COVID-19: Nigeria should prioritise power supply to health care facilities

Nigeria may have to implement a nationwide lockdown to stem the rise in COVID-19 cases. Such a drastic measure would alter the country's energy consumption pattern. This would further burden an already dilapidated power supply system.

In an attempt to contain the virus, the country's economic capital Lagos has placed a ban on gatherings of more than 20 people. All schools have also been closed. The Federal government has also ordered the closure of all international airports.

The global health crisis coincides with a countrywide electricity crisis. The crises are underscored by energy demand significantly exceeding supply. A number of factors contribute to this. They include a fragmented gas market. The country generates 80% of its power from gas-fired power stations. The seasonal availability of water supply is another factor. Low levels limit the output of hydro-electric power plants.

An unprecedented lockdown would disrupt power system operations due to changes in consumption patterns. Typically, households consume more power in the mornings as people prepare to go to work and later in the day when workers return and use electrical appliances. On average, peak periods for household energy usage are between 05h00-08h00 and 17h00-22h00.

Changes in these periods would result in longer and more frequent outages as energy service providers respond to the pressure of increased demand on an unstable power supply system.

The situation is exacerbated if the lockdown extends into the rainy season. Outages could also increase due to inclement weather.

Like any other sector, the power supply has a direct impact on health care service provision. Effective public health response to a pandemic depends largely on the availability and accessibility to a stable power supply system.

As the World Health Organisation has pointed out:

without electricity, many life-saving interventions simply cannot be undertaken.

Impact on the health sector

Regular power cuts countrywide already present major challenges to the national health system infrastructure. The health care system could be further inundated, as the number of COVID-19 cases rises.

Power distribution companies currently manage the allocation of their daily energy quota from the central power grid. This involves energy rationing to a multi-sector that includes commercial, industrial, education, residential, health and more. Responding to changes in residential consumption patterns could adversely affect the health sector's energy access duration.

---modern ghana

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