FG’s Intervention On 2.8m Pre-paid Meters Shortage To Gulp N224bn

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By CHIKA IZUORA, Lagos

Federal government’s decision to procure prepaid meters for electricity consumers in the country through a special intervention process will cost the country a whopping N224 billion.

While the figure is based on current estimated cost of a 3 phase meter which is put at N80,000, the decision became necessary following the inability of Distribution Companies (DisCos) to meet their metering obligation.

Executive secretary of Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), the umbrella body of power distribution companies, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that conservatively, about 2.8 million household electricity consumers are currently unmetered.

Speaking on the constraints facing DisCos over meter roll out, Oduntan said, “Currently, the distribution companies are carrying out customer enumeration exercise to determine the exact metering gap.

“From the old system, we had about 8 million unmetered customers but we know the figure is more than that because we discovered that so many people are connected to the grid but are not captured.

“However, we have an estimated 5 million consumers that are not metered and we have reduced that number to 2.8 million, and the average cost of a 3 phase meter is N80,000 and if you multiply that by the number we have you will require about N224 billion to cover the gap”.

On government’s decision to intervene, Oduntan said the discussion was still ongoing and that it is hoped that the outcome will be fruitful.

He added that it is the desire of the operators to ensure all customers are metered to enable them capture the quantum of consumption by consumers, rather than engage in argument arising from the estimated billing method.

Oduntan said if they are to fund the project, each DisCo would require about N20 billion to meter customers within each of the networks they cover.

He, however, said that the DisCos have opened discussion with local meter manufacturers for supply of meters, even as he expressed hope that government’s intervention would create huge opportunities for them.

Confirming the readiness of local meter manufacturers in the current arrangement, Engr. Kola Balogun, chairman MOMAS Electricity Meters Manufacturing Company (MEMMCOL), said they were waiting for government to release its meter rollout template.

Speaking with the LEADERSHIP Sunday, Balogun said, “We have had discussions with government and the meter factories are ready. The template will provide information as to how many meters are required, the funding arrangement and other things. Already we can see that collection inefficiency has inhibited DisCos ability to realise their metering program.

“For us, we have the capacity to produce meters but we need adequate information on requirements because meters are not produced and kept on the shelf. But like I said, we have the local capacity and manpower but government should give us specifications they need.”

Balogun however differed with Oduntan on meter price bracket. According to him, a single phase meter, whether smart meter on not, is within the range of N25,000 to N35,000 depending on components based on specification, while a 3 phase meter goes for either N50,000 or N65,000, depending on specification and exchange rate.

Meanwhile, Ikeja Electric, one of the DisCos, has said its metering project is currently facing some challenges due to financial constraint, thereby prompting the management to alter original meter roll out plan.

Corporate communications manager of the power distribution company, Felix Ofulue, told the LEADERSHIP Sunday that at the moment, the company’s customer debt profile has gone up to N88 billion, which has further hindered efforts to strengthen infrastructure development.

Ofulue however said that management has engaged local meter vendors to pursue its pre-paid meter obligation to customers.

He noted that with the support of local meter vendors, the company has successfully metered almost all feeder and distribution transformers within its network to help balance its estimated billing method.

His words: “The metered transformers and feeders will help determine the regularity of power supply to customers and will help in preparing bills based on accurate power supply. So far, we have metered Maximum Demand Customers (MDC) within the network and they are over 5,000 of them.

“Our metering project is challenged at the moment due to financial constraints. Because we have to upgrade other supply infrastructure and ensure that the supply chain is not disrupted, there is need to deploy scarce resources in other areas of need so that the entire system does not collapse.”

He assured that Non Maximum Demand Customers are being considered in the ongoing efforts, adding that at the moment, the company is stepping up efforts to complete metering exercise in Ikeja GRA.

Ofulue however complained about energy theft, which he said is impacting on the company’s revenue, even as he urged customers to settle their bills to enable it boost its operations.