DISCOs Must Meter All Consumers By Oct 2016 –NERC

After several months and years of unending complaints and protests, succour may finally have the way of  the nation’s electricity consumers, as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), on Tuesday directed the various power distribution companies to provide meters to their customers, or forfeit the right to collect revenue.
Electricity meter
Electricity meter
Specifically, the NERC said that DISCOs would not be allowed to collect rates from unmetered customers after 16 months (by the end of October 2016), noting their unwillingness to provide meters to consumers.
The latest directive is coming two weeks after the NERC set a limit on the amount of revenues the DISCOs can generate from unmetered customers.
Giving a breakdown of the 16-month deadline, NERC’s Chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi, told journalists that the Discos would be given the first four months to provide meters to consumers under the Credit Advance Programme for Metering Implementation (CAPMI).
The commission, he explained, is to push the DISCOs into engaging in widespread metering of electricity consumers on their networks, noting that “there are three-pronged approaches to this: One is that there is a moratorium between now and the next four months for the capping of estimated revenue to start. Two is that the capping means that within that period of four months, you must have metered all your Credit Advance Programme for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) customers and as many of them as you can.”
“After four months, you have an extra 12 months within which to meter all customers who are in your network. After the 12 months and four months which is 16 months, every unmetered customer will no longer pay electricity bills until they are metered.”
Amadi explained that the proposal “is to be sent to the Discos for their final comments and opinions. Don’t forget we had a first public hearing on this and we will still call a last consultation after we send it to the Discos.
“We have taken an extra safeguard to have two public consultations on this because we consider it an important regulation that customers and operators will have a lot to think about,” he stressed.
Amadi said that NERC had tried to be fair in regulating of the sector and had initiated measures to encourage DISCOs to provide meters to their customers but that the Discos have often sidestepped these initiatives and instead continued with practices that are unsustainable.
“The situation has not improved as there is still abysmally low level of metering in the NESI. As at today, over 50 per cent of all the registered customers are either unmetered or have non-functional meters,” he stressed.
He explained that customers have continued to contest arbitrary bills, which have resulted to revenue loss for the sector.
The NERC boss, however, gave NERC’s backing to the distribution companies to severely punish customers who are found guilty of stealing electricity and shortchanging the sector of revenue.
“As NERC decides to push distribution companies to high levels of efficiency and customer accountability, it has authorised distribution companies to take the severest actions possible to prevent, detect and prosecute customers who by-pass or close meters.
“Or those that tamper with electrical installations or in any way defraud them of approved revenue. We call on the police authorities to step up prevention and prosecution of criminal activities in the electricity market.”
NERC also reiterated its position on importation of electricity meters in the country, saying that it can only approve such on grounds of deficit in local production of meters, price or technical competence which Discos must really justify in their applications.
Reacting, Director General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Muda Yusuf, told Daily Independent that the directive would positively affect businesses in the country, recalling that the chamber has been complaining of the outrageous bills being given to members in the form of estimated billing. He said the DISCOs had made it so difficult for consumers to obtain the pre-paid meters, because some people were benefiting from the estimated billing system.
He however believes that “16 months is even too long. If they are serious, it is something they can do within six months.”
For Kehinde Phillip, a chartered accountant, the directive, when implemented would bring succour to many electricity consumers and expose inefficiencies of many DISCOs at generating revenues.
“The exorbitant bill the Discos charge as estimated billing would be a thing of the past once all consumers are metered. A consumer would only pay for what he consumes. You cannot imagine a situation where a household was away for about three months and they kept bringing bills to a building that was locked and in darkness. It is absurd. The provision of meters will eliminate things like that,” he said.
Also, John Oda, an Abuja-based lawyer, welcomed the development, insisting that NERC enforces the directive, because “for long the DISCOs have taken the consumers for granted over estimated billing and cheated Nigerians with inflated bills. We have seen these kinds of policies before,” he added.
He stressed that NERC must ensure that consumers “are provided with meters at all cost” as that was the only way of checking the excesses of the distribution companies.
Also speaking, Jamiu Kabiru of Consumers Group said that NERC has finally risen to its responsibility.
“We have long waited for the regulator to come out from the influence of the operators and today they have demonstrated that it is possible to do the right thing.
“Without meters every effort in the industry will amount to nothing because that is the only way of making the electricity market liquid and also ensure that the operators address the concerns of the consumers,” he said.
Pekun Adeyanju, Public Affairs Manager of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC), however told Daily Independent that his company is not aware of the new directive, recalling that the initial directive by NERC was that all DISCOs should meter all customers within five years. He said that the Ikeja DISCO has announced plans to carry out the exercise in three years, following which it has commenced the pilot scheme.
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