By Obas Esiedesa
Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) on Tuesday began a mass metering programme that would have 900,000 electricity meters installed in the next 18 months.
The programme which will cost about N23 billion would ensure that all customers in its franchise area are provided with meters.
AEDC CEO, Dr. Ernest Mupwaya who flagged-off the programme at Gaduwa Estate, Apo, Abuja, disclosed that the first phase of the programme which will run till December, 2021 will see 101,000 meters installed at the cost of N6 billion.
According to him, providing meters to consumers would boost revenue for the sector as well as ensuring that consumers only pay for electricity they consume.
He explains further: “The significance of this program is that it has been designed with sufficient resources to meter all customers. The Federal Government of Nigeria who has 40% shareholding, have sourced sufficient funding to support discos through a low interest shareholder loan that will make it possible for Discos to receive sufficient meters to close the metering gap for good.
“Over the years, the company has embarked on various metering initiatives such as CAPMI and MAP. These programs have achieved some successes that resulted metering of over 300,000 customers.
“Currently, with the flag-off of this National Free Mass Program, AEDC will receive a total of 900,000 meters, at the cost of N23 billion which will be sufficient to meter all customers including replacement of defective meters. Between now and December 2021 AEDC has planned to install over 101,000 meters at a cost of N6 billion naira without charging customers.
“The rest of the meters will be installed 18 months after, through a comprehensive role out program that will result in simultaneous installations in all three states of Niger, Kogi and Nassarawa in addition to FCT”.
He stressed that the “metering of customers have a huge positive implication not only to the electricity industry but to the entire economy in a number of ways.
“Firstly, massive metering will create jobs through installation and inspections of meters after installations.
“Secondly, other jobs will be created in meter manufacturing, logistics and supply chains associated with making meters available in Nigeria.
“Thirdly, massive metering will improve the transparency in electricity transaction which will result in increased revenues that can be channeled into service improvement”.
Dr. Mupwaya noted that “improved services will support improved economic activities that will impact both informal and formal sectors. This will lead to electricity industry transformation along with numerous spillover effect to the economy”.
He appealed to customers to accept the meters and “resist any attempt by unscrupulous people who may approach them, with an offer to compromise the meters.
“The regulator NERC has put in place punitive penalties for those caught bypassing the meter to the extent that the fines override the perceived benefit apart from damaging the good working relationship with the discos.
“Energy theft also diverts resources which are meant to improve the service being provided. We believe that we can work together in ensuring that the metering challenge is brought to permanent end as we face a new dawn”.
He, however, acknowledge that the majority of AEDC customers are law abiding citizens “and they have been supporting us through the difficulties associated with transactions through estimated billing. I pay tribute to our customers as we cut the corner and face a new dawn in electricity transformation”.
Also speaking at the event, former Director General of Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, Dr. Tom Agana called for cooperation amongst the operators of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) to ensure improved services to consumers.
He urged the operators to ensure that tariffs are moderate, saying that would reduce the temptation on customers to by-pass meters.
On their part, the Secretary General of National Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria, Uket Obonga and National President of the Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Olubiyo praised AEDC for driving consumer centric policy.
Mr. Obonga expressed happiness at the plan by the utility to meter all customers in 18 months, saying electricity business is a lucrative if the necessary infrastructures are put in place.
He said the provision of meters is key to boosting revenue in the sector, noting that estimated billing doesn’t lead to energy accountability.