Incremental Power: Transmission, Generation Capacities Receive Boost As FG Commissions Ikot-Ekpene Transmission Line, Switching Station
• Minister of Power, Works and Housing commissions Ikot-Ekpene-Alaoji-Ugwuaji Switching Station and Transmission Line
• Energizes the 287-kilometer double circuit Transmission lines to increase transmission grid capacity, provide transmission capacity for power plants along the lines
• Fashola commends all Stakeholders that made the commissioning possible, urges communities hosting national assets to take ownership, engage with Government rather than stall projects
Nov 21, 2016 - The Federal Government's objective of achieving incremental power has received further boost as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, commissioned the Ikot-Ekpene-Alaoji-Ugwuaji Switching Station and Transmission Line towards solving the problem of evacuating stranded power in Calabar Power, Afam VI Power, Ibom Power and Alaoji Power Plants.
The energizing of the 287-kilometre double circuit transmission line project, which was stalled for about two years due to community and court issues, will not only increase transmission grid capacity but will provide transmission capacity to enable the power plants along the lines to produce to full capacity.
It will expand the transmission capacity of the National Grid all the way to Enugu, and from there boost power supply to Makurdi which will in turn correct the problem of low voltage being experienced by communities along that line.
In his remarks at the switching-on ceremony, Fashola expressed delight that with the switching on of the transmission lines, the power plants that had stranded power problems such as Calabar Power Plant, Alaoji Power Plant, Ibom Power Plant and Afam VI Power plant, would now gradually increase their outputs until their full capacities were available to add an extra 1,246 Megawatts of usable generation capacity to the National Grid.
Fashola, who noted that the problems that delayed the project were not solely engineering problems, said the Power Plants waiting to be served had respectively 561Megawatts (MW), 450 MW,185 MW and 650 MW installed capacities, but had only been producing 100 MW, 100 MW, 100 MW and 300 MW (i.e. only total of 600MW).
The Minister declared, "From today, we expect them to start increasing their daily output until their full capacity is available to add an extra 1,246 Megawatts of usable generation capacity to the National Grid", adding that the completion of the project has proved wrong the insinuations from some quarters that the nation's transmission capacity was static at 5000 MW.
Pointing out that the problem of stranded power caused by lack of gas was also being tackled by Government, which according to him, is currently working to facilitate gas access to the plants, Fashola said the Vice-President recently led the signing of a guarantee agreement to ensure gas supply to the Calabar Plant.
"What this means is that we are focused on progressing on our primary and short term goal of getting incremental power anywhere and everywhere, and committed to achieving the target set out by Mr. President in the short term", the Minister said adding that a number of transmission facilities had also been completed since the advent of the Buhari administration without fanfare.
Fashola, who listed such facilities to include those in Sokoto, Maiduguri, Okada, Alagbon, Damboa, Nasarawa, Gurara, Osogbo, Kashimbilla and Kumbotso, said government would continue to complete other projects that advance the objective of achieving Incremental, Steady and Uninterrupted power without making much fanfare about them but leaving the public to experience the impact.
The Minister, however, described the energizing of the Ikot Ekpene-Calabar, Ikot- Ekpene-Alaoji, and Ikot-Ekpene-Ugwuaji Transmission Lines as a critical milestone adding, "At critical milestones, we will make public statements about transmission capacity enhancement and grid expansion to inform the public, to dispel rumors, and to correct deliberate mis-statements or ignorant assertions".
He further explained, "What is different about this project is that it involves three double circuit lines that stretch over 287 kilometers. But that is not all. This project shows that it is going to require a collaborative national effort of different skill sets to overcome our power challenge. It is not something that only engineers can do, contrary to what some people erroneously think".
Commending the dedication of all the engineers who worked on the project "and defied great odds to deliver it", Fashola particularly acknowledged the pioneering work of the immediate past Chief Executive Officer of Niger Delta Power Holding Company, (NDPHC), Engineer James Olotu, who, according to him, "midwifed the project", and also the focused dedication of Chiedu Ugbo, his successor, who saw it to conclusion.
The Minister also commended the engineers who worked with the contracting company, the consulting company, NEMSA, the testing company and TCN the management company adding, however, that if it were only an engineering issue the project would most likely have been long completed.
Recalling the other man-made issues that had stalled the project, Fashola said it was beset by property rights challenges, legal and community challenges and the invocation of fetish practices to frustrate contractors along the right-of-way adding, "These are not engineering challenges. They are man-made problems as I have consistently insisted and they required a team of great men and women like the President and Vice President who have provided the leadership".
The Minister, who said the Alaoji project could not proceed because it was obstructed by a Globacom telecoms mast, pointed out that it did not mean that the company did anything wrong as they were expanding their infrastructure just as Government was seeking to expand transmission adding that nobody apparently brought the matter to the leadership of Globacom until the advent of the Buhari administration.
He commended the Globacom management, for taking prompt action as soon as the matter was brought before it pointing out that, the Chief Executive of the company, Dr. Mike Adenuga, immediately directed the relocation of the mast within a few days in a gesture of commendable patriotism. "This was not an engineering issue, it was simple communication and collaboration. It was also putting people and Nation first, before business", he said.
The Minister also recalled the next hurdle that came up in a village in Itu Local Government of Akwa Ibom State where the community used charms and other underhand means to scare the contractors away from the site, adding, "While those charms could not produce 1 kW of electricity, they certainly had the effect of stopping engineers who knew how to produce electricity from doing so".
He declared, "Communication, collaboration and leadership provided by the Buhari administration and the State Government, led to the removal of the fetish charms, the return of the engineers and the completion of that section. This again was not an engineering problem or solution".
Other problems down the line, Fashola said, came from a community in Oronta in Abia State which went to court to stop work on the section that passed through their territory. The Minister, who faulted the move by the past administration to engage the community in a court battle resulting in two years of delay, added, "The Buhari Government changed the approach".
Describing the court approach as one that should be the last resort, the Minister declared, "Meet with the community, engage with their leaders, and resolve the problem if possible; court disputes do not produce power for an expectant Nigerian public".
He said Government finally engaged the services of a consultant, Amanze Uchegbulam, who knew the community adding that the Eze of Oronta and his people finally came to the table where negotiations commenced and were concluded with the signing of terms of settlement. "The case was taken out of court, engineers returned to their work site, completed that section and here we are", he said.
Explaining why he described the project as a milestone, Fashola said the project had helped to demystify and to inspire hope, that the problems could be solved, adding, "Not only will these projects now give us incremental power by about 300 MW immediately, it will expand the transmission capacity of our grid all the way to Enugu, and from there we can now boost supply to Makurdi and begin to correct the problem of low voltage being experienced there".
The Minister, who noted, however, that all the problems would not be solved in 24 hours, added, "There is a lot of testing to remove problems, synchronization and all that to be done. But in the days, weeks and months to come, our engineers will respond to do their work to assure that the fullest benefits of increased power, better voltage, robust transmission are achieved, while we move on to complete other projects".
"We have heard from the contractors and from the Managing Director that this station will evacuate power from four major plants. We have also heard that it will evacuate power from other plants coming up. So let us be clear, let us understand that this is a transmission project; this is the transporter of the business. So all those who keep telling you that the transmission system is weak are wrong", he said.
He added, "They are wrong to say that the system is only 5000MWs; they are wrong because the transmission system is dynamic, it improves every day, as you complete the KV lines you are improving and boosting the capacity and this is how it will continue to be".
The Minister, however, explained that the extra power that would now come from the Calabar, Ibom, Alaoji and Afam Power Plants was not going to happen immediately, pointing out that there would be switching on of additional power, while the engineers test-run and synchronize the system before putting the power on the Grid.
"So there is still a lot of work to do and the engineers will tell you that. But in the next few months I assure you we will achieve our objective of incremental power, adding more power to the grid every day, every week until we evacuate all the power that is already in those stations and then it will encourage us to build more", he said.
Promising to come around from time to time to see the progress of work, Fashola also encouraged the community members to escalate to him anything they noticed that would require his attention, especially those that could not get sufficient local response, adding, "If we continue to talk, continue to communicate, we will solve all the problems".
The Minister cited the Itu Local Government issue where a community used charms to drive away government contractors adding that although the charms could not produce electricity, they caused enough fear to drive away the contractors. "But by talking together the charms left the way, some things happened and we are here. So that is the kind of communications that we want more of. So if we talk and work together we will reach the goal", he said.
Fashola appealed to the host community to take ownership of the project adding, "You hold this asset in trust for Nigerians and you will benefit from it if you protect it. The work we have to do here is also not finished as you have heard; we are only switching part of it that is already evacuating power. There is still a lot of work to do here before all the work is completed".
Responding to the issues raised by the State Governor, who was represented on the occasion by his Deputy, Mr. Moses Frank Ekpo, about local power for the host community, Fashola, who assured that the community would get power, however, explained that the power had to be taken to the Grid before it would be brought down adding that the power has also to be paid for by the DisCos.
"So all the people who have built all those plants, the first thing they want to do is to get it on the grid because they are guaranteed that NBET will pay them. So that is the first reason because they have to act in a commercial manner", the Minister said.
He assured, "So ultimately it will get to you", adding that the contractors also told him that the transformer that would be used for the local step down was already available. "There are more challenging work that they have to do before they come to serve you", he said.
The milestone event had in attendance other senior officials of the Akwa Ibom State Government, traditional rulers and members of the host communities as well as Chief Executives of the Generation, Distribution and Transmission Companies in the power sector.