FG to Buy Prepaid Meters



The federal government is to buy one million metres which will be given to power consumers to reduce the complaints over crazy estimated billing

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

SOME power consumers who have been ripped off by power firms through crazy bills will soon heave a sigh of relief.  The federal government has approved fund for the purchase of one million electricity metres which will be installed in the homes or offices of power consumers. This is to help reduce consumers’ complaints of being given crazy estimated bills by power firms.  Chinedu Nebo, minister of power, who made this known at a town hall meeting with civil society organisations in Abuja, said that the owners of the electricity distribution companies inherited a lot of customers who had no meters.

“The private sector inherited a customer base in which 50 percent do not have meters. Nigeria has the highest per capital electricity theft in the world. That is why we are now doing smart meters and we are moving to a place where the meters will be mounted on poles, because something has got to be done fast. As a result of the burden on the Discos due to meter issues, the President has provided funding to give over one million meters to Nigerians to reduce the gap and then allow the Discos ensure that all customers are given meters,” he said.

According to Nebo, Nigerians should expect the installation of the meters in homes soon. “The fact is that the funding has been approved by Mr. President and the funds will be released very soon. These meters are being procured and I do think that in the next couple of months, you will begin to see them because the mechanism still needs to be developed on how they will be shared to the distribution companies. They (Discos) will distribute and install these meters and these are all being worked out. Some people may not be happy to give you meters, but we think we should continue to insist that every consumer must be given a meter because the only way to stop estimated billing is to provide these meters.”

On the country’s new power generation target, Nebo said, “We have an outlook for 2015 to 2017. People are saying you people said you will do 6,000 megawatts, yes! We have the capacity standing, we now have the gas standing and we are going to do that shortly within this year. But beyond that, by 2016 we expect to get up to 10,000MW and by 2017 to get 12,500MW.”

Statistics has showed that peak generation on Wednesday was 4,405.6MW; energy generation, 4,000.63egawatts, MW, while energy sent out was 3,914.60MW. Peak demand was, however, put at 12,800MW.

On gas pipelines vandalism, Nebo said the country lost an average of 1,000 megawatts in 2014 as a result of the activities of vandals. He called for the speedy passage of bills that would ensure “severe punishment of pipeline vandals because anytime the country’s power generation crosses the 4,000MW mark, vandals will strike our gas installations and end up dragging down the figure.”

He said the ministry was working with security agencies to address the issue of vandalism, stressing that the government was seeing the menace as sabotage against its power reforms.

It is on record that electricity consumers who do not have meters in the country receive estimated bills monthly. This has been widely criticised by stakeholders who argue that the development is being abused by the electricity distribution companies to extort money from their customers by issuing inflated bills based on estimation.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, had in 2014 assured Nigerians that the issues of prepaid meters by the electricity distribution companies would end with the commencement of the transitional electricity market. Sam Amadi, chairman, NERC, said the transitional electricity market, which begun on January 1, would force the private investors in the power companies to live up to the performance agreements they signed with the government. “Most of the conditions precedent for the commencement of the transitional stage has been attained,” he said.

“Consumer metering is a major challenge to the viability of the Discos. Presently, there is still a very high reliance on the notorious practice of estimated billing for revenue collection, which is estimated to be as high as 50 percent in some Discos,” Amadi said.

He stated that the very high estimated bills being distributed by the Discos despite the present poor state of supply from the grid has heightened customers’ restiveness. “Discos have equally displayed poor compliance with the estimated methodology developed by the commission to assist in ensuring objectivity in estimation of electricity customers’ consumption,” Amadi added.

According to a committee on metering recently set up by NERC, about 50 percent of consumers are without meters. This, the committee described as a very huge metering gap in the market. It stated that about 6.52 million new meters will be installed over the next five years or about 1.3 million meters a year to solve the problems of metering in the country.