I am not a phd holder in power engineering, so I hope I elect/elect professors and twitter trollgineers don’t come after me for this piece.

Early last year, I discovered a few anomalies about our power sector, one of which is the transmission capacity of PHCN, which has remained at 5000 MW for over 30 years. Unfortunately, while the government has made some efforts to improve generation, very little visible effort has been made to improve transmission. Here’s the catch, the privatization of PHCN only led to creation of GENCOS and DISCOS not TRANSCOS, hence, we are not anywhere near the promise land at all.

I listened to professor Salami of LBS describe the astronomical costs of scaling central transmission up to 40,000–50,000 MW and I knew immediately, that our government would not even face that; Not in the face of current crisis, or the strong possibilities that some greedy unethical business men might hijack the process and bring it to a null again.

There are people who stand to gain from our power predicament, and I fear that our solution will remain far until these people start seeing the bigger picture. Some of the people who have benefited from this mess are the Generator importers(that’s a long story, but let’s leave it at that), the diesel marketers, generator servicing companies, inverter installers(these are a small portion though), Facility Managers, etc.

The diesel marketers, I believe are the largest gainers from our predicament. I find it ludicrous that an ‘ABC Energy Ltd’ will exist solely to supply diesel. Energy is diesel in Nigeria today. While that may not look suspicious, this will definitely prick someone’s ears:

The url above states the estimated diesel consumption at various load levels for a diesel generator. In english, how much diesel your generator consumes at quarter load, half load etc. I will base my analysis on the 250 KVA/200KW generator.

At quarter load, it should consume 17.4 litres per hour, 28.6 litres, 40.8 litres, and 53.6 litres per hour for half load, three quarters load an full load respectively.

Now here is where stealing comes in. A 250KVA/200KW generator is so rated because Power in alternating current(AC) system has three components: Current, Voltage and Power Factor. In a direct current(DC) system like your battery powered devices,

Power = Current x Voltage

E.g A torch using four 1.5V AA batteries and 1.67 amps will be rated:

P = IV= (1.5 x 4) x 1.67 = 10W approximately

In an AC system however, it gets a little complicated:

Power = Current x Voltage x Power factor (Real Power measured in KW)

Power = Current x Voltage (Apparent Power Measured in KVA)

E.g A Real load on 220V, 1.5Amps and assumed 0.8 power factor, would be :

P = 220 x 1.5 x 0.8 = 264W (Real Power)

Apparent Power = 220 x 1.5 = 330 KVA.

When a generator is rated 250KVA/200KW, it implies that what you can get is at best 200 KW with an assumed power factor of 0.8. This is where some clever culprits have made their home.

In reality, after measuring power factor of the AC systems from more than 5 different generators, I found the power factor to be in the range of 0.49- 0.51. This means, a 250 KVA/200 KW gen in Nigeria is actually 250KVA/125KW Generator. Interestingly, our dear PHCN has a power factor of 1(perfect p.f).

In money terms(I will be referring back to the diesel chart above):

A 100 KW load on a 250KVA/200KW ideal generator is half load. Your generator should consume about 28.6 litres per hour(at N150 per litre, that is N4,290 per hour). Assuming a 6 hour run cycle per day, for five days, for fifty weeks this 1500 hours x N4,290 = N 6,435,000 per annum on diesel alone.

However, when you place a 100 KW load on a 250 KVA/125 KW generator like we have in Nigeria, you are already at 80% load, the hourly diesel consumption rises to 40.8 litres(at N150 per litre, that is N6,120). Assuming a 6 hour run cycle per day, for five days, for fifty weeks this 1500 hours x N6,120 = N 9,180,000 per annum on diesel alone.
Furthermore, if you attempt to place a 150 KW load on that same generator, it will shut down. Then the generator servicing company will come repair it(at a fee of course). This cycle will repeat itself until you opt for the next generator, a 350KVA/280KW(175KW), for more bashing.

At the end, the diesel supplier sells more diesel, the generator servicing company makes more money servicing the generator more often. The facility manager, who is probably friends with the diesel supplier, gets the latest gadget every year besides some other perks. At the end, customers pay dearly for goods and services.

All these things go on as well as other scams,while we all pray day and night for things to change magically, not knowing that the guy praying beside us is receiving his kickbacks on time(facility manager), the rich dude who runs an energy company is making a kill selling diesel to commercial buildings, and the generator supplier is hoping nobody finds out that they are the real reason why power may never be stable in Nigeria.

Truth is, we have a long way to go, because those generators get approved by SON and go through customs, hopefully the culprits also pay tax.

May God help us.

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