By Sopuruchi Onwuka
More confusion greets the public over consumers’ role in the procurement of electricity meters as the expectation that government would compel the distribution companies to mandatorily meter their customers accurately may have been dashed.
Instead, the customers of the distribution companies would now bear the cost of the meters with which their consumption and subsequent bills would be determined.
Ministry of Power which presided over stakeholders meeting on metering and billing disputes in the electric power sector weekend directed the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to restore previous regulations that absolves electricity distribution companies from mandatory provision of meters.
The ministry approved marketers’ demand that consumers be provided the option to purchase meters from approved sources under the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) in line with prevailing regulation initiated by NERC in 2013 allowing consumers to participate in meter procurement as a way out of the highly decried estimated billing.
The regulator had in response to consumer complaints directed the 11 electricity distribution companies in the country to end CAPMI by last quarter of last year after it was discovered that the companies were not willing to deploy meters for participating customers.
However, there has been no improvement in the metering process in the power sector as both introduction and withdrawal of CAPMI failed to address billing dispute in the system.
Thus, government resolved that NERC should reinstate CAPMI to enable electricity consumers help themselves out of estimated billing which is pointed at as the key source of dispute between customers and electricity power supply service providers.
The new policy directive puts on hold a new regulation that seeks to enforce mandatory provision of meters as basis for billing electricity consumers in the country.
According to a statement from the ministry, government directed “NERC to reinstate regulations permitting willing customers to purchase meters from approved meter vendors as approved by the distribution companies and the Nigeria Electricity Management Services Agency with a framework to reimburse such customers in cash, or energy.”
The directive however demands that NERC issues a regulation that requires third parties to be certified by NEMSA and approved by the Discos based on available metering standards.
Government also directed NERC to embark on aggressive multi-platform public awareness programme that would reach as many customers as possible and explain all policies and regulations and obligations related to metering.
It directed NERC to enforce on the Discos the policy directive that any unmetered customer was obligated to pay only the last undisputed bill, adding that if the customer remained unmetered, the last undisputed bill should be discounted by 15 per cent in each subsequent year that the customer remained unmetered provided that the failure to meter the customer was the fault of the Disco.
Government also directed NERC to provide mini-grid opportunity for investors interested in areas where distribution infrastructure is absent, including states and local governments.