Electricity consumers groan as meter rollout faces fresh delay

Electricity consumers in the country have expressed disappointment as meter rollout under the Meter Asset Provider scheme failed to kick off on May 1, more than one year after the initiative was introduced by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.

The MAP 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 introduced a new set of service providers in the power sector, called meter asset providers, to assist the distribution companies in bridging the huge metering gap in the Nigerian electricity supply industry.

According to the 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 in late March that it was reviewing the MAP procurement reports.

NERC said last month(April) that permits had been issued to the MAPs engaged by eight out of the 11 Discos, adding that the rollout of meters would commence no later than May 1, 2019.

The Discos are Abuja Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Jos Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Benin Electricity Distribution Company, Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc, Yola Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc, and Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company Plc.

“The meter rollout was supposed to start on May 1, 2019. But it has not. There have been a lot of complaints from our members across the country. They complained that even the meters that were paid for before now have not been given to them,” the President, Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria, Mr Chijioke James, said on Wednesday.

 He said, “One week into the deadline given by the regulator, the situation seems not to have changed. So, it behoves on the regulator to ensure that all stakeholders comply with that regulation. It ought not just to bark, but also bite; that way, we can have sanity in the sector.

“Our take is that the regulator should wake up and hold the power distributors accountable to the consumers. Consumers are beginning to lose confidence in both the regulator and the Discos. Not until we see improved services, we are not going to take the regular and the Discos seriously.”

James noted that the consumers had over the years expressed readiness to pay for meters.

He said, “If you look at the legal framework, the burden of meter provision is on the Discos. We want to warn the Discos to stop forthwith the issuance of estimated bills. We will no longer take estimated billing.”

The Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Sunday Oduntan, told our correspondent that the Discos would continue to collaborate with MAPs to ensure the rollout of meters to customers.

He said, “The Discos are in support of MAP. Ask the meter asset providers; they will confirm to you that is not as if the Discos are the ones throwing them down and we are not interested in pointing accusing fingers at anybody.

“We are happy about anything that will facilitate the provision of meters to people. I know Nigerians want meters as quickly as possible.”

Attempts to get comment from NERC on the matter were unsuccessful as the commission’s Head, Public Affairs Department, Dr Usman Arabi, had yet to respond to phone calls as of the time of filing the report. He said in a text message that he was in a meeting in Lagos.

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.

With the MAP regulation becoming effective on April 3, 2018, the Discos were expected to, within 120 days from the effective date, engaged the services of MAPs towards the achievement of their three-year metering targets prescribed by NERC.

NERC noted that the deadline was fixed for July 31, 2018, but was extended to November 30, 2018 to engender more competition among 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.
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