FG urged to allow electricity customers own meters

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’Femi Asu

As electricity consumers in the country continue to complain over estimated billing from the distribution companies, the Federal Government has been urged to liberalise the metering segment of the power sector.

Based on the proposals submitted by the core investors in the Discos during the privatisation of the power firms in November 2013, 6.52 million new meters were expected to be installed over the course of five years.

But three and a half years after the privatisation, many of the Discos have been unable to meet their metering obligations under the Performance Agreements with the Bureau of Public Enterprise.

According to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, only 3.39 million customers have electricity meters as of December 2016 out of 7.47 million customers in the country.

The Discos promised to install 1.754 million meters last year but only 215,424 meters were made available to their customers, while over 50 per cent of customers remain unmetered.

Under existing regulations, Discos have the prerogative to provide meters to their customers and own the meters.

The Executive Secretary, Electricity Meters Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Muideen Ibrahim, said the deregulation of meter ownership would enable consumers to procure and own meters.

He said, “We have always been advocating that the government should liberalise the metering arm of the power sector so that everybody can have access to meters. If every consumer has prepaid meter, they will manage their electricity consumption and the Discos will collect revenue maximally.

“But now the consumers are short-changed because they are being given estimated bills. It presupposes that the Discos are smiling to the bank where as the consumers are suffering. Unfortunately, some of the Discos are complaining that they don’t have the fund to invest massively in metering, whereas the meters are readily available in the various warehouses of the manufacturers.”

Ibrahim said if metering was liberalised, it would enhance revenue generation for the meter manufacturers, the Discos and even the government in the long run because more people would come into the sector.

He stressed the need to have a metering summit where all the stakeholders would gather to discuss the challenges being faced by the Discos and meter manufacturers.

“Manufacturers have invested massively in meters; unfortunately, they don’t have enough patronage for them to do more,” Ibrahim said

The Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, the umbrella body for the Discos, has said it is not opposed to the deregulation of meter ownership.

The Chief Executive Officer, ANED, Mr. Azu Obiaya, told our correspondent that the Discos had been working hard to meet their five-year metering plan despite the challenges associated with their inability to recover the cost of doing business.

He said, “There is no party more interested in comprehensive metering than the Discos because our ability to meter the customers means that we take away the alienation of customers thinking that they are not rightly billed; so customers are able to track their consumption. But it also allows us to manage our revenues by tracking the energy that we supply.”

Obiaya stressed the need for adequate investment in order to achieve comprehensive metering.

He, however, said, “That adequacy of investment will not come to pass unless the Discos are able to recover their costs of doing business. Meters cost money and somebody must pay for the meters for them to be provided.”

Asked about the position of the Discos to the call for government to deregulate meter ownership, he said, “The Discos are not against any creative means of filling the metering gap. What the Discos are asking is that they have to be part of the discussions on how to fill the gap. We have to keep in mind that it is the Discos who have to operate the system in terms of billing their customers and have the accounting and technical systems.

“So any arrangement that is in conflict with those systems will be unworkable. The Discos are amenable to exploring the various solutions that will essentially take away the challenges that their customers have right now because they are not metered.”

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