About four million electricity users representing 54 per cent of the 7.4 million registered users are still unmetered about four years after the power sector was privatised in November 2013, a report has shown.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in its presentation at a recent customer consultation forum said it raised three options to accelerate metering and end the estimated billing methodology that has drawn complaints since it started in 2012.
The metering status as at August 31 by NERC shows that there are 7.476m registered customers; 3.451m of them have been metered by the 11 electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) while a larger chunk of 4.025m remain unmetered.
Daily Trust analysis of the data revealed the most backward DisCos on metering customers. Enugu DisCo did poorly in metering its 809,829 customers. It only metered 224,445 of them while the larger 585,384 customers (72.28%) are still served with estimated bills with many complaints of overbilling.
Yola DisCo has 293,478 customer base out of which it metered only 69,282 customers. 76.39 per cent representing 224,196 customers across Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba and Borno states are not metered.
Kano DisCo said it has just 472,453 customers across Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states. It has metered only 162,664 with a huge chunk of 309,789 representing 65.57 per cent still paying bills on estimation.
For Kaduna DisCo, only 238,901 of its 641,582 customer base have meters while 62.76 per cent, representing 402,681 users, are still expecting the devices in their homes.
Ibadan DisCo has the largest customer base of 1.474m from which it has installed meters for less than half – 609,604 customers. The DisCo requires more investment to liberate the larger 864,760 (58.65%) customers under the scourge of estimated billing.
Port Harcourt DisCo requires 251,412 units of meters to liberate 51.46 per cent of its 488,600 customer base from the complaints of over estimation.
Jos DisCo has 384,691 customers and has metered 187,415. The 51.28 per cent customers left have no meters requiring an investment in 197,276 meters.
Abuja DisCo has metered over half of its 862,696 customers, but a significant 412,655 customer base representing 47.83 per cent are still expecting meters as they are being served with estimated bills.
Ikeja DisCo has 835,736 customers and has metered 467,578 of them. However 368,158, about 44 per cent of the customers have no meters.
For Eko DisCo with 442,201 customers, it needs to procure and install 173,643 meters to bridge the 39.27 per cent metering gap in its franchise area.
Although Benin DisCo which has 771,226 customers installed 535,935 units of meters, it requires 235,291 units to meter the 30.51 per cent customers left.
Options to accelerate metering
NERC, in its proposal, identified three options to accelerate metering. They include Meter Service Providers (MSP) scheme, a Modified Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI), and franchising of metering and electricity provision in communities by the 11 DisCos.
The first option is using the MSP scheme where banks and meter manufacturers would lease meters to customers including replacement of faulty and obsolete ones, after signing medium to long term Meter Service Agreements (MSA) with the DisCos.
An integrated vending system will enable them to get deductions whenever metered customers vend to recoup investment. This model will be backed by the World Bank or through the Federal Government’s N39 billion Metering Loan with Ziglassis Ltd.
Daily Trust had reported similar proposal by the African Development Bank (AFDB) in June 2017 where a Metering Asset Company (MAC) will integrate metering on lease basis.
Although this could remove the financial burden of metering from the DisCos as they focus on improving their networks, DisCos may be unwilling to cede control of metering to other entrants.
The second option is the ‘Modified CAPMI’ where customers will pay for meters at designated centres and have meters installed in 10 days. The refund will be done as customers vend often. Government could sink the N39bn fund with Ziglassis to execute this option.
There are concerns that installation delays, backlogs and non-refunding to customers that characterised the CAPMI scheme until it was terminated in November 2016 may still prevail.
The third option being ‘Franchising’ is that the DisCos will enter agreements with agents to retail electricity at discounts approved by NERC in its Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO). The DisCos will do bulk metering for energy injection points and sell to agents like estate managers, caretakers of high-rise buildings or community electricity committees and maintain their networks.
Stakeholders at the consultation in Abuja raised concerns over this option. Key of these are that there could be wrong classification of customer tariffs in the various communities and that the DisCos may not be willing to meter individual customers even when the agents are lapsing.