The importance of electricity for the betterment of human life and comfort of citizens and social well being of a people will remain perpetually significant. And the Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan administration in Delta state would seem to have clearly understood the crucial importance of this “fundamental form of kinetic or potential energy created by the free or controlled movement of charged particles such as electrons, positrons and ions” in the promotion of economic activities of people. The Commissioner for Energy, Mr. Charles Emetulu lucidly underscored this point while taking his turn in October 2013 to brief the media about his Ministry’s Mid-Term Report.
Making a submission on project activities and energy sector policy objectives of the Delta state Government, he declared: “The provision of energy (electricity power supply) is basic to economic and social well being as well as creation of employment and consequently wealth for the citizenry. These multiplier effects of provision of energy are critical to fostering peace, security and social harmony.
“Furthermore, the provision of street lights has direct positive impact on the security situation of major cities in the State. This has enhanced night life by boosting commercial activities thereby promoting peace and security in the State.”
He continued: “In this age of globalization, the provision of energy is fundamental to the training and retraining of Deltans in all spheres of human endeavour. At the informal level, most skills acquisition processes by artisans are not possible without energy (electricity) to operate tools, equipment and machinery.”
It can be seen from the foregoing that power energy is indeed key to development. And the good thing about it is that the State Government is not oblivious of this. And this was why it intervened in the Energy sector with the creation of the Ministry of Energy so as to contribute to the development of infrastructure for generation, transmission and distribution of adequate and reliable electricity power to Deltans. Besides, the Ministry is also saddled with the responsibility of exploring, avenues to utilize renewable energy resources in the State for energy services as well as telecommunication. It also assigned the responsibilities of urban and rural electrification, electricity power supply to the state and electrical engineering services.
It is incontestable that the State government has remained committed to fulfilling its policy thrust on power, and through the Ministry of Energy it has engaged vigorously in extending electricity power supply to communities; upgrading and reinforcement of power supply network in towns, cities and urban centres; development of Independent Power plant project for bulk provision of power; installation and operation of generator/solar powered streetlights in urban cities and other communities; and installation and operation of generators in government offices and residential quarters.
Analysing the current electricity power supply situation in the State, Emetulu revealed that at present Delta State requires about 1,008 maga watts (MW) of electricity, but that only 100 mw or 10 per cent of that requirement is available to the State from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) before the company was privatized. According to him, the State is served from five different 132/33kv transmission substations, with two of the substations located at Sapele and Ughelli in Delta State, while the other three are located outside the State. And of the five power plants in the State that deliver power into the national grid, only the one at Okpai that operates at full capacity.
It was cheering news to hear from the commissioner that recently, the National Integrated Power project (NIPP) commenced the installation of a 330/132/33 kv substation with 1X150mva and 2X60 MVA power transformers to be connected to the existing 330kv Benin-Onitsha transmission line. “This project when completed will boost power supply to Asaba and environs,” Emetulu said, pointing out that the Asaba step down is the answer to the low incidents of electric power supply to the State capital, adding that work is going on seriously on it.
On the Ministry’s activities on the above power supply situation, announced that in response to the situation, the Uduaghan administration has implemented a total of 391 power supply projects from inception in 2007 till date at a total cost of N48,415,002,663.31. Out of this, the Ministry has a portfolio of 95 projects valued at N29,707,519,570.92 for the period May 2011 to date. They include on-going projects that commenced before the Uduaghan administration, such as the delta State Independent Power Project (IPP), which phase one (acquisition and installation of the power plant) was awarded in June 2009 at a contract sum of N23,207,826,566 that is now at advanced stage.
Emetulu said: “progress made thus far on the project includes:
Engineering and procurement of the 2 Nos Rolls Royce Trent 64MW, product Nos. 80A58001 and 80A58002 with S/N: A7788 and A7163 Gas turbines and 2 Nos 64 MWvBrush generators with machine S/N: 921028010 and 921027010. The equipment have been manufactured and delivered to ware house in Oghareki.
The initial constraint of bad road and narrow old bridge leading to the project site which made us keep the turbines and generators in a ware house in Oghareki has now been tackled, the road and bridge has been constructed.
Civil works including administrative building, fencing and pile foundations for the turbines are in progress.
The sum of N5,874,695,939.60 has been expended so far from inception of the IPP by Delta State Government.”
Of those who were doubting that the IPP was indeed a project, Emetulu said: “My joy is always when journalists go there on their own they come back to show me pictures. I will be the one laughing at them when they show me pictures of work on that site”. He announced that when completed government is likely to look towards the private sector for effective management. “This has to be so because some of our neighbouring states have power plants, and the plants are not working. The information we got is that they are not working because government is deeply involved in managing them. Like you all know, government is a poor manager of business. So we intend to build the plant and then look towards the private sector for effective management. If it requires outright sale we will sell to them. And if it requires us to partner with them, we will partner with them and ensure we get the utmost from it.”
In the drive to ensure adequate power supply in the State and support the development of power supply infrastructure in the country, the Delta State Government has contributed N15.7billion towards the implementation of the Federal Government’s Emergency Power Project. Besides, the State government is also partnering with the Benin Zone of the new power providers that took over from PHCN.
Of course, the Ministry of Energy is also charged with bringing up policies that will ensure that the average Deltan has enough energy. He explains: “By energy I mean cooking gas, cooking oil and those similar things.” Although most of these functions have been ceded to the Directorate of oil and gas, the Ministry is still very strong in the area of providing renewable energy. In this wise, the State Government has signed an MOU with the Energy commission of Nigeria (ECN) where new developments in the Alternative Renewable Energy sector, will make Delta State among the first to know. “We are also partnering with Philips Electronics and electrical presently because of energy efficiency, and we’ve contracted the International Energy Agency in Paris to do for us an energy mix study of Delta State, such that we would know our capabilities in terms of natural endowment in the areas of renewable energy,” Emetulu disclosed.
He continued: “We’ve done the wind mapping of the State, and solar mapping of the State. The next phase will be where funding will come from. We are also discussing with a few people from abroad, and when our discussion becomes useful we will let you know. But just be assured that we are not resting. We have to do renewable energy very seriously because the governor of Delta State has this passion about what is happening to the environment. And we know that the issue of climate and other allied issues can be tackled from our end if we do the renewable.” He recalled speaking at a power expo gathering in October in Abuja and telling the audience that since ethanol is now known to power cars, and power engines, that he believes that the ECN and those propagating it should discuss less of jathropha and talk more of sugar cane and corn because ethanol from sugar and corn and used to power cars and engines is tested and proven. And that if within three-four years the users of ethanol increase by over 300 percent, it would therefore mean that it is an energy source that is working very well. “So, in trying to work with ECN we intend to pursue that angle,” Emetulu said, pointing out that he believes that every village in Delta State has sugar cane, and virtually every village has corn. “We believe that can be done.”
According to Emetulu, there are other areas like that of waste to energy. “What we are told is that some states will produce more than enough wastes while others may not produce the required waste. But for me, commonsensical that you see a heap of refuse is somewhere and you want to bring in the technology to tap it into energy, well it is welcome, but take note that that heap of refuse would have taken like three to four decades to build. And when you start your factory, you are likely to consume what took 40 years to build in less than one year. In other words, we cannot guarantee that we can generate that heap of waste on a yearly basis. Sometimes, when some of these proposals come to us we try to be very practical with the authors. All that glitters is no gold. We are also mindful of the fact that most of the developments in the renewable alternative energy sector are still in the research stages, and so we don’t want to rush most of them, except the proven ones. And that is why we are discussing now with Philips, an established electronics and electrical concern.”
For Emetulu it is a concern that Delta state still virtually relies on public power supply, attributing the situation to the fact that even though the state has three major power plants located in it at Sapele, Ughelli and okapi, it is only the Okpai Power plant that is operating at installed capacity. Also, he disclosed that the Asaba for instance has 10 feeders, but only one of them is on. That means that Asaba is enjoying only 10 percent of available power. Emetulu explained that it is the bid to overcome the situation makes residents in Okpanam Road to rush to the Ministry requesting for transformers. They believed that getting transformers will solve the problem. “It cannot solve the problem because the transformers can only distribute what comes into them,” he said. He explained that people believe erroneously that when a transformer is installed somewhere that those around it enjoy uninterrupted power supply. They then want to benefit by connecting to the line of that transformer. In the rush to join the line of the new transformer the facility gets overloaded and the cycle continues. He said it is because of this that there are so many transformers today between Asaba and Okpanam that the number of installed transformers can cover two other cities. “But for now, we have stopped injecting transformers, because putting transformers does not solve the problem. What will solve the problem is the step down that is being built. When completed you will find that we will no longer need those transformers as much as you think,” Emetulu said.
According to him, the Ministry of energy is considering to remove some of the transformers. “The one we will remove from an area we will relocate in to areas that actually need them.”
On street light problems, he lamented the attitude of unscrupulous members of society who take delight in vandalizing the street lights and generators that power the lights. He moaned: “The solar and generator powered street lights have been bedeviled by Deltans. For the solar, people just go there and remove the batteries. For the generator powered ones, you go towards Onitsha and from around the “B” Division to the bridge is in complete darkness. That place needs to be completely redone. What they do is this: They come with may be a Hilux or vehicle, remove one end of the cable and tie it to the vehicle, and they just drive off. That particular segment has been vandalized repeatedly. Only some days ago, we discussed with those who maintain them that they should go back and relay them, and let us see how we can provide added security on them.
“Apart from that there is the activity of civil engineering contractors across the State. Go to Effurun right now, the median from NPA down to DSC is being worked on. That is affecting the street lights because they are right there in the median. And when these people want to do their work they don’t contact us. If they had come to ask may be we would say, ok, let us remove our cables, when they finish, we will restore them. Most of the street light cables have been destroyed by road work excavators. This is besides the point that people go to steal parts from the generators even up till now. They remove the kick starters, remove batteries, remove brain boxes; they go as far as using pipes to siphon diesels from generators, sucking out the entire diesel. May be you saw the light by 9p.m. and by 11 p.m it has gone off, and you think that someone has switched it off. Nobody switched it off. The diesel ran its course and gave up.”
As a way of getting round the problem, Emetulu said the Ministry is embarking on campaign on television and radio, appealing that people should help protect these investments. “It is sad to discover that the same human beings for whom you installed these facilities are the same people that are vandalizing them. Also, people still tap light from the street lights into their homes as energy source to power their fans and other home electrical appliances,” he grieved.
He confirmed that there are two major contractors handling the street light projects, but he is appalled and discouraged to do new things because of the experience of the way the current installations are vandalized. He cried out saying: “It behooves on all of us to help this Ministry and this government to protect these investments. The other time people came to vandalise they almost butchered the malam who was put there as maigardi. They matcheted head. Another time, they came with Hiace bus. When they got their, the thing was in an enclosure; they told the security man to open the enclosure, the security man said well, that is how it is. The owners go their in the morning and met their security men, two of them, tied. We have a lot of such incidences. May be it is the value of the armoured cable that is attractive to them. Because, apart from the street lights, they also vandalize transformers.”
*Contributed by CHUKWUDI ABIANDU, a veteran journalist.