By Etuka Sunday
Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) has described as misleading the statement by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola that electricity consumers should turn to Discos when they have no power, meters or transformers.
ANED said it recognised that there are challenges in the Electricity Sector, but that those challenges would not be solved by sheer propaganda as the Minister would want Nigerians to believe.
Fashola in a Press Briefing on Monday, July 9th, 2018 had said, “in answer to the question of who to turn to when you have no meter, no supply of power, or your transformer is bad; it is the discos, who are your service providers, that you should turn to. They are the ones who bill you and collect money from you”.
The DisCos, however, not satisfied with the statement said,if meter supply is so easy as the Minister claimed, why is Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) shifting ‘goal post’ on Meter Asset Provider (MAP) implementation?
Recall, NERC has shifted MAP implementation by three Months. Even when asked by the Minister of the number of meter providers licensed so far by NERC, the Commission could not point to any specific number licensed.
ANED therefore, said, that the briefing was arranged to demonize the DisCos who by the structure of Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), are the faces of a difficult sector.
“We are also left wondering whether such demonization of the DisCos is camouflage for the absence of the effective policy leadership that is desired for implementing the enabling environment that is necessary for the viability and sustainability of NESI?”, it said.
ANED said, it had taken steps in the past to meter its customers, since metering alone reduces collection losses very significantly and improves customers willingness to pay.
It said, metering is a performance requirement for DisCos, in terms of their loss reduction and metering targets, as specified in the Performance Agreement with Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
The DisCos said, the currently identified approximately 4.1 million meter gap is a legacy of 62 years of government underinvestment and PHCN inefficiency.
“This gap continues to grow, as DisCos enumerate and identify their customers, convert illegal consumers into customers, replace non-functional and aged meters and make new connections.
“The gap not only exceeds the 1.7 million metering obligation specified in the DisCos’ performance agreement (out of which the Discos have delivered 88% of their metering obligation) and the 2.7 million metering gap at the handover of the DisCos but exceeds the allowance for total capital expenditure (CAPEX) – N305 Billion, for eleven  DisCos, over five years, for all metering, network expansion, rehabilitation and replacement of transformers, injection stations, etc., when compared with an estimated N299 Billion to required to address the gap. In simple terms, the cost of comprehensive metering, currently, simply dwarfs the ability of the current tariff to accommodate same. It means that the already artificially suppressed tariff cannot accommodate the cost without an increase”, DisCos argued.
ANED said, “the Credited Advance Payment Metering Implementation (CAPMI) implemented by the regulator, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) prior to the commencement of privatization and continued after privatization, sought to provide an interim but effective avenue to address the metering gap, by addressing the upfront cash needed (though not the additional expense requirement, since the amount paid was to be refunded to customers over two years).
“CAPMI, with the CAPEX constraint imposed by the tariff, allowed customers to pay upfront for their meters, an arrangement that substantially contributed towards alleviating the metering gap.
“Alas, the Minister, ignoring the practical and valuable nature of this initiative, ordered NERC to cancel CAPMI (3rd monthly power sector and stakeholders, April 12th, 2016), with a subsequent mere statement of reversal (with no regulatory policy backing) of this cancellation at the 18th monthly power sector and stakeholders, August 14th, 2017, with resultant unfortunate consequences for our customers and our operations.”
The Association however said, that “with the farming out of the responsibility of metering to third party vendors under the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) regulation enacted by NERC, it is our hope that the challenges of estimated billing will be minimized for our customers over time.”