If you have ever stumbled upon any Nigerian electricity news or article, you might be baffled by some of the terms often used in those publications. Our research shows that a large chunk of the electricity consumers still don’t understand what the privatisation of the power sector entails. Hence, words like GenCo, DisCo, TCN and the likes might be a little confusing for a casual reader.
The above thought process is the core premise behind this series themed “Understanding The Nigerian Power Sector”
Here we explain each of the separate divisions of the power sector and give answers to common questions you may have about them.
What is TCN?
TCN simply means Transmission Company of Nigeria. As we have said in the previous article, after the privatization of the power sector, there was a clear distinction between the bodies that generate, transmit and distribute electricity.
When was TCN created?
The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) was incorporated in November 2005. TCN emerged from the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). The company was issued a transmission License on 1st July, 2006.
What does TCN do?
TCN is responsible for transmitting electricity from the generating companies to the discos.They make use transmission grid to collect electric power and transfer it to communities’ load centers.
What is a Transmission grid?
The transmission grid consists of conductors carried on steel towers in between transformation stations. It conveys generated power from Power Stations to Major Load Centers. The transmission grid inter-connects all Power Stations to form a solid network that is accessible to all load centers, and transports power and energy at minimum technical loss. Basically, those huge electric power line stations that you sometimes come across are what TCN uses to transmit electricity from power stations to community transformers. The Transformers then step down the power to usable voltage the consumers.
Who runs TCN?
Unlike the Gencos and the Discos which are mostly owned and run by private organisations, the TCN is exclusively owned by the government. As at 2012, a Canadian power firm was signed by the Federal government to manage the TCN for four years. By 2016, when no improvement was recorded and Manitoba had failed to reach its goals, the contract was terminated and the federal government resumed the management of TCN.
However, the company is run internally by two main departments;
- Transmission Service Provider (TSP): Develops the Transmission Grid to new areas and maintains the infrastructure in the Grid.
- Systems Operator (S/O): Operates the whole System which includes GENCOs & DISCOs i.e., decides which power station comes on and when and by how many MW, decides which transmission line or transmission station should be supplied what quantity of MW i.e., load shedding, and enforces Grid discipline.
What is the capacity of the TCN?
The national transmission grid has an installed capacity of 5,758 MW, but its effective wheeling capacity is about 4,500 MW. The transmission network has a total length of 12,300 km (330 kV 5,650 km, 132 kV 6.687 km) and connects 32 330 kV and 105 132 kV substations. Nigeria’s average electricity consumption per inhabitant is only 150 kWh per capita, one of the lowest in the world.
What are the challenges faced by TCN?
The TCN just like every other body in the power sector is faced with a host of challenges that make it very difficult to transmit generated electricity to consumers.
These challenges include;
- Vandalization of transmission and distribution equipment. If you read the previous article on GenCos, you would probably see now that vandalization is a huge problem plaguing bodies in the power sector. If the problem of vandalization isn’t curbed, Nigeria may soon be plunged into darkness.
- Poor maintenance of transmission equipments.
- The radial network is unreliable and contributes to a high number of system collapses.
- There is lack of skilled sub-station operators (manpower) in the industry. Nigeria used to have the most qualified workers in the electricity industry when we first started to generate electricity. But that is not the case anymore.
- Electricity Theft is one of the biggest problem faced by the TCN and the distribution companies. When people illegally connect to the grid, there is a huge lag in revenue collection which just leads to chain of debt from the Discos to the TCN and to the Gencos.
- Inefficient revenue collection by the discos; According to the General Manager in charge of Transmission at TCN, Bede Opara, DISCOs have not been able to pay their debts due to energy theft and other issues. “The low revenue collection affects transmissions as well as gas plants. All these are parts of the issues affecting the sector at one point or the other.”