The last NBS Power Sector Report shows the slow pace of Discos commitment to metering their customers across the country. FESTUS OKOROMADU, writes on the economic implication of the situation.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) last week confirmed that only 7.48 million Nigerians have access to electricity, and of the figure only 3.45 million electricity consumers translating to 46.16 per cent are metered living the balance of 4.1 million consumers unmetered by the eleven (11) Distribution Companies (Discos)in the country as at the last quarter of December 2017. The bureau’s Power Sector Report which beamed its searchlight on energy generated, sent out and consumed as well as load allocation for the fourth quarter (Q4) 2017 also disclosed that the daily energy generation attained a peak of 105,152 MWh on the 8th of December 2017.
According to the report, the nation’s total average daily energy generation by power stations during the period stood at 94,627 MWh with thermal stations generating 84,026 MWh while the hydro stations generated 21, 126 MWh. The report indicated that the lowest energy generated in the quarter was 73,246 MWh as against the previous quarter of 56,486 MWh generated daily, this figure was attained in October 2017, as thermal stations generated 55,941 MWh while the hydro stations generated the 17,305 MWh. This statistics do not only shows the urgent need for energy market operators to fine-tune ways of improving power generation as well as ensuring that consumers are metered it is also an indication of limitation the sector places on the nation’s economic development. This is understandably so when one submits to expert’s augment that for Nigeria to achieve a smooth industrial take-off, power shortages remain a primary challenge for businesses across the country. According to some experts, Nigerian industrialists allocated at least 40 per cent of cost of operation to self-generation of energy, similarly, households and small scale business are said to dedicate a huge portion of income to solving the energy problem. Thus, it is generally assumed that the power sector is the pivotal to the country’s economic growth and development.
For instance, financial experts said businesses and households could add two percentage points to the country’s annual if “full power” generation and distribution is attained. Unfortunately, every stakeholder except the Discos appears to be benefiting from the dismay situation of the industry. The reason for this is not far fetched, as the power chain is divided into three components, Generation which operated by generating companies (Gencos), Transmission, run by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Distribution, managed by the distribution companies (Discos). The cash flow to all the arms of the sector is such that the duo of Gencos and TCN depends on Discos who interface with the consumers. Incidentally, argues that they have made some tremendous investment in the system as they point to increase in generation and transmission, the consumers think otherwise as such increase is not reflected on the numbers of hours power is supplied to their homes and businesses.
On its part, the Discos blamed the consumers and regulators for their not too impressive performance pointing out that the consumers were not paying the right tariff hence they can’t continue to invest in the business as the prospect of recouping return on investment is low. Meanwhile, a measure bone of contention between the Discos and the consumers is metering which ensures that consumers pay for the services they enjoy at the market approved price. But the Discos proffer what is known as estimated bill which allows them to charge their customers even when energy is not supplied . Metering The NBS Report shows that a good number of the Discos operating in the country are not willing to meter their customers. According to the report, the Benin Disco had the highest percentage of metered customers with 535,935 of its total 771,226 consumers covered translating 69 percent. It is followed by Eko Disco with 268,558 consumers metered out of 442,201 amounting to 60.73 percent coverage, while Ikeja Disco with 55.95 percent of consumers amounting to 467,578 out of 835,736 metered.
On the other hand, Yola and Enugu Discos recorded the least percentage of customers metered with 23.61 percent and 27.72 per cent recorded respectively. Regulations As part of efforts to resolve the thorny issue of metering, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Tunde Fashola, last November directed the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), to roll out plans that would ensure the consumers have access prepaid meters to reduce and possibly eliminate the incident of estimated billing. In compliance, the NERC commenced a process that would see the engaging of Meter Assets Providers (MAP), as third parties to take over the metering project since the Discos have failed in this responsibility of doing so. Although, the Discos kicked against the third party metering option, stressing that they could face some losses and asking the regulator to allow them charge some form of meter maintenance fee, NERC recently announced the list of successful Meter Service Providers (MSP).
The list include 5 meter manufacturing companies, 26 importers of meters, 5 vendors, 46 corporate installers and 1 individual installer. However, NERC has not issued a statement on when the full implementation of the metering programme will commence it is only hope that will not stop at ensuring their provision but will encourage the general public not to by-pass meters when installed. In addition, government must increase efforts to improve on energy provision to the generality of Nigerians. A situation where less than 8 million homes and industries have access to national grid electricity in a country with a population of over 170 million people is economically suicidal
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