Deploying Technology to Solve Nigeria’s Electricity Problems

That the Nigerian power sector is in a coma is not a closely guarded secret. The electricity supply is as erratic and unstable as ever, much like the country itself.

I find it quite unfortunate that due to the almost perpetual state of darkness in different parts of Nigeria, many have abandoned the power sector of the country.

Most Nigerians will unanimously agree that the country’s electricity supply is poor. It is therefore not surprising that the widely recognized “giant of Africa” ranks 171st out of 190 nations in terms of access to electricity.

Research shows that Nigeria’s power generation, which is mainly thermal and hydro, has an installed capacity of around 12,522 megawatts, but in reality can only supply around 4,500 megawatts to its more than 200 million of citizens.

The average Nigerian, adult or young, understands that power cuts are the norm here. For example, despite our often stifling weather, if you visit public schools and some low-cost private schools in certain parts of the country, whether urban, peri-urban or rural, you will not be surprised at the state in which the students are expected to learn. From overheated classrooms to unused learning equipment due to lack of power supply, the power shortage plagues not only the education sector, but every aspect of modern life.

Even in public health centers, patients would consider themselves lucky if they were cared for in a conducive, well-ventilated environment where generators or solar systems are on standby.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Nigeria loses $29 billion a year, or about 5.8% of its gross domestic product, not because of a lack of reliable power supply. And because citizens who can afford it prefer to find an alternative solution to electricity problems instead of relying on empty government promises of better days, Nigerians spend an estimated $14 billion every year on generators and fuels. fossils. This is, among other reasons, why Nigeria is gradually losing its appeal as one of the top investment destinations in Africa.

It goes without saying that a stable, reliable and affordable electricity supply is an important criterion for wealth creation, the growth of local industry, foreign direct investment and economic growth and development. However you choose to phrase it, the dire state of the electricity supply continues to spell doom for the growth of the country’s industries. Regardless of the field or sector in which a company operates, electricity is an indispensable ingredient to make anything happen.

As such, tackling Nigeria’s energy problem requires a multidimensional approach. I may not be an expert in the energy industry, but I understand and believe in the transformative power of technology. In this article, I will explore ways in which technology can solve the electricity crisis in Nigeria.

While I won’t bore you with all the somewhat confusing details, Nigeria’s lack of reliable electricity supply has a long and colorful history. In 2013, the Nigerian government opted for privatization and unbundled the former Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) into 6 generation companies and 11 distribution companies, and sold them to private sector investors.

Fast forward to 2022, stakeholders including some in government and citizens have blamed the epileptic state of Nigeria’s electricity supply on privatization of the sector to inexperienced companies that failed to improve the decrepit transmission system.

Rather than playing the blame game, the government, GenCos, DisCos and IPPs must work together to solve the electricity crisis. One obvious solution is renewable energy, which has long been seen as a low hanging fruit. Citizens should be encouraged and/or incentivized to promote the mass adoption of renewable energy – the most popular being solar energy – as a clean alternative to burning dirty fuels to generate electricity. The diversification of the country’s energy mix will reduce the burden of electricity generation from gas, hydro and thermal energy sources.

Examination of the role of technology

In recent years, the electricity sector has undergone a significant digital transformation, largely driven by the emergence of renewable energy sources and the global call to combat climate change.

Either way, leveraging digital technology in the power industry can provide greater transparency in operations, increase efficiency and reliability.

An analysis of the global electricity sector by the International Energy Agency shows that digitalization has the potential to save around $80 billion per year, or around 5% of total annual electricity generation costs. According to the report, this can be achieved by reducing operating and maintenance costs, while improving power plant and network efficiency, reducing outages and unplanned downtime, and extending life. operational life of assets.

One example is the use of drones to inexpensively monitor thousands of miles of transmission lines over rugged terrain.

Another case study is the smart metering system driven by Internet of Things (IoT) technology. When designed and used effectively, smart meters can help customers be better informed about their energy usage. For energy distributors, smart meters and other remote monitoring solutions can help solve the problem of meter tampering that is costing them revenue.

Energy data analysis is just as important, if not more so. A serious bone of contention between Nigeria’s electricity distributors and consumers concerns exorbitant utility charges.

Since many Nigerians do not know how much energy they consume and cost, they are unjustly charged unreasonably high sums in exchange for a pitiful amount of electricity. In light of this, analysis of energy data would be useful in ensuring that Nigerians get what they pay for, paying for exactly what they consume.

From remote monitoring solutions to interconnection, financing, payment solutions, modeling and system design, technology is an invaluable tool in solving some of Nigeria’s electricity problems.

I must repeat, at this point, that solving the energy crisis is not a task that can be accomplished in a few weeks. Nonetheless, what I have done is highlight areas where technology could help boost the electricity sector while providing access to electricity to more people who need it. limited or no access.

To this end, relevant industry stakeholders – GenCos, DisCos and government – ​​must be willing to invest in digital technologies to accelerate transformation and develop digital expertise within their workers.

Furthermore, the government – ​​at all levels – needs to step up its energy policies and be more deliberate and thorough in its implementation of these policies. Indeed, our technology ecosystem will never reach its full potential if we do not solve the transgenerational problems of epileptic power supply.

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