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Exclusive interview with Engr. Imo Ekpo

Exclusive interview with Engr. Imo Ekpo, Principal Partner at Micek Consult in Nigeria. At the upcoming Future Energy Nigeria in Lagos, Engr. Ekpo will moderate the session on “Central Region Hydropower Generation Projects.”

“Sustainable growth of clean energy contribution to Nigeria’s energy mix is inevitable, hydropower is key. It is one of the major sources of base load electricity generation because of its generation stability.”

Let’s start with some background on Micek Consult and the work that you do in the energy sector?
MICEK CONSULT LTD is a registered Nigerian Engineering Consulting firm, manned by various professionals with accumulated and enviable wealth of experience and reputation. The firm is registered with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and the Association for Consulting Engineering in Nigeria (ACEN). Services offered include Engineering designs, construction supervision, project management, power generation, rural electrification, dams and associated facilities, Environmental Impact Assessment Studies, Railways, Highways, Buildings, Airport, Project Transaction Advisors, Procurement, etc.

The integration of these services is aimed at meeting the growing needs for multipurpose engineering practice in the Nigerian construction industry. Some of the projects Micek Consult has been involved in the Energy Sector include amongst others:-

  • Design and construction of Solar Powered Water supply schemes.
  • Comprehensive inspection of the Shiroro hydropower project (600MW) located across the Kaduna River in Niger State and also the Tiga Dam (6MW) power project in Kano State.
  • Planning and design of MDGs small dam power projects located in Kishi (Oyo State), Sasa and Alajue (Osun State) and Ogbese in Ekiti State.
  • Transaction Advisor and preparation of outline business studies for power projects at Bakolori Dam (Zamfara State), Doma Dam (Nassarawa State) and Kampe dam (Kogi State).
  • Design of dams/hydropower projects in the Agricultural/Tourism Sector of Cross River State namely; Bebi Dam, Bukumanya Dam and Utanga Dam.

What are some of the projects that you are involved in or have been involved in that you are most proud of, and going forward, are most excited about currently?
Some of the projects that I am involved or have been involved in include:-
•    Construction of the Challawa Gorge Dam project in Kano State generating 6MW electricity.
•    Construction of Ife Dam (Osun State), Obudu Dam (Cross River State), Langtang Dam (Plateau State), Qua Falls Dam (Cross River State on-going).
•    Maintenance of the following dams, Goronyo Dam (Sokoto state), Alau Dam ( Borno State) etc.

However, I am even more excited about the construction of the Gurara multipurpose dam with 30MW hydro generation capacity. It is a multipurpose dam (water transfer) project where I served as the Deputy Project Manager. I am excited about this project because of the multipurpose nature; interesting engineering project covering all disciplines and the project was completed on schedule because of government’s political will.

The current on-going, even huger project that I am excited about is the Mambilla hydropower project (3,050MW) where I currently serve as an Independent Consultant in charge of the Civil/Dam works. This project is one bold step aimed at promoting mix energy sources in Nigeria.

What in your view have been the main challenges for the energy sector in the country in the last year?
In the last year, the main challenges for the energy sector in Nigeria can be grouped as follows:-
– Weak government structure.
– Legal and pricing issues between Distribution Companies and Consumers.
– Poor regulatory framework.
– Funding/liquidity issues
– Low human capacity development.
– Equipment and technology deficit.

How important is private-public cooperation to take power projects to the next level? Can you give us examples of success stories?
It is possible for the Private-Public Sector to take Power Projects to the next level and beyond provided there is unity amongst stakeholders and the ability of government to provide the political will, provide the business friendly economic environment conducive for investment including security. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017–2020 recently launched by government largely depends on improving the energy sector.

See the success stories already recorded in the refurbishment of Egbin Power Plant Prior to privatization for 10 years, the plant did not undergo any major overhaul and six units were not functional, particularly unit 6. After the privatization exercise, all units being rehabilitated, Egbin is now generating 1,100MW from 500MW. The new owners are foreseeing 2,670MW by 2019. This is a good success story. Similar success story in the rehabilitation of some plants post privatisation.

What is your vision for this sector?
In line with the ERGP, Medium Term Plan for 2017 – 2020, with primary purpose of restoring economic growth, the vision is to achieve 10GW of operational capacity by 2020. I share with this vision to improve the energy mix including through greater use of renewable energy (hydro power development central). Improving the power sector delivery will be a catalyst on agricultural transformation, food security, industrialised economy, job creation and youth empowerment. The GDP will accordingly improve well beyond 3.0% in the period under review.

What surprises you about this sector?

Surprise indeed. Despite the privatization exercise four years ago, the sector is yet to fully take off and contribute meaningfully to economic performance. The sector is still bedeviled with gas cost challenges; cost reflective tariff structure, indebtedness to distribution companies, performance agreement of privatisation exercise still an issue.

How important is the Future Energy Nigeria event as a meeting place for the sector?
It will be an understatement to down play the importance of the Future Energy Nigeria event as a meeting place for industry players in Nigeria, the huge market in the West Africa Sub Region and the continent. Notwithstanding the momentary global financial crisis, the Nigerian power sector is expected to boom as the communication sector presently is. This is courtesy of the population size and the market for capital investment.

Therefore, the event should continue to emphasise on the investment opportunities covering the entire value chain of generation, transmission and distribution including operations and maintenance services.

You are a moderator in the programme on a session “Central Region Hydropower Generation Projects”, what are you hoping for this session?
I am hoping that by the end of the session on Central Region Hydropower Generation Projects, participants including the robust private sector will need to realise that sustainable growth of clean energy contribution to Nigeria’s energy mix is inevitable, hydropower is key. It is one of the major sources of base load electricity generation because of its generation stability.

I will need to remind the participants that of the various energy sources, hydropower has the Highest Energy Payback Ration (EPR). Over 170 for hydropower,1.6 -3.3 for thermal power, 18 -34 for wind power according to Gagnon (2005). Hydropower causes extremely low carbon emissions and is clean energy. The Federal Executive Council of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has in 2015 approved the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy (NREEEP). This makes it easy to drive the renewable energy sector of the economy.

The total technically exploitable large scale hydropower potential of the country is estimated at over 10,000MW, capable of producing 36,000GWh of electricity annually. Other sources of renewable energy including biomass, solar and wind are possible in Nigeria for which investors should take advantage of.

Anything you would like to add?
The only thing to add is for your firm and other faithful stakeholders to persevere in an attempt to move the power sector to the next level. Despite your initial challenges, let us persist. Good things to happen to those who wait while greater things happen to those who make things happen.

To conclude therefore, permit me to quote from Bill Cosby “In order to succeed, our desires for success should be greater than our fear of failure”.


Featured image: Cassia Lodge

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.