How MESL raised Kainji, Jebba plants by 462MW – MD

The Managing Director, Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited (MESL), Engr. Lamu Audu, has said the firm improved the capacity of Kainji and Jebba plants by 462 megawatts (MW).

When it took over their operations in November 2013, MESL said it met zero MW at Kainji, and 460MW at Jebba plant.

MESL is the concessionaire of Kainji and Jebba hydro power plants which cascades about 100 kilometres apart on the upstream of the River Niger in Niger State. The foremost hydropower plants in Nigeria have installed capacity of 1338MW.

The MESL team was playing host to the Director General of Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Engr. Chidi Izuwah, some of his team members, and other officials drawn from the ministries of Finance, Power, Water Resources, and the Head of Service when they visited the plants for ICRC’s post concession monitoring tour last weekend.

Speaking about the plants, Engr. Audu said Kainji is the first hydropower plant in Nigeria; it was commissioned in 1968 with an installed capacity of 760MW. It was actually designed for 960MW but only 760MW was installed.

Jebba was commissioned in 1985 by then military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, but the commercial operation started in 1983, with 578.4MW capacity.

Measuring the successes of privatization at the plants, the MESL boss said both plants can now generate 922MW way up from the about 400MW it met in Jebba. With its robust capacity recovery programme, Audu told the visiting team that MESL Kainji plant now delivers 440MW while Jebba plants delivers 482MW.

In a presentation, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the plants, Mr Jose Villegas said Kainji and Jebba generated 3.157 million megawatts hour (MWH) into the national grid in 2014. That rose to 3.808m MWH in 2015 and further reached 5.454m MWH in 2016. The energy generation grew to 5.503m MWH in 2017 but declined to 5.277m MWH in 2018 due to low water level.

To further boost water utilization at the plants for optimal operation, Engr. Audu said the company installed a satellite-based Inflow Forecasting System in 2017 to predict water level on the River Niger.

The system forecasted low water level for early 2018 which rose later and has positive impact on its generation early this year.

Generation data obtained from the firm during the visit showed that from January to June 2019, the two plants contributed about 16 per cent to the national grid which is about 2.5m MWH.

“On January 16, 2019, we delivered 20,114MWH which is the highest daily generation from the two plants into the grid on record,” Villegas noted.

Speaking on the challenges affecting the plants, the MD, Engr. Audu said although the hydros generate the cheapest energy than their gas-fired counterparts, the frequent request to ramp down from the System Operator (SO) is denying Nigerians of more energy. “We generate the cheapest energy but we and other Nigerians are denied this energy and we have failed to understand why it happens,” he noted.

Daily Trust reports that due to constraints on the transmission line and the rejection of energy at feeders belonging to the 11 Distribution Companies (DisCos), a huge chunk of energy is being lost daily, at times, about 2,000MW energy loss is recorded, documents from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) showed.

On expansion, the firm is working on rehabilitating the five turbines in Jebba plant and has recovered the sixth turbine which was burnt in 2009 before the privatization. It is also making plans to install turbines in four open pits at Kainji to add 200MW to the plant.

However, MESL lamented that these advancements and other expansion plans are being threatened by poor payments of their monthly energy invoice. It said it has unpaid invoice of N65 billion.

“We received our payment for April invoice and it was 18 per cent from NBET. How do you attract more investment with this?” he queried.

Another issue is that of the concession fee being paid in dollars under the watch of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). This is aside royalties it pays for using the water resources.

Calling for intervention from ICRC, which now regulates the facilities’ concession, Audu said: “We have made the case to Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) since the agreement we have is with BPE. We earn naira and you don’t expect us to continually pay in dollar.”

The team inspected the facilities of Jebba hydropower plant at the southern part of Niger State and then moved to Kainji where they visited the various sections of the plant. At the Kainji plant, the Director General of ICRC, Engr. Chidi Izuwa said the objective of the visit was to find out issues that the regulatory agency can intervene in to ensure the concession is operated smoothly in line with the ease of doing business policy of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Lauding the gains of privatization as evidenced at the two hydropower plants, Izuwah said: “I will like to commend mainstream for the excellent work it has done in Kainji and Jebba hydropower plants. At handover, Jebba and Kainji had 460 megawatts (MW), it has doubled that to 922MW. This is what privatisation stands for. This shows the whole imperative of having the private sector driving the power sector.”

He also commended MESL for creating the Mainstream Foundation that has impacted in the host communities through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects.

Izuwah and his team visited the Mazhi community near Jebba plant where he inspected the adopted primary school by Mainstream Foundation. “Our prayer is that in 10 or 15 years’ time, majority of the engineers working in these plants will come from that particular school. We can see the peace between the community and Mainstream,” Izuwah commented.

Engr. Izuwah assured MESL of doing the best the agency can to ensure sustainable power supply saying, “We cannot develop without power. Electric power is very key in Nigeria’s development and it is in line with the objectives of President Buhari. If we have energy sufficiency, we will drive industrialisation and agriculture.”

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