On Sunday evening, news across the country was rife with reports of NERC stating that unmetered customers shouldn’t pay electricity bills henceforth. One little part of that decree that was left out by most news outlets was the part stating that these only applied to Maximum Demand (MD) customers. Most readers often skipped that part and many Nigerians were more than happy to support the new decree, after all, a large percentage of unmetered customers have constantly complained of over-estimated bills.
Since this misconception hit the internet, various DisCos have come out to clear the air. The general theme of these statements was that the MD customers mentioned by NERC were Maximum demand customers and not the regular Residential customers.
Maximum Demand customers are commercial and industrial customers who consume high levels of electricity with the consumption threshold of 45KVA These customers usually have their own dedicated Transformers and are not on public transformers. Basically, these are big companies who pay at different tariff rates when compared the regular customers.
The amusing thing about this story is how quickly electricity consumers jumped at the slightest misinformation about payment of bills. a deeper look at this will reveal a symptomatic problem stemming from the poor relationship between power operators and customers. These customers who by now are tired of complaining of being overbilled will surely be elated at the prospect of not paying bills. Moreso, when the story appeared to be backed up by NERC.
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NERC on its own part showed an appalling lack of Information Management skill. Knowing the current state of the power sector, it is shocking to see how NERC didn’t think it was important to elaborate on the type of customers this message was targetted towards.
It is either NERC is oblivious the knowledge gap in the power sector or they just lack the kind of oversight you would expect by a regulatory body.
The DisCo did a decent job at correcting the misinformation very quickly. Showing that when it comes to securing their revenue they can be pro-active. If only they applied such enthusiasm to the rest of their operations. Besides, this whole debacle ironically has diverted attention from the real issue. The never ending issue of DisCos refusal or incapacity (depending on the side of the story you want to believe) to meter its customers.
This continues to be a major problem in the power sector and more worrisome is the fact that this problem does not look like being resolved anytime soon.
However, for all the failings of the stakeholders in the power sector, it is interesting to see how a very simple message caused a major stir in the power sector.