The application of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) presents the Nigerian power sector the opportunity to jump from traditional metering to smart meters, writes Ify Malo CEO of CleanTech Hub.
The passing into law of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) in 2005 was a much-heralded start of a revolution in the power sector, opening it up to private sector investment across the whole value chain and removing it from government monopoly.
The passing of the Act unleashed a flurry of reforms within the sector, with the privatisation of successor generation and distribution companies of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in 2013 a significant milestone in the reform process.
The reforms in the power sector are happening as the 4IR increases its pace of growth and how it shapes businesses and lives around the world. The fusion of technologies and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), energy storage, quantum computing and many others which define the Fourth Industrial Revolution build up on industrial revolutions before it in increasing the quality of life and raising income levels.
The 4IR also creates numerous opportunities for using technology to increase long-term gains in efficiency and productivity across all sectors as well as new ways of serving existing needs while significantly disrupting existing industry value chains. It is thus very important to ask what the Nigerian power and energy sector is doing to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this revolution.
The revolution allows the Nigerian power sector to leapfrog from a sector where less than half of all consumers are metered to potentially one where all consumers have smart meters, which not just measures the amount of power but also communicates this information to the suppliers for billing and monitoring, as an example. This will be very critical in enabling grid owners and utilities to run their grids efficiently and better determine their cost and infrastructure needs.
The adoption of 4IR in Nigeria
The response of the Nigerian power sector to the opportunities presented by the 4IR has been less than satisfactory. This can be understood as the legacy infrastructure in the sector is in dire need of critical upgrading, which will cost huge sums for the companies in the entire value chain. The evolution comes at a time where there are persistent complaints of stranded revenues by the companies and their being declared technically insolvent.
However, the off-grid power sector is embracing technologies that are emerging from the 4IR better. Energy storage is a fundamental element of decentralised renewable energy (DER) solutions and the increasing demand for these solutions is necessitating larger adoption of improved batteries that will serve the needs of consumers. Not only that, DRE companies incorporate remote monitoring and the IoT into their project deployments in order to enable them ensure that they are efficient – whether mini-grids or stand-alone solar solutions.
The DRE sector in Nigeria benefits from having smaller solutions in comparison to the on-grid sector, and does not grapple with legacy infrastructure. This allows it to be able to apply these technologies cheaper than the main grid.
The sector’s application of these technologies offers a lot of lessons to the wider power sector in how the technologies of this industrial revolution can enable the companies to deliver power cheaper and more efficiently, thus serving consumers better and maximising the revenues of the companies.