Power Sector: On Pins and Needles
In H1 2017, though power generation improved from end of December by 20% to 4150MW, reflecting increase in gas supply to gas-fired power plants (+39% to 547mmscf/d), the sector continues to grapple with myriad of challenges that has resulted in financial distress for sector players.
Infrastructure challenges stemming from gas supply constraints as well as inadequate electricity transmission and distributions mechanism has hampered loss reduction by Discos, and inherent cash shortfall and deficit that has bewildered the sector. Pertinently, out of circa 14,000MW installed generation capacity, just about 31% has been dispatched on average in the last two years.
To start with, the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO), a tariff model to set cost-reflective tariffs has failed to keep to its path. Basically, the MYTO provides a 15-year tariff path with limited reviews each year in the light of changes in certain parameters (inflation, interest rates, exchange rates and generation capacity) and major review every 5 years. However, despite significant spikes in key parameters, inflation and exchange rate, tariff has remained sticky and has thus driven significant accumulation of cash deficit across the value chain. To emphasize the magnitude of the deficit, our analysis indicates current tariff of N28.8/kWh is about 43% discount to our estimated current cost reflective tariff of N50.5/kWh.
According to NERC, between the period of February 2015 and December 2015, the tariff shortfall1 and market shortfall are estimated at N460billion ($1.4billion) and N470billion ($1.5billion) respectively. The foregoing has led to under-performance by the DisCos and the rest of the sector. Aggregate Technical and Commercial Collection Losses (ATC&C) as reported by the DisCos have increased to 54% in 2016 (2015: 52%), a 22pps variance from the 32% in the MYTO estimates.
Consequently, DisCos collection rate and DisCos settlement to NBET declined 4pps and 24pps to 57% (2015: 61%) and 29% (2015: 53%) respectively in 2016. Furthermore, the sector has had to grapple with the debt profile of Ministries, Department, and Agencies (MDAs) in aggregate. NERC estimates aggregate debt owed to the electricity industry by the MDAs at N65billion ($206million) as at end of 2016 which contributes about 7% of the accumulated cash deficit.
More so, currency concerns relating to debt repayment and expansion in debt have stifled profitability of power firms—largely due to currency mismatch and associated risks—from NGN denominated revenues to service a dollar-denominated loan facility. Total power sector loans following the sale of assets in 2013 stood at N219.7 billon (DisCos) and N287 billion (GenCos). However, the ~ 80% devaluation of the NGN from 2013 till date majorly expanded the debt profile by about one-fold—implying significant FX losses on financials.
Given the Economic and Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), which recognizes the role of power to the development of all sectors of the economy, the FG sees power as one of its top priorities and aims to expand power sector infrastructure, increase power generation, address gas supply issues, optimize the existing installed capacity available for generation, and improve the commercial viability of the GenCos and DisCos.
On this basis, the FG just recently designed a recovery program for the power sector, which in our view, cause for some optimism given a better understanding of the challenges, in contrast to prior plans, as well as a greater political will to save the sector.