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Breaking PHCN Monopoly Via The Use of LPG – Peter Obidike

I came to know I was not the only one who has been bothered lately about the cost of power when I ran into a friend this past week. With the latest increase to 32 Naira per kwh, I had been joggling in my mind the fact that it was cheaper to heat water with LPG (gas) than using the normal water heater or electric kettle. When I mentioned to my friend that his was even worse since his estate supplies them power for over 55 Naira per kwh, he laughed and told me he had realized that since and switched to heating his water with gas cooker rather than electric. To him, the additional factor is that while the water boiler in the house heats far more than he requires and reheats unless he turns it off, his gas cooker is more obedient and heats exactly the one kettle he needs to take his bath. He even said his air conditioner’s remote control is now his best friend as he turns off the air conditioner once the room gets cold, as opposed to before when he ran it uninterrupted.

In my quest to completely disprove the null hypothesis that there is no difference between heating my bath water with gas or with electric power, I designed an experiment. With my discovery of the electric meter codes that can give me the quantity of power used in the last 24hrs, I figured out that all I needed to do was to switch off all my appliances and plug in only a kettle of water until it boils, I will then get the difference to find out how much electric power I used. The experiment for the gas was the only tricky one as it would mean my buying and using our 12.5kg cylinder to heat only water until it finishes before finding out how many kettles and then dividing by the amount of money the gas cylinder cost which in this case was 4500 Naira. The only problem was that this may take a couple of months which I don’t have if I must do other “busy body” things around. I could decide to do some scaled modelling by buying a smaller gas cylinder to reduce the time of the experiment but I dumped that route for theoretical calculations instead, since all the data I required was there and it was going to be quick, easy and exact!

All it required was overcoming my fear of touching good old physics we had left a couple of years back but the good thing is once you climb on top of “that internet”, you can see everything. The analysis was easier than I thought. First, I got the net heating value of LPG (10997) in kilocalories per kg. I also got the amount of heat required to increase temperature of one gram of water by one degree which was one calorie, hence heating from 25 to 100 degrees require 75 calories. With the net heating value of LPG, a multiplication by 12.5kg gave me 137463kcl of energy. The conversation to kwh was right there in the internet @ 1kcl per 0.001163kwh, so it was easy to deduce that my 12.5kg gas cylinder gives me 160kwh. This meant I bought my 160kwh at 4500 Naira and if PHCN was to give me that same energy, it would have cost me 5083 Naira at 32 Naira per kwh, or 8153 Naria at 51 Naira per kwh (the touted new price they are yet to effect). And I heard Mr Common sense has been shouting from the roof top, of how unconscionable it would be for the government to allow such an increase. I finished the water calculations with the results that it cost 2.455, 2.774 and 4.448 Naria to heat 1 kg of water from 25 to 100 degree centigrade by the use of LPG, PHCN at 32 Naira and 51 Naira per kwh respectively. With this result the null hypothesis is rejected and the alternate (gas better than PHCN in heating water) accepted!

With the marked difference, it is obvious that households are better off relying on gas to heat their water than electric such that if the Discos’s think that they have no competitors, they wouldn’t have to wait long until they get zero or very little recharge from the populace. One can argue that hot water is one of the major areas heat is expended in the home. Children would always need hot water every morning and evening, hence if that part can be taken care of, a lot of the energy bill would have been optimized. I heard of a particular case where after the meters were mounted, the area all resorted to economizing their power usage, concentrating only on the essentials to the point that the PHCN started begging them to do at least a minimal recharge so they can generate some revenue.

This is very serious and it is going to get worse as relevant parties gear up for the so called increase they have been waiting for since the December 2015 signing of the multi-year tarrif order (MYTO). I heard from one of the operators in a seminar recently that one of the problems of the indigenous companies providing gas for power was non-payment of the Genco’s by the Discos, while the Disco’s complain they have been restricted from increasing the tariff’s by the NERC since 2015 when the MYTO took effect because the NERC board has not been constituted and had over time been overseen by an acting head. They said the 2015 postponement was probably supported by the election season and have since been denied the increase 4 good times since it was supposed to be reviewed every 6 months depending on macroeconomic outlook which include dollar! According to them, energy should be costing 51 Naira per kwh by now, but this will not even cover the cost of the generation which they put at 68 Naira per kwh!

It is sure going to get tougher out there with all these increases while earning remains stagnant or even depreciated, hence the earlier people start thinking out of the box to be creative about energy, the better. LPG can come to the rescue in such moments as this and even large estates can consider gas fired turbines for their own power which I am sure will be cheaper than the dummy these guys are cooking up for Nigerians.

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