Power: No Respite For Electricity Consumers As Metering Plan Suffers Delay
One year after the introduction of the Meter Asset Provider initiative by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, consumers are still awaiting a massive roll-out of meters,
The Meter Asset Provider Regulation was unveiled in March last year, with the aim of fast-tracking the roll-out of meters through the engagement of third-party investors for the financing, procurement, supply, installation and maintenance of electricity meters.
It came after years of growing complaints by consumers about estimated billing, as the electricity distribution companies struggled with the huge metering gap.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Prof. James Momoh, said recently that since the privatisation of the power sector, there had been a constant decline in the provision of meters to existing customers by the Discos while new customers had been added steadily to their networks, contributing to a significant metering gap.
He said investigations by the commission revealed that a total number of 5,172,979 electricity customers were registered as of May 2012, but only 2,893,701 had meters.
He noted that the Discos signed performance agreements with the Bureau for Public Enterprises in 2013, and were expected to provide 1,640,000 meters annually over the next five years.
NERC, in its latest quarterly report, noted that the metering gap for customers still remained a key challenge facing the Nigerian electricity supply industry.
It said out of the 8,310,408 registered electricity customers, only 3,704,302 (about 45 per cent) had meters as of the end of the third quarter of 2018.
“The majority of customers (55 per cent) are still on estimated billing, thus contributing to customer apathy towards payment for electricity,” the commission said.
The MAP regulation, which introduced a new set of service providers in the power sector called meter asset providers, was meant to assist the Discos in bridging the metering gap.
The Discos were required to commence the procurement process of engaging meter asset providers to serve their service areas in accordance with an approved roll-out plan.
With the regulation becoming effective on April 3, 2018, the Discos were expected to, within 120 days from the effective date, engage the services of MAPs towards the achievement of their three-year metering targets prescribed by NERC.
According to the MAP regulation, the distribution licensees (Discos) and the MAPs shall enter into a metering service agreement, which shall provide for the number of meters to be installed in the distribution licensee’s network over an agreed period and the recovery of the cost of meter asset plus a reasonable return over a period of 10 years, among others.
But the procurement process for the MAPs was delayed, with the regulator saying last week that it was reviewing the MAP procurement reports.
NERC noted that the deadline was fixed for July 31, 2018, but was extended to November 30, 2018, to engender more competition between potential MAPs, thus providing better value for consumers.
“Several of the Discos experienced slippage in the timeline stipulated by the commission and this infraction is being handled in line with the enforcement regulations of the commission,” it added.
At the 11th Bola Tinubu Colloquium in Abuja last Thursday, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, stressed the need for the government to push for an end to the practice of estimated billing, adding that people were being forced to pay for the electricity they did not consume.
He described estimated billing as “a vestige of the past that should not accompany Nigerians into the future.”
In January this year, a bill seeking to amend the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, to prohibit and criminalise estimated billing passed the second reading at the House of Representatives.
NERC reaffirmed last week that the obligation to ensure that all electricity consumers had meters remained with the Discos under Meter Asset Provider Regulations 2018.
The regulator was reacting to a statement credited to the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, the umbrella body for the Discos, that Discos were no longer responsible for the provision of meters to electricity consumers across the country.
It said it was reviewing the MAP procurement reports and successful meter asset providers would be announced after a meeting with the Discos and preferred bidders scheduled to hold this week.
“The commission wishes to reaffirm its commitment to expedite closure of the current metering gap, thus limiting the practice of estimated billing to very exceptional cases in line with the provisions of the MAP regulations,” NERC added.
The Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Sunday Oduntan, told our correspondent that the association did not say Discos were no longer involved in metering.
He said, “We are saying that metering is no more exclusively being done by the Discos; we are doing metering in conjunction with meter asset providers. We will never fail to cooperate with the Federal Government.
“We agree that we need to put an end to estimated billing, and that can be achieved by providing meters to all consumers.”