The Nigerian minister of power, works, and housing, Babatunde Fashola, announced that government supports the take-off of an ancillary electricity meter supply industry with a loan of N39 billion ($107 million).
Fashola said that government and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) were in talks with investors in the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) on a plan to have a separate meter supply industry that could bridge the metering deficits in the electricity market, THISDAY reported.
He said since the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) 2005 did not give Discos the monopoly to supply meters to their customers, even though it was their duty, the government has considered the need to license meter providers to supply meters to customers on conditions approved by the NERC.
Ancillary meter supply industry
Media noted that this development follows after repeated complaints of Discos’ falseness with meter deployment to their customers.
The complaints also drew attention to Discos’ mishandlings of an alternative meter supply initiative – the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI), which allowed consumers to self-finance their meter installations.
According to the media it is still unclear on whether a framework developed by past acting chairman of NERC, Dr. Anthony Akah, which seeks to create a separate meter supply industry for the electricity market, will be adopted.
“Please re-call that government had in the past attempted to intervene in meter supply through CAPMI which ultimately I decided we should wind down because of the distrust and disaffection it was creating between consumers and Discos with government caught in the middle with numerous petitions by customers who paid for meters that were not delivered within the approved time or at all,” Fashola said.
He added: “Some Discos have come back to say that their customers still want to pay for meters and they can reach agreements with them on how to pay for it.
“Government will not stand in the way of such an agreement. It is consistent with the intent of privatisation envisioned by the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) or at least it does not violate the Act. What I will reiterate is that the Discos have the obligation to meter customers, because they are the ones who charge for electricity which must be measured.”
Fashola continued: “If the customers and the Discos reach an agreement between themselves, where the customer assumes the responsibility of the Disco of his own free will, and NERC sanctions this agreement, then so be it.
“The difference between this kind of agreement and CAPMI, is that it is not a government initiative which CAPMI was. However, through NERC, Government will monitor and regulate to ensure that Discos do not use this as an excuse to abdicate their responsibility to provide meters,” he added.
He added: “In addition to this kind of agreement, what government has decided to do is optimise the EPSRA provision to democratise access to meters, starting with the N39 billion, which will be a loan to the meter provider.
“While it is true that Discos have the obligation to meter customers, the law did not vest a monopoly of meter supplies, or even retail sales, in Discos. Anybody who qualifies under safety regulation by NEMSA and under licenses issued by the NERC can supply meters to customers under conditions stipulated by NERC.”
“In other words, meter supply is an open but regulated business. You need a license from NERC to undertake it. You need to comply with testing and safety standards of NEMSA to produce, import or install it but it is not a monopoly for Discos alone,” Fashola stated.