25 June 2012 – Almost 55% of electricity customers in Nigeria are not metered or don’t have a functional meter and are at the mercy of estimated billing, according to new study from the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC).
This means that just 8.4% of the total number of households in the country is being billed correctly. The survey was conducted in the wake of growing customer dissatisfaction with the practice of estimated billing. It found that of the almost 5.2 million registered customers, almost 2.9 million (56%) were metered. However, of these about 22% of the meters were faulty, leaving just 2.2 million customers being billed on metered data.
According to the survey report the distribution companies proffered inadequate funding as the reason for non-deployment or late deployment of meters. However, the survey committee considers this untenable as it was observed that the distribution companies had meters in stock but had failed and/or refused to supply and install them. Instead the CEOs are responsible for the inefficiency and unaccountability that permeate the system.
“Sharp practices and inefficiencies are the hallmarks of the metering system, from ageing power plants and terrible transmission lines to more importantly, rampant corruption and poor collection rates,” the survey report states.
Further, “Lack of autonomy and government interference and absence of competent local meter manufacturers are also critical elements that account for the huge metering gap in the country.”
In the light of the report findings and its recommendations, NERC chairman Dr Sam Amadi has been quoted as saying that the distribution companies have committed to distribute metering facilities to all customers within the next 18 months. They are required to submit their metering plans to the Commission for assessment.
The NERC has also developed a proposed methodology for estimated billing to standardise the method used by the distribution companies for this practice. Under the methodology the categories of customers that may be issued estimated billing are new customers who have yet to be issued a meter, customers with faulty meters, and customers whose meters could not be read due to inaccessibility.
The methodology also proposes that new customers should have a meter installed within three months of application, and that faulty meters should be repaired or replaced before the end of the billing cycle within which the complaint was made.