Power firms need N170bn to provide sufficient meters

powerTo be able to provide meters for all electricity consumers in the country, a whooping sum of N170bn will be needed.

The Senior Manager, Market Analysis & Compliance, Market, Competition & Rates Division, NERC, Mrs. Kanneng Gwom, said this in a presentation made at a workshop on the power sector post privatisation agenda in Abuja on Wednesday.

Gwom said that the calculation of the distribution companies showed that N170bn would be required to close the metering gap in the industry.

Six months after NERC gave electricity distribution companies the marching order to provide meters to all consumers within 18 months, 2.8 million customers out of the 5,172,979 in the records still do not have meters.

This means that about 54.15 per cent of registered customers that consume electricity in the country do not have meters.

A committee on metering set up by NERC had in May revealed that the total number of customers captured in the records of operators of the Nigerian electricity supply industry was 5,172,979.

Gwom also said the Power Consumer Assistance Fund provided for in the Nigerian Electricity Reform Act, 2005 would take off soon.

“The Discos have estimated that N170bn is needed to purchase 2.8 million meters required to meet the metering gap in the Nigerian electricity supply industry,” she said.

Lack of adequate metering has been responsible for estimated billing, which often leads to electricity companies slamming crazy bills on consumers.

As a way of reducing the friction between the electricity distribution companies and consumers as a result of estimated billing, NERC had recently come up with what it called standardised estimated billing, but this has not been adopted by all the companies as some have yet to understand the methodology.

Findings by the metering committee led by Mr. Bamidele Aturu also confirmed that officials of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria and the successor companies preferred charging customers through estimation in order to promote incidences of over-billing.

While presenting the report, Aturu, a human rights lawyer, had said the committee observed in the course of its inquiry that the distribution companies had meters in stock but failed or refused to supply and install them, even when many customers had paid for meters.

He said the committee further established that the chief executives of the distribution companies were responsible for the inefficiency and unaccountability that permeated the system.

Aturu had said, “It was discovered that in most of the Discos, even though meters were in stock, customers existed who had paid for years and yet were not supplied any. This was confirmed when customers presented receipts of payment upon the declaration of some of the CEOs of their readiness to metre within a week, those customers with evidence of payment. With this revelation, it shows that meters are not as scarce as the CEOs widely alleged.

“Sharp practices and inefficiencies are the hallmarks of the metering of the system, from ageing power plants and terrible transmission lines to more importantly, rampant corruption and poor collection rates.

“Customers were of the view that with the poor supply of electricity in the country and gross inefficiency in the supply of electricity on the part of the Discos to curtail operational losses, estimated billing remains the only option for the Discos.”

On the Multi Year Tariff Order II, which took off in June, Gwom said the commission allowed a timeframe of about three months for reactions from customers.

She said, “The Discos, based on the reactions from customers, have identified areas of concern for the commission to make adjustments. The commission has ongoing discussions with all the Discos on the effect of the implementation of the MYTO II.

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