcing of electric battery energized cars isn’t building any confidence. Add to that the government wants to force heat pumps and electric appliances as the only choices. This after wind and solar aren’t looking like economically healthy ideas after all.
The reality forecast suggests a disaster. Government plus rule and regulation force? What will a community tolerate when forced to choose between air conditioning and charging the car tonight?
Hydrogen might be the energy / fuel nirvana someday. But know one knows how that system is going to look today. All this political pressure is looking to blow the system up.
By: Brian Westenhaus
Westenhaus writes for oilprice.com.
Seplat Plc Plans $250m Investment In Sapele Gas Plant
The Director, New Energy, Seplat Plc, Effiong Okon, has unveiled the company’s plan to construct a new $250m gas plant in Sapele, Delta State.
Okon made the disclosure during the Nigeria Oil and Gas Outlook event with the theme “Investing in Nigeria’s Energy Future”, in Lagos.
Okon, who noted that the company was committed to its vision of contributing to the energy landscape, said investing in the Sapele gas plant would further prove Seplat’s commitment.
Speaking during a panel discussion on “Secured Energy Transition Towards Gas”, Effiong explained that with the investment, the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) would be made more available in the market.
He said, “we are also starting a brand-new plant in Sapele, the Sapele gas plant, another $250 million investment that will deliver a lot of LPGs to the market”.
Giving insights into the company’s timeline, Effiong announced that Seplat’s Joint Venture gas processing facility in Imo State is set to be completed by December, with plans for commissioning in January 2024.
Okon, while addressing the broader investment climate, emphasized the pivotal role of the private sector in driving investments in the oil and gas sector.
He further stated that the government’s support through policies and ensuring a secure environment was crucial for fostering sustainable growth and development in the industry.
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