FG won’t Embark on New Power Projects in 2016, Says Fashola

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•NERC investigates Discos’ metering claims, estimated billing

Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The federal government will not take up new power projects this year but will concentrate its finances and energies on completing already awarded projects in the power sector to boost the country’s electricity capacity, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has disclosed.

This came as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on Thursday said it had set up an investigative taskforce to keenly look into claims by the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) in Nigeria’s power sector that they had installed sizeable amount of electricity meters to their customers since they took over operations in November 2013.

The minister said in order to gain time and achieve better success in boosting electricity supply, the government had decided that as much as possible, it would not embark on any new projects, adding that focus would be on the completion of already awarded projects.

Fashola in a statement from his media aide, Mr. Hakeem Bello yesterday in Abuja explained that parts of the projects to be completed by government in 2016 would include 47 transmission projects across the country.
Also to be considered would be the revamping of Oji River coal power plant which is the only coal power station in the country and the 750 megawatts (MW) Zungeru hydro power plant in Zungeru, Niger State.

The statement noted that Fashola said this when he appeared on a Channels Television programme.
The minister explained that irrespective of the delay in passage of the 2016 budget, there was a plan to complete 47 transmission projects this year.

“There is a plan to complete 47 transmission projects in this year’s budget and I believe we can do it even if the budget is passed tomorrow,” said Fashola.
He also disclosed that in addition to those projects, government was looking at other sources to achieve incremental power, adding that the road to incremental power lay in completing projects using a variety of sources including wind.

Meanwhile, NERC also said it had set up a similar taskforce to investigate complaints by estimated electricity consumers in the 11 distribution networks that they are now excessively billed by their Discos for electricity supplied to them.

The commission’s acting Chairman, Dr. Anthony Akah, disclosed this to journalists when he inaugurated a new customers’ complaints forum office in Abakaliki, capital of Ebonyi State.
Akah noted that the investigations would be conducted with a view to establishing class actions against Discos that may have flaunted its related regulations on metering and estimated billing to their customers.

He said the commission had reasons to doubt the claims on metering brought before it by the Discos, adding that since 2013, Enugu Disco which supplies electricity to Ebonyi and four other states in the South-east have done poorly with a current metering gap of 512,335 out of the 732,423 customers captured under it.

Akah also said the taskforce on metering would monitor the meter roll out plans which the Discos submitted to the commission to ascertain the authenticity of the processes they adopted.
He further said: “They are two taskforces, one on metering and the other, estimated billing. We have written to the Discos to give us details of all the customers they have metered in the months.

We have asked them to give us their names, addresses and also indicate the vendors of the meters.”
He also said the taskforce on metering would investigate the sources of the Discos’ meters to make sure they do not fund their metering plans with monies generated through the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Initiative (CAPMI).
Akah explained that NERC was aware that some Discos are breaching its metering plans but that it would not take that.

According to him, the taskforce on estimated billing will also conduct its investigations on customers’ complaints in this regard.
Discos who are found to have breached its regulations of these, Akah noted will be penalised according to its rules.