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NMMP’s delay pushes burden of metering on consumers

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
01 December 2021   |   3:33 am
Delay in the take-off of the second phase of the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) may continue to push the burden of electricity meters on consumers.

[files] Prepaid meters. PHOTO: Amos Kobor

Delay in the take-off of the second phase of the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) may continue to push the burden of electricity meters on consumers.

The Guardian yesterday, learnt that the distribution companies across the country already stopped providing free meters to consumers following a recent directive from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), which increased the price of the assets as well as the delay over the commencement of the second phase of the NMMP.

Some distribution companies, despite claiming that there’s currently no meter in their warehouses, confirmed to The Guardian that any consumer interested in getting a meter would have to bear the cost.

With loan facilities from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Federal Government had launched the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) to provide over four million meters as estimated billing encourages poor transparency, accountability and worsens tariff collection.

In the first phase, called phase (Phase 0), over one million meters were estimated to be deployed in about six months but the process was delayed as prevailing challenges crippled the roll-out of the assets. A year later, about 900,000 meters were reportedly provided.

The Guardian gathered that though the Federal Government had engaged stakeholders on the second phase, the next stage has yet to commence.

Earlier this month, NERC announced an upward review of the unit price of end-user meters under the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) and National Mass Metering Regulations.

The regulator approved the increase of single-phase meters from N44,896.17 to N58,661.69 and three-phase meters from N82,855.19 to N109,684.36.

NERC later said under NMMP, electricity consumers are not required to pay directly for the meters issued to them, adding that the next phase under which about four million units of meters would be procured from local meter manufacturers has commenced.

But the claim may only be on paper as multiple sources across the distribution companies insisted that end-users would need to pay for meters for now and not consumers would be reimbursed later.

Recall that MAP scheme has no provision for reimbursing consumers, the Credit Advanced Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI), which had such provision was scrapped over four years ago.

In 2013 when the power sector was privatised, the expectations were that the existing 8.4 million grid-connected customers in the country should not only be enjoying about 40, 000 megawatts of electricity but should have meters that ensure that their billing is transparent and fair.

This was part of the reasons why the Performance Agreement (PA) signed with the Distribution Companies (DisCos) included Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of progressive metering of consumers.

In KPIs, NERC, through the EPSRA Act of 2005 stated that power utility companies are charged with the responsibility of metering consumers. This was the basis for Sections 32 sub-section D, and Section 76 sub-section 2 of the Act, which aims to calculate tariffs to achieve the legislation on liberalisation.

According to NERC, Nigeria has a total of 8, 310, 408 registered active electricity customers. Since the power sector was privatised eight years ago with the present metering gap, the distribution companies, only metered 3, 704, 302 (44.6 per cent) of electricity customers, leaving out 55.4 per cent. Government said that additional 9000 meters were provided from last year to date.

On paper, the average deployment by the DisCos should be 1, 640, 411 metres per year (i.e. a quarterly average of 410,103), but only 157,173 (i.e. 38.3 per cent) metres were deployed during the third quarter of 2018.

While the Federal Government gave the impression that the second phase of the programme had started, a meter manufacturer, who pleaded not to be quoted, stated that the second phase of the NMMP is yet to commence, adding that engagements were held with stakeholders, including himself towards the commencement of the plan.

“To the best of my knowledge, it has not commenced. They said capacity verification was needed. We are still waiting for them to come for the verification. It is after that, that we expect the programme to commence,” he stated.