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Nigeria's 'perfect storm of opportunity'

By , ITWeb
08 Sep 2017

Nigeria's 'perfect storm of opportunity'

Nigeria continues its ascendency as Africa's largest economy, despite having just 25% of the power generation capacity of its economic rival South Africa. Having achieved so much with so little, there is no doubt that Nigeria has the potential to become Africa's first global superpower.

International studies suggest that Nigeria could potentially achieve over 7% annual GDP growth, making it a top-20 economy by 2030 with GDP of more than US$1.6 trillion – four times the current GDP.

This translates into 70 million people being moved above the poverty line in little more than a decade. But the fact remains that this potential will never be realised without sufficient access to end-to-end electrification, which is the backbone of any thriving economy. This includes power generation, transmission, distribution and the efficient application of electrical energy through automation.

60% of Nigeria's 182 million population have access to electricity. The majority of this power is generated by an ageing and inefficient grid that loses 8.6 GW (69%) of the country's 12.5 GW installed capacity.

These substantial losses are a result of inefficient controls, monitoring technology and outdated infrastructure. Investment in proven end-to-end electrification technology will directly tackle the scourge of unemployment, poverty and inequality, creating an inclusive and prosperous Nigeria.

With uninterrupted access to electricity, businesses are more productive, hospitals provide better medical care, children receive a better education at school, and homes are safer and more comfortable.

Generating a sustainable future

To make electricity more easily accessible to the whole population, power generation capacity must be ramped up and streamlined.

The Azura Edo Independent Power Project (IPP) helps to meet both of these criteria. This open cycle gas turbine will generate an additional 459 MW to the national grid when it comes online in 2018.

Once fully completed, it is expected to add 3 GW of additional capacity – accounting for approximately 20% of Nigeria's projected installed capacity by 2020. That is a massive increase in power generation for a country at Nigeria's stage of development.

In recent years, there has been a mind shift away from the traditional notion of generating large volumes of power for the entire population from only a handful of large centralised sources. We are now turning to smaller decentralised sources to generate electricity closer to the people who use it.

In a decentralised system, there are more small-scale individual producers that are all connected to the grid, ensuring an effective and reliable supply where it is needed. There are many technologies that make up decentralised power generation, including gas, solar, wind and hydro.

Another growing trend is mobile power generation – a plug and play solution where an entirely modular station can be built and modified to exact specifications and delivered to industrial plants that operate in remotely-located regions with poor infrastructure.

Accessing power through a smart digital grid

Transmission and distribution are equally challenging links in the Nigerian electrification value chain. These challenges are exacerbated with an evolving demographic that has a growing population migrating to the cities that are ill-equipped to absorb this growth.

Access to electricity is fundamental to sustaining these growing urban populations and creating efficient cities that run on smart digital grids. In other words, cities that function seamlessly on a sustainable electricity network that sends and receives accurate data and information in real-time.

A smart digital grid allows renewable energy to be integrated into existing power networks, resulting in the reliable and efficient supply of sustainable electricity to all areas that need it. It also takes into account illegal connections, which obstruct seamless electricity transmission and distribution.

Without sophisticated tracking systems to pinpoint illegal connections, electricity theft reduces power availability for paying customers, and has severe financial implications for Nigerian distribution companies (DisCos).

Manual revenue collection also opens up the door for corruption. This is where smart metering software is crucial, as it ensures accurate power consumption data is sent directly to a power utility via a network of application servers, enabling immediate supply and payment.

In fact, advanced metering infrastructure has evolved far beyond simple smart meter technology. It is a reliable, secure and cost-effective alternative to a standard smart metering solution that requires a large amount of capital expenditure for procurement, installation and management.

It also delivers peace-of-mind that the deployment will always be available, reliable, highly responsive, and fully secure for mission-critical meter-to-cash process.

Advanced metering infrastructure drives immediate business case return-on-investment with decreased deployment times, no resource ramp up requirement, and no large capital expense of an onsite solution.

It delivers a revenue security solution by simplifying budgeting with a predictable monthly per meter cost. All of this dramatically improves revenue collection and cash flow compared to current standard transfer specification meters that are limited to manually recorded prepayment functions residing on the meter.

Powering a bright future

The Nigerian government's Power Sector Recovery Program (PSRP) has already made strides in implementing power sector reform, reducing losses in DisCos, enhancing the sector's financial viability, increasing access to electricity services, and mobilising private sector investment.

For the PSRP to succeed, government and independent power producers should work collaboratively with tried and trusted suppliers with proven global experience and expertise across the entire value chain, including power generation, transmission, distribution and automation.

Never before in Nigeria's history has it had such great access to the technology and expertise to build a modern state on the back of modernised electrification infrastructure. This is a perfect storm of opportunity.

By Siemens Nigeria CEO Onyeche Tifase.

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