The issue of estimated billing and over billing of customers by Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) is assuming a crisis situation. This is as a result of the failure of the DisCos in the country to provide metres for their customers and compelling them against their better judgement to pay for what they did not consume.
Officials of these companies have sadly developed the heinous competence of billing customers from their warped imaginations. This has led to indiscriminate and outrageous billing of residential non-rural (Non Maximum Demand) consumers identified by the code name, R2.
Naturally, consumers are unhappy with the outrageous bills they receive from these electricity companies every month as a majority of them are billed with no recourse to meters that will accurately account for the voltage of electricity they consume.
Despite efforts by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to check this ugly development with several rules and regulation as stipulated in the NERC’s guidelines and the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005, cases of estimated billing persist in several parts of the country.
Responding to the unending complaints over the process adopted in arriving at the bills by the electricity companies, the NERC in a consultation paper released by the regulator on October 12, 2018, described the estimated billing system as a complete failure.
Globally, electricity supply does not come cheap and we allude to the fact that the power sector and government daily make huge investments on generation, transmission and distribution of power to Nigerians. However, the issue of electricity consumption ought to be handled with utmost caution.
The big question that has been begging for answer is what is the big deal in providing pre-paid meters to all electricity consumers? What stops the government and investors from flooding the country with pre-paid meter manufacturing companies that will mass-produce meters for the whole country?
It has been reported that DisCo employees both at the management and field levels derive so much joy in issuing out these bills to hapless Nigerians. The ladder-carrying DisCo officials are at home moving ladders up and down every day from one street to the other disconnecting electric wires from poles. They are comfortable extorting money, from debtor consumers which will give the defaulters interim reprieve.
Just like the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) which called for aggressive metering to curb estimated billing, this newspaper is convinced that that is the way out of estimated billing as well as overbilling. Industry watchers argue that estimated billing is an archaic system which should be done away with in the interest of customers and profitability of the power sector.
We are aware of the latest regulation of NERC which is the Meter Assets Provider (MAP) Regulations (No. NERC-R -112), – released on 8th March, 2018, and made pursuant to NERC’s power to make regulations donated by Section 96(2) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, (ESPRA) 2005. The policy totally takes the cost of the meter away from the DisCos and places same on the consumers. This is done through the instrumentality of the Meter Asset Providers, who have been licensed, in conjunction with the DisCos, to supply meters to the premises of customers who request for same and then charge fees of the meter asset in addition to the electricity tariff for a period of 10 years.
It is through the meter fees that the MAPs recover their investment and profit in providing the meters. The implementation timeline for closing the metering gap is within three years. Many Nigerians are still expecting the policy to take off as there are also concerns that the DisCos are secretly working to ensure that MAPs do not share in their business. In the prevailing circumstance, we urge NERC to speed up the implementation of the policy. It is our considered opinion that the MAP initiative will go a long way in addressing the metering gap within the network and, even more significantly, easing the burden of excess charges on consumers. We understand that power is a national challenge in the country; so all the value chain in the sector need to come together to address the challenges.
DisCos have reached a point where consumers receive their bills with scorn because they are considered outrageous, if not unethical. The fundamental principle of fairness requires that people pay for what they consume, as accurately calculated. It is for this reason that we urge everyone concerned to expedite action on the MAP policy so as to restore transparency in the service provider-consumer relationship.
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