9 questions with Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Former Nigerian Minister of Power
- A lot of significant changes have been seen after the privatization of the power sector. Nevertheless stakeholder expectations remain much higher. How long more would it take to deliver stable power supply to all households across the country?
Not too long. With the privatization of the power sector comes the expectation that the challenges and problems faced under government ownership will be minimized if not eliminated. Under this new scheme, the privatized entities have the mandate under terms of their agreement to bring global best practices to fore in the management of their assets, to invest in increasing their capacity and enhance human capacity development, especially in reducing losses in the entire value chain, as well as embark on short, mid, and long term initiatives to improve access to power to consumers. This can be achieved through embedded generation, enhancing distribution network and infrastructure, amongst others. While government has allowed for the privatization of the sector, it has committed itself still to embark on large and small hydro projects that hope to bring increased generation to serve our teeming population. Also, as pointed embedded generation is being pursued by the DISCOs as a way to enhance access to power for their customers. The expectation is that while generation is increasing, a concomitant drive will be made to increase both distribution under private hands and transmission capacity under government to ensure that more people in Nigeria get fair and equitable access to power.
- Why has energy efficiency and conservation not been integrated into our National Educational Curriculum, perhaps in partnership with the Ministry of Education?
Ensuring Energy Efficiency is a core aspect of government’s plans and initiatives especially the current administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Already, a draft of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency policy has been developed awaiting approval by the Federal Executive Council, the policy will address some of the issues raised, as well as present options currently adapted as global best practice standards. It is expected that the document will be approved soonest.
- Population in Nigeria is growing at increasing rate; considering past projections on increased megawatt production, what, in your view, are the challenges for not delivering on these projections and what are the plans to scale up provision and access in the near future?
Several projections have been made without much realization unfortunately, the reason are several, but have mostly due to lack of a sustained commitment from previous administrations in initiating, driving, and sustaining projects and programs geared at increased power generation. I must also point that any achievement especially in a sector such as ours is incremental, requires time and resources, and needs sustained effort and collaboration of all stakeholders involved in the process; hence leadership. The implementation of the Power Road-map was the first step in addressing this. The continued drive towards the implementation of this policy document is a demonstration of government’s commitment towards achieving a stable, sustainable, and thriving power sector. With the privatization of the sector, presents opportunities for the private sector to bring their knowledge expertise, wealth of resources, and capacity to fore to transform and advance the sector to global standards.
- Nigeria is significantly blessed with natural resources for energy generation, what plans does the Power Ministry have to scale up the use of alternative energy resources?
The ministry has committed itself to diversify its energy mix. Currently the energy mix is dominated by thermal and hydro power plants. Government plans in the future is to further diversify the energy mix to include renewable energy (Solar, hydro, wind, biomass, etc), coal, as well other sources. Already, with collaboration with the Ministry of Mines and Steel, coal licenses are being issued, as well as reactivating previously existing ones in an effort to tap the huge potential in coal in Nigeria. It is expected that once we achieve a robust and competitive energy mix, the abundance of energy potentials in Nigeria would be harnessed and utilized to provide for its teeming population, as well as reduce the current dependence on the two dominant energy sources.
- 2 years ago, US President Barrack Obama pledged $7 billion USD to help promote access to electricity in some African countries. Has Nigeria received her funding quota and/or how far has this impacted the Ministry’s mandate?
Power Africa under President Obama is not a grant giving initiative. However, the plan and expectation is to provide access to a significant amount of resources or capital for private sector entities willing to invest in Nigeria. Hence, it covers technical assistance, resource mobilization, access to finance and energy markets, working to enhance local markets and partnerships, and a host of other services and solutions that seek to enhance energy development and access. Already, Nigeria is benefiting from this initiative and has been working with the different agencies and parties involved to ensure the best shared value is gotten and furthered.
- Some states are seemingly moving faster than others in boosting domestic or local power generation in local communities; are there considerations to revise the current power regulations for independent generation and distribution?
With the privatization in the power sector, states have the right and authority to develop IPPs that provide power for their people. Nothing restricts them, only that they are not considered as a government entity but an IPP operating under a regulatory environment which NERC is the head. However, with regards to distribution, since it has been privatized, states that seek to generate power especially within a specific area’s distribution network would have to independently approach the discos and abide by their requirements under a regulatory environment.
- Which is priority for you; affordable access to stable power supply or available power supply options to Nigerian citizens subject to free market forces?
Both, as it is now Nigeria has one of the lowest tariffs in the world. While this is not sustainable, especially in a free market environment, this government is working assiduously to ensure adequate power supply is provided for Nigerians competitively. Hence, the regulator NERC will be working with consumers, the DISCOs, and GENCOs to ensure that the power provided is delivered such that every stakeholder is not adversely affected.
- In your brilliant work so far, would you admit there are alleged self-serving interest that frustrates the efforts of the Federal Government and Power Ministry under your watch?
Unfortunately, these include the vandals that destroy power infrastructure thereby affecting our attempts to provide power to the populace. Vandalism remains one of the core issues that we deal with in our attempt to provide power to Nigerians.
- Is the Federal Government open to partnership with companies interested in setting up mini-solar plants for communities and MSMEs?
Yes, the power sector has tremendous opportunities for entities especially MSMEs seeking to enter the space. There are opportunities for providing embedded generation within a geographical area or region; this could be provided to communities, clusters, estates, etc. We are currently working on plans to partner with institutions and agencies to develop a proper framework to advance this initiative.
Excerpts from CSRFiles Volume 2 Issue 5, 2015: Light Up Africa