Anumber of water-tight agenda have been drawn up by a group of Nigerian and international oil, gas, power and energy sector experts based in Nigeria and around the world for a massive public debate to seek lasting solutions to Nigeria’s decades long albatross, her inability to provide electricity to its teeming population and industries, for conducive life and living and industrial take off.
Made up of major players past and present in both the private and public sectors, in academia and consultancy, after about two weeks of intense virtual discussions and debates about one of Nigerian government major failings (the power conundrum), the group which calls itself Oil, Gas and Power Forum (OGPF) is seeking to make practical interventions through enlightened critical debate devoid of political and sentimental baggage with the aim of shaping policy in the direction that will lead to solutions that will benefit Nigeria and Nigerians.
Setting up a 12-point discussion theme, OGPF, leveraging on the insights, knowledge and expertise of people who have been at the tick of the power conversations in regulation, operation, private sector, in advisory and financing over decades, framed their solution agenda through seeking to find answer to the poser: “What are the practical, implementable solutions to the myriad of issues and problems with the Nigerian Power Sector, and how may these outcomes be implemented in the most enduring and efficient manner?”
The group’s public communiqué, following the global virtual discussions, and made available to business a.m. over the weekend, sought to respond by highlighting an agenda which must now be pursued through public discussions and debates.
Contained in the 9-point agenda being canvassed by the group are also snippets of solutions which require fleshing out and one that will have government fully embrace for understanding and implementation, the group appears to suggest.
Taking a holistic look at the power dilemma of the country, the group is of the view that fragmentation of the power system cannot sustain development at national scale, and they note that such an approach negates the benefits of the utility concept. “Decentralization should not mean fragmentation,” the group stressed, adding that “the future of electricity supply worldwide is smart, decentralized, diversified, devolved, and distributed.”
Such a suggestion would appear to be responding to a country which had gone overkill with a unitary approach to nearly everything it does, from governance to the basic, mundane things that have nothing to do with political power play, such as giving citizens electricity to live a good life.
The group also draws the attention of government and those engaged in the electricity power play to note that fuel diversity is vital for power supply diversity.
The communiqué states: “At first we depended on wood, coal and diesel but diversification brought in hydro, high pour fuel oil, gas, solar and wind, ensuring better security. Nuclear power is an option waiting in the wings as manpower is being gradually developed.”
Although they mention nuclear power, they however suggest that it should be treated with caution.
In reference to this type of energy source, the group notes: “There’s need to decouple nuclear energy from other sources of renewable energy due to unresolved issues around suitability, sustainability and end of life management of the plants and feedstocks for Nuclear energy.
“Even though nuclear ticks the low carbon box, Nigeria must exercise caution in the adoption of Nuclear power as a solution to our electricity crisis mainly due to our peculiar national circumstances and the vindictiveness of the technology if and when “something goes wrong” along the Nuclear power development value chain.”
Further suggestions, by the group, of a solution looking agenda for such a public debate is what the group says is the need for uniform nation-wide ringed network coverage, noting that, “a situation whereby swathes of territory are underserved leads to poor power quality and stability problems.
Moreover, there are legitimate concerns about social justice, social protection, social infrastructure and social entrepreneurship,” said the group.
Also to be a subject of discussion is the perceived sense of entitlement that has been wrapped around the electricity supply debate, which many analysts say politicians have been quick to manipulate to their own benefits.
The group’s position is that this must lend itself to proper debate. “The vestiges of welfarism as a deliberate counter to elitism in electricity consumption culture, has led to a sense of entitlement among consumers. This culture must change. Electricity is a product and like any other product (e.g. Coca Cola) must be paid for by those who consume it,” the group stated.
Five other agenda points that the group is canvassing that attention be focused, according to the communiqué, are:
• It follows that electricity production costs as well as cost of capital must be recoverable for sustainability. Approved tariffs should reflect prudent costs.
• Electricity is at the heart of modern society and must be recognized for what it is – a platform for a vibrant national ecosystem. The power problem is therefore an ‘us’ thing rather than a ‘their’ thing as portrayed especially in the popular press. This is a wake-up call to Nigerian entrepreneurs to embrace the numerous opportunities in the power sector.
• Financing has always been a problem in the electricity sector. No source of funding should be overlooked in addressing this problem. Governments should continue to intervene positively in the development of the sector.
• In thinking of supply adequacy, we should simultaneously think of off-taker adequacy. They are Siamese twins that complement each other.
• Electricity development does not suffer mistakes gladly without extracting heavy punishing costs. Careful long-term planning must be the rule.
The Oil, Gas and Power Forum was convened by Madaki Ameh, an energy lawyer and comprises some of the dispassionate leading lights in the oil, gas and power sector.
The group hopes to draw attention of government to simple matter that providing citizens with electricity is not rocket science, for electricity has been around for centuries and so not beyond providing.