Steady Supply Dependent on Customers’ Timely Payment - Engr. Isah
Engr. Isha Ahmed, Head, Operation and Maintenance
Engr. Isah Ahmed is the new Head, Operation and Maintenance, Kaduna Electric. He shares his thoughts on new job, how his office impacts on the overall company efficiency and what needs to be done to improve power supply challenges. Read on...
CCD: You were once a BDRO and now Head Operation and Maintenance. What has changed in your job specification?
The major differences are in the coverage areas, customer interface and revenue collection. At the regional office, BDROs are concerned only with those service centers under heir purview while at Operations and Maintenance we oversee the entire franchise areas/states, where Kaduna Electric operates.
BDROs mostly interface with customers on daily basis, more like the front-desk officer of the business. BDRO’s office is the first point of customer complaints, technical, commercial and otherwise. Whereas in Operations and Maintenance, we usually only attend to those spilled-over complaints (technical) that were either not resolved within the timeline/expectations of customers or were not completely attended to or resolved by the concerned region due to one challenge or the other.
Though BDRO is the Chief Executive Officer of his region, meaning that, all activities including Operations and Maintenance within his region are coordinated from his office, his/her main concern is revenue collection growth.
Operations and Maintenance only gives support to the region in revenue collection. Our performance is measured against efficient dispatch of energy/power supply as per company operational modalities, ensuring that at no time our energy consumption does not exceed our 8% allocation of the total energy generated on the grid.
The similarities between the two functions is that we are all working towards the same goals, delivering efficient energy supply and customer services that will exceed our customers expectations and keep them continuously delighted, which will in turn, guarantee returns for the services rendered.
CCD: Many people still don’t understand what operations and maintenance is, can you throw more light on this?
Operations and Maintenance has three core departments, namely Power System, O&M (HT, LT) and Protection & Testing.
Power System Department is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the 8% of total generated power allocated to Kaduna Electric is adhered to. This is achieved by constantly checking the actual nationwide generation at all the time. If at any time generation goes up, the quantum of energy as per our 8% allocation goes and vice versa. Power System ensures economic dispatch of this same energy to Green feeders, followed by Yellow and lastly Red feeders. Although there are rural feeders (Red feeders) the sources of which emanate from TCN directly, and which enjoy almost 24 hours of supply. These kinds of feeders are out of our control.
The Classification of feeders into Green, Yellow and Red is based on customers’ energy consumption and their payment response studied over long period.
Another group within Power System Department is Emerging Technology Group. This group is presently carrying out various studies on all our Injection substations with a view to making the substation suitable and ready for Supervisory, Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA) and full automation.
Maintenance aspect of Operations and Maintenance, is subdivided into two departments, O&M (HT) and O&M (LT).
O&M (HT) Department is responsible for maintenance of HT lines (33 & 11 KV), power transformers, injection substations and associated switchgears. They ensure preventive maintenance of HT equipment and lines are drawn on yearly basis and broken down to monthly. They also monitor feeder performance as per forced outages and follow up with regional O&M team to ensure the feeders are restored to circuit within MTTR (Mean Time To Restore) as per regulator timeline (NERC).
O&M (LT) Department handles the bulk of customer complaints. This department is responsible for day to day maintenance of all low equipment and lines.
This department is currently working on establishing transformer workshop at the head office where all failed distribution transformer will be repaired and thereafter, return to circuit.
CCD: We understand that the department is saddled with the responsibility of operations and maintenance of the company’s installations, how well has these been achieved?
We have achieved a lot in areas of controlling unnecessary outages on our medium voltage lines, having more visibility on our feeders than before, which translate to more hours of power supply to our customers. In the areas of maintenance, we are able to maintain most of our injection substations, lines and distribution substation with least cost. This resulted in fewer forced outages than before and improved service delivery to our customers.
CCD: We are now deep in the rainy season, what are the challenges your department is faced with and how has it fared?
Rainy season always poses some challenges to our operations due to the nature of our network. Our network is an overhead, which is opened to rain/wind storm disruptions. The rain and wind always resulted in feeder outages; branches of nearby trees fall on the line; sometimes also broken poles or wire cuts cause this.
Rainy season also brings moisture. We usually experience more termination point’s failure due to moisture accumulation on such termination points, be it on underground cable, RMU (Ring Main Unit), Raychem termination or metering points.
We have fared very well this year in terms of responding to outages caused by rainstorm. This year, we have not had long outages that usually last for days or weeks but there is room for improvement. We are working to reduce the outages to minutes and possibly later bringing to zero minutes.
CCD: Is there any region or state that we cannot provide steady power supply due to the capacity limitation, if yes what are you doing to improve the situation?
We have no region or state that we cannot provide steady power supply due to capacity limitation. We have enough capacity on our distribution network. We only have areas that cannot be accessed due to security challenges, like in the case of Magami-Dansadau in Zamfara state.
Our biggest challenges in the quest for steady power supply are high rate of vandalism and rampant theft of our vital equipment and accessories, e.g. armored cables, transformer and transformer oil. But we are working with Admin and our internal Security and security agencies to curtail the menace.
CCD: Does it mean that when the distribution network is fixed, we can now be guaranteed sufficient and steady power supply?
Fixing distribution network alone, may not guarantee sufficient and steady power supply. There has to be enough generation with sufficient spinning reserve to cater for system turbulence, robust and adequate transmission network, and enough liquidity within the entire value chain. We can have enough generation, robust transmission network and good distribution network but if our customers refuse or do not pay for the consumed energy, the whole system will be grounded.
Therefore, customers’ timely payment for the energy delivered and consumed is the sure sustenance of the industry, which in turn guarantees sufficient and steady power supply. Therefore, we should all strive, including government, to see that customers pay for the exact energy they consume. Government should support the industry with legislations that will seriously deal with issue of energy theft, meter bypass, customers’ refusal to pay for the energy consumed and vandalism.
CCD: Any suggestions, advice or appeal to the management and staff?
Let me start with staff: my appeal to staff is to be more dedicated to their job; they should always own tasks/assignment given to them.
Ownership and strict supervision are what we are lacking in Kaduna Electric. We need to own our jobs; Kaduna Electric belongs to us. This is where we earn a living. We collect our salaries every month despite the fact that the company is running at a loss. I can say based on my experience working with private organizations including multinationals, Kaduna Electric is the most generous company I have ever worked in, because the company continues to pay salary even when our collection efficiency is less than 50%.
To management, I will say there is need to be more patient whenever we are trying to implement a given strategy. Sometimes we should not expect to see immediate and satisfactory result within 30 days. We need to give it time while we remain focused and persistent.
Ours is not a rocket or space shuttle that once launched, it accelerates and leaves earth immediately. Rather, our business is like a locomotive or coal fired train that requires time to gather momentum, but once it accelerates, stopping it will be very hard.
We equally need to push for adoption of technologies that will provide solutions to our current challenges. Most of our tasks are labour driven; we need to mix it with technology solutions. I appreciate the effort of management in developing in-house solutions that ease our way of doing things. I employ my colleagues to key-in and embrace these innovations.