The increasing deployment of SCADA system in Africa is growing as it reduces losses and optimizes production, especially in the electricity sector and Nigeria is trying to catch up with its peers.
The Nigerian electricity transmission company, TCN recently said it had begun the acquisition of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA)/Energy Management System (EMS) after two failed successive attempts stating that the reasons, some of which include substations apparatus and control sub systems deficiencies, improper project scoping and unsatisfactory project execution, were being worked on.
With an estimated valuation of $30 billion in 2017, SCADA systems are varied and the use of SCADA has gained momentum in recent times, especially in developing economies. SCADA systems are software packages installed on computer systems to control and monitor and analyze real-time data and are used in critical sectors of an economy, like waste, electricity, dams and in the electricity sector.
In Nigeria, the national grid is managed manually and that in itself is a problem. The manual management of the national grid has resulted in many challenges, without a clear way to move forward. A key challenge of the obsolete procedure is that, no subsector of the electricity industry can be held culpable and made to address the issues of load rejection, damaged power lines, faulty transformers or meters and so on.
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For example, electricity generating companies (GenCos) say power generation has increased substantially in the past few years, but the consumers, who are supposed to be at the receiving end of this increase, complain of incessant black-outs, so the blame is then passed onto the transmission company. The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in turn says it evacuates the entire power sent to it by the GenCos and accuses the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) of rejecting electricity supply. The DisCos then points the finger back at TCN saying the transmission company sends more electricity at off-peak hours and less at on-peak hours.
This childish practice of passing the blame is happening because of the lack of transparency, and should change if SCADA is successfully acquired. The SCADA system is a digital automation whose key process is in its ability to monitor an entire system in real time. This is done by data acquisitions including meter reading, checking statuses of sensors, which are communicated at regular intervals depending on the way the system is designed. This means all activities concerning the national grid will be monitored and recorded and whoever disrupts electricity supply, be it GenCos, TCN or DisCos or consumers, whether through negligence or not, will be forced to work on the problem.
On the benefit of SCADA, Mohammed Usman-Gur, managing director TCN described the SCADA as a mirror, noting that “SCADA is like a mirror that sees everybody that is on the grid, so anybody that does anything that affect the grid, the person will be seen and that means that person will be punished according to the grid code,” UsmanGur said.
He then gave an example, “if two generators or one big generator goes out because they did not maintain the generator, it can affect the grid, so with SCADA you will see it and go after them on why they did not maintain their generator.”
This is because it will provide real time data and voice exchange between remote power stations and the National Control Centre (NCC), while displaying the operation, control and management of the power system network. Another benefit of deploying SCADA in the Nigerian electricity industry is the reduction of electric system operating cost. Nigeria’s distribution companies are currently operate at a very high cost, as auditing companies have said that the DisCos are on the verge of collapse because of the high cost of doing business. Also, SCADA would improve power supply reliability by preventing disturbances in frequency and power flow, as high frequency costs the industry 16,227 megawatts (MW) in first three weeks in June alone.