Barring any hitches, the newly introduced Meter Asset Provider, MAP, would substitute the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation, CAPMI regime beginning from April 3. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, as the regulatory body, had to come up with the MAP framework due to the manifest failure of the six-year-old CAPMI regime in bridging the metering gap in Nigeria’s power distribution.
By a new rule that flows from the MAP regime, all Distribution Companies, DisCos, are obligated to discard the CAPMI regime and embrace MAP within a 120 day grace period, starting from April 3 roll out date. Whereas the CAPMI regime failed woefully in metering power consumers, the succeeding MAP regime is billed to effectively close the metering gap in the Nigerian electricity distribution within three years of take-off and eliminate the obnoxious estimated billing by DisCos.
It is heart-warming that the electricity regulator has deemed it necessary to bin the dishonest CAPMI regime, which afforded DisCos all the excuses and loose ends they needed to bilk their customers through estimated billing. The irregularities that fraught the implementation of CAPMI ensured that less than four million customers of the 11 DisCos in the country were migrated to pre-paid digital meters since 2012.
The percentage of metered power consumers is put at about 50 by NERC, leaving the other half under the huge weight of the DisCos’ fraudulent estimated billing in their franchise areas. For instance, in Abuja and elsewhere in the country, while occupants of a two-bedroom flat spend an average of N4000 monthly on power subscription with pre-paid digital meters, their counterparts on estimated bills are constantly traumatised with as much as N22000 monthly electricity bill from DisCos. This is the fraud and mindless profiteering that estimate billing is.
While Dis Cos cite cost as a major inhibitor in their responsibility to meter their customers under the dysfunctional CAPMI regime, which provides that the customer finances his meter acquisition, with the cost amortised over a period from the customer’s energy charge at a 12 per cent interest rate per annum, the tragedy for power consumers is that millions of them pay for meters they would not get for months on end while being subjected in the same breath to the cut-throat estimated billing over the waiting period.
Good news is that the MAP regime eliminates advanced payment for meters. Customers will have meters installed for them while the provider gets return for investment through payment of metering service tariff, which DisCos shall work out within their franchise areas in agreement with NERC.
Also with the new MAP regime, the responsibility of metering electricity users has been taken off DisCos and vested in the hands of local firms whom it shall be their core responsibility to provide and install meters to customers as well as repair, yet DisCos will still be held responsible and rightly so for closing the metering gap in the franchise areas on the account of how vigorous or otherwise they engage the MAP regime.
With the MAP framework, defective meters shall be repaired or replaced free-of-charge within two working days of being notified, unless the damage was caused by customer.
Where there is delay in repair or replacement of a faulty meter within the billing period, an average cost of the last three months’ vending shall be applied for the purpose of determining the customer’s energy consumption.
Where a customer relocates within the franchise area of a DisCo, the customer shall apply for transfer of services including his or her energy credit, if any. With the MAP regime, customers who elect to pay the meter service tariff in full upfront shall have their meter installed within 10 working days from payment date.
While we note that nearly every electricity consumer was metered in the analogue meter regime, metering gap became the nagging problem it is today with the migration to digital infrastructure due entirely to default of DisCos in making digital meters available.
Besides relieving DisCos to face squarely their core responsibility of power distribution, the new MAP regime will bring about increased local content, job creation and participation of more players in the electric power distribution value chain.
In our opinion, with CAPMI as a sad commentary, the Ministry of Power and NERC need not be reminded that Nigerian electricity consumers expect the new MAP regulation to have been fashioned in a manner that leaves no loose ends DisCos would exploit yet again to continue the profiteering and impunity with estimated billing.