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Nigeria power generation down 50 pct on Agip closure

Written by: Staff

LAGOS, April 3 (Reuters) Energy-starved Nigeria's power generation has declined by about 50 percent after Itay's Agip shut its 450 megawatts (MW) plant for maintence on Monday, the state utility said.

The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) said the Agip Okpai independent power plant in Delta state, which feeds the national grid, will be shut for two days for ''urgent maintence.'' The plant was commissioned a year ago.

''The shutdown of Okpai Power Station will lead to a total generation loss of over 1,000 MW bringing total national supply down to a critical level,'' PHCN said in a statement.

Nigeria's power generation fell by 30 percent in February after Niger Delta militants' attacks on a key natural gas feeder pipeline cut off supplies to three power plants.

The world's eighth biggest oil exporter was generating around 2,600 MW before the attacks forced a 850 MW cut.

The Escravos pipeline operated by U.S. energy giant Chevron , which feeds with gas the 1,320 MW Egbin station near Lagos, the 1,020 MW Sapele plant in Delta state and the 969 MW Afam station in Rivers state, is yet to be repaired five weeks after it was sabotaged by ethnic militants.

Analysts have warned of an imminent systemic collapse if the crisis in the Niger Delta persist.

Corruption by successive governments and inefficiency at the power utility have led to massive shortfalls in electricity supply in Africa's most populous nation, whose more than 140 million people live with constant, lenghty blackouts.

President Olusegun Obasanjo pledged in 1999 when he was first elected to end blackouts, which investors also cite as one of Nigeria's main problems. But seven years after, the situation has hardly improved.

Nigeria hopes to increase generation to around 10,000 MW in 2007 when some new independent power plants are expected to come on stream.

The plants would feed the national grid managed by the state utility, which is being unbundled into one transimssion firm, 11 distribution companies and seven generating firms, for privatisation.


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