The present metering gap in the Nigerian Power Sector is fast becoming a nationwide epidemic, cutting across all geo-political zones, regions, states and Local Government Areas. This epidemic birthed another termed “overbilling” which many power consumers feel is synonymous to paying for darkness. The bitter truth is that the Irony of paying for darkness has become a present day reality in our electricity market.
Let us take a walk down memory lane. During the time of the Defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), the issues of metering, accounting for energy, Power theft and estimated billing were also the realities faced. The only peculiar difference was that it was state owned, meaning the authorities had enough resources to cover up for the deficits. Several millions of Naira was pumped into the power sector to cover for the lapses and shortages caused by the metering gap on yearly basis. The same issues rolled into the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and thus, the situation got worse.
Ever since the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in 2013, it became very evident that there had been a huge metering gap in the power sector. This was the major challenge the several DisCos had to face. This metering gap resulted in excessive bill estimations. Some consumers who weren’t aware of the situation felt the DisCos created the problem themselves and used it as an alibi to exploit their customers.
The claim by the Distribution Companies on inheriting this huge metering gap is a present day reality. It even got worsened because the lack of proper metering during the Defunct NEPA and Unbundled PHCN led to the recent rise in the number of obsolete meters in the premises of consumers. NERC had declared that Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) had a current metering gap of 512,335 out of the 732,423 customers under its network. EEDC happens to be the worst hit DisCo with this inherited challenge. NERC also confirms that the Benin Electricity Distribution has the highest percentage of metered consumers with 69.49%.
This disheartening situation led to the drastic increase in the rate of estimated billing and the amount estimated, which is usually not commensurate to customer’s usage. This is the status-quo across the DisCos because, these power distribution companies are not state owned but are now private investors and they don’t have the luxury of repeatedly pumping huge capital into a system that is not working.
It is in this vain that the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in an attempt to put an end to estimated billing has decided to take the bull by the horn and tackle the root cause of the epidemic. Providing meters for power consumers at all cost. A third party metering scheme was drafted in 2017 to augment the shortcomings of the DisCos in providing meters for its franchised customers.
NERC’s third party metering system draft involving Meter Asset Providers is gradually seeing the light of day. Just recently the regulations for the implementation of the proposal were released by the regulatory body. Presently the proposal is at the doorstep of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing seeking approval.
The approval of this new metering system would in-turn go a long way in covering the short-comings of the DisCos in covering the metering gap, and hence lead to more efficient energy audit and ultimately the end of over-billing.