NERC: 8.1m of Nigeria’s 12.8m Electricity Customers Still Unmetered

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.Figure represents 64% of total meter deficit
.Ibadan, Abuja, Ikeja Discos lead in metering efforts

By Emmanuel Addeh

After decades-long efforts to provide meters for electricity consumers in Nigeria, the device is yet to reach at least 8.1 million of the country’s current 12.8 million customers, new data from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has shown.

The information gleaned from a presentation made by the commission in one of its sensitisation forums, indicated that only about 4.66 million end-users, representing 36 per cent of the entire pool had been fully metered at the end of November 2021.

In the metering programme update, the data showed that taken generally, the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IEDC) with over 2.07 million customers is leading the pack with the provision of 781, 123 units of the device for its customers.

This is followed by Abuja Disco which has so far provided meters to 702,716 of consumers of the product in its franchise area numbering 1.582 million in all as well as Ikeja Disco which has installed meters for 632,960 of its over 1.298 million customers.

But if taken from the point of view of the number of customers metered relative to total number of customers in each franchise, Eko leads the pack with 56 per cent, having been able to serve 345,357 of its 615,660 customers the electricity measuring devices. This represents more than half of its customers.

Still putting the number of meters provided side by side the total number of customers served, the efforts by Eko is followed by Ikeja with 49 per cent of its customers fully metered, representing 632,000 of its 1.298 million customers.

Still in terms of percentages relative to total customers, Abuja came 3rd as it has succeeded in metering 44 per cent of its customers while Benin and Ibadan are both tied at 38 per cent.

The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) has a huge metering gap despite the launch of several mass metering programmes of electricity consumers in the past.

A number of the initiatives had failed and have been replaced with new programmes, although estimated billing remains a major issue for customers, without metering devices.

In September 2020, the federal government launched the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) with the backing of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which although slow, has aided the ramping up of the metering efforts.

Like others , the metering scheme aims at increasing Nigeria’s metering rate, eliminating arbitrary estimated billing as well as strengthening the local meter value-chain by increasing local meter manufacturing, assembly and deployment capacity.

Whereas the programme expected Discos to roll out six million free meters over the next 18-36 months from when it first started, to unmetered consumers, less than a million meters have been offered almost a year after the plan was birthed.

The Special Adviser to the President on Infrastructure, Ahmad Zakari, recently stated that about N120 billion capital expenditure (CAPEX) fund was being provided by the CBN for Discos to improve the metering challenges.

He said the government through funding option from the CBN, installed about 600,000 meters, although the number has markedly increased since then.

The provision of meters has not matched the demand as non-metered consumers continue to rise, being in 2016, about 3 million of the registered accounts of customers, in 2017, over 4 million unmetered customers, in 2019, over 5 million and in 2022 over 8 million unmetered customers.

According to the latest NERC data as of November 30, 2021, when compared, the number of unmetered relative to total number of customers, Yola emerged the least performing with 81 per cent of its consumers not provided meters.

Yola’s Abysmal performance is followed by Kaduna’s with 79 per cent unmetered customers and Kano with 75 per cent of its customers not provided meters.
In summary, at the end of that month, Nigeria had 12.848 million electricity consumers, 4.666 metered customers, representing 36 per cent and 8.18 unmetered customers, representing 64 per cent.

Among the unsuccessful initiatives, in a bid to address the metering gap, in 2013 at the outset of the privatised electricity sector, the Credit Advance Programme for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) scheme was launched.

The purpose of the scheme was to relieve the Discos the burden of financing the cost of the meters. As such it enabled the customer to pay for the meter upfront while the Disco amortised the cost through electricity supplied to the customer over a period of time.

However, the scheme failed to deliver on its objective as noted by the then Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola in 2016 because “Discos that collected money from their customers to procure and install meters at their homes have mostly failed to do so”. The CAPMI was eventually discontinued in 2016, leaving the sector with a huge metering gap.

In April 2018, the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) scheme was introduced by NERC in a bid to address the same problem.

Under the scheme, there were to be third party meter suppliers engaged by the Discos, effectively removing the burden of providing meters from the Discos. Unlike the CAPMI, it ensured that the customer received a meter from the MAP without making any upfront payment, while the payment was sculpted into the customer’s monthly electricity tariff as an energy charge until it was fully amortised.

The scheme has not been as successful as was hoped, with Discos missing deadlines to engage MAPs even as import tariffs and lack of local manufacturing capacity beset the programme.

The programme was followed by the CBN’s launch of the current NMMP with a view to funding the local production, and in some, cases importation of meters by meter providers and Discos.

On the importance of providing measurement of electricity consumed, NERC stated in the latest data that metering would provide the opportunity for customers to pay for what they consume.

It that added this would in turn improve customers’ satisfaction, eliminate estimated billing practices of the Discos and enhance revenue collection, which is critical to the financial viability of NESI.

“End use metering is critical to financial viability, improving customer satisfaction and revenue recovery as well as provides transparent and accurate measurement for kilowatts of electricity consumed by the customer.

“It ensures energy accounting and revenue protection for the Disco towards reducing their commercial losses,” it said.

Under the MAP scheme, Discos signed a contract for 6.5million meters, with 1-Phase meters costing N44,896.17, later reviewed to N58,661.69 due to what NERC called forex differences, while the 3-Phase was N82,855.19, later reviewed to N109,684.36.