Understanding Why Nigeria’s National Grid Keeps Collapsing

Power grid

Today, the 16th of January 2020, Nigeria’s National Grid collapsed not just once but twice, continuing a worrying trend from last year when it collapsed more than 10 times.

As at 2019, the Nigerian National Grid had experienced at least 206 system collapses in nine years, discounting cases of ‘Partial grid collapse’ when only a part of the country suffered blackouts.

 The National Grid, of course, refers to the electric power system network in Nigeria put in place to generate and transmit power.

Since November of 2013, following the privatization of the electricity sector, three groups have the responsibility of providing power to Nigerians.

They are; the GenCos, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), and the DisCos. There is no PHCN or NEPA (NEPA stopped existing in 2005).

GenCos or Generation Companies are responsible for the generation of electricity. Pretty straight forward.

There are over 20 GenCos in Nigeria, but the top six are; Kainji/Jebba (Hydro), Sapele (Gas), Afam (Gas), Transcorp power and Egbin Power limited (Gas). GenCos are privately run businesses just like the DisCos are.

DisCos or electricity Distribution Companies deliver electricity to our homes. They serve as the connection between consumers and the National Grid.

DisCos are also responsible for billing consumers. Presently, there are eleven DisCos in Nigeria.

Now, we turn to the Transmission Company of Nigeria. See, the power sector in Nigeria wasn’t 100% privatized. The government is still in charge of the TCN.

The Transmission company of Nigeria is responsible for transmitting electricity from the GenCos to the DisCos by making use of the existing transmission grid.In other words, they are the middle men, and it is around here the problem with the National Grid collapses lies.

The electricity generation (installed) capacity of Nigeria is about 11, 500 MW (note that it is much less than the 40,000 MW needed

to sustain the basic needs of the population) but the transmission network is only capable of transmitting less than 8,000 MW.

Most days, however, only an average of 4,000 MW is available from the GenCos.

Above this, the transmission grid (National Grid) becomes overloaded, making it prone to voltage instability and eventually voltage collapse, the long and short of which is the cause of a blackout.

When this happens, we say ‘the national grid has collapsed.’ The collapse is really just a transmission failure. To be fair to the TCN though, it has pointed fingers at the DisCos for the system collapses.

According to the TCN, DisCos are known to reject electricity allocation (perhaps to avoid paying for it), thus overloading the distribution lines.

Apart from transmission lines overload, there are still several contingencies that cause the National Grid to collapse. Faults (technical challenges) are in fact the largest cause of the high rate of system collapse. These faults are obsolete power equipment system, poor maintenance culture, and generation shortage due to consumer demand increasing which leads to voltage instability.