Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has disclosed that three million meters in use by the electricity distribution companies (Discos) are outdated and due for replacement.
The commission also stated that the Discos would have to prioritise deployment of new meters to seven million of their unmetered consumers in the new National Mass Metering Program (NMMP) funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the World Bank.
It disclosed this in a document signed by its chairman, Mr. Sanusi Garba and the commissioner in charge of legal, licensing and compliance, Mr. Dafe Akpeneye.
The document was a directive from it on structured replacement of faulty and obsolete end-use customer meters in the networks of the Discos.
According to the NERC, the Metering Code (MC) expects that the industry will be serviced with modern accurate metering systems with reliable communication facilities across its value chain.
This, it noted was to accurately measure and record energy production and utilisation as well as ensure the sector’s financial viability. However, the NERC’s document suggested that this is not the case in the sector now.
“Meters serve as a revenue assurance tool for NESI service providers and a resource management tool for end-use customers that receive services.
“The commission notes that over seven million customers are currently unmetered as indicated by customer enumeration data. It is also estimated that an additional three million meters are currently obsolete and due for replacement,” it said.
It also explained that the existence of a large population of unmetered customers contributed to threats affecting the financial viability of the country’s power sector.
Unmetered end-use customers, it stated, have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the estimated billing methodology of the Discos, hence, “the revenue assurance objectives of Discos have also been challenged by being unable to properly account for the utilisation of electricity by end-use customers.”
The NERC further stipulated that Discos shall grant priority to the metering of unmetered customers under the NMMP before seeking to replace obsolete meters in their networks.
“Discos may replace faulty/obsolete meters under the National Mass Metering Program but these replacements must be done in strict compliance with the Metering Code and other regulatory instruments of the commission,” it said.
To accomplish this, it stated that Discos must install new meters upon the removal of the faulty or obsolete meters from their consumers, adding that, “under no circumstances shall the customer be placed on estimated billing on account of the Disco’s failure to install a replacement meter after the removal of the faulty/obsolete meter.”
It informed that consumers have repeatedly complained about Discos’ notice to replace their meters without appropriate review of the faults of their meters and subsequently placing them on estimated billing.
To this, the NERC said the Discos would be violating its regulations by failing to satisfactorily establish the true operational state of consumers’ meters.
“Customers shall only be billed for loss of revenue where the Disco establishes meter tampering, by-pass or unauthorised access as contained in NERC order on unauthorised access, meter tampering and bypass,” it added.