Electricity consumers have yet to feel the impact of a scheme introduced last year to expedite the deployment of meters as its implementation has been delayed, ’FEMI ASU writes
When the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission unveiled the Meter Asset Provider Regulation in March last year, electricity consumers who were being subjected to estimated billing by power distribution companies hailed the initiative.
The MAP regulation, which introduced a new set of service providers in the power sector called meter asset providers, was designed to fast-track the roll-out of meters through the engagement of third-party investors for the financing, procurement, supply, installation and maintenance of electricity meters.
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.
But more than nine months after its introduction, the impact of the metering initiative has not yet been felt by consumers as the process of procuring MAPs has not been concluded by the Discos.
The regulator, which only announced on May 23 that it had cleared 22 firms intending to participate in the meter procurement process to be conducted by the Discos, had to extend the deadline for the procurement to October 31.
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.
NERC said the number of firms seeking to become MAPs rose to 115 as of November 22 from the 101 that were granted ‘No Objection’ as of October 17.
The President, Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria, Mr Chijioke James, said in a telephone interview with our correspondent that the delay in the procurement of MAPs “automatically has continued to foist hardship on the consumers.”
He said, “I think the delay may be intentional. Maybe some people within the Discos are sabotaging the MAP scheme, because I see no reason why you want to collect your money and the instrument that you need to collect the money is lacking.
“If you say you are a distribution company, your primary tool of operation is the meter. How can you distribute and you are finding it difficult to invest in what you will use to collect revenue to defray your costs? The system is such that the consumers are at the receiving end; that is our challenge.”
NERC, in its latest quarterly report released this month, 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 been metered 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.
It said it had intensified its monitoring of Discos’ implementation of and compliance with the provisions of the MAP regulation in order to fast-track meter roll-out and close the metering gap within three years.
• Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, NERC, Prof. James Momoh
“NERC is not doing enough as the regulator. We have a situation where the consumers hardly get justice. If NERC is serious about protecting the consumers and has put in place a guideline regarding when consumers must be metered, the Discos should be sanctioned if they fail to comply with that guideline,” James said.
Last week, a bill seeking to amend the