Nigerians to pay new electricity meter charge

A new regulation approved by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission now permits electricity distribution companies to collect service charge from all metered customers under the newly-introduced Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) scheme.

The MAP initiative will allow meters to be provided by third parties, as electricity companies find it difficult to meter all customers.

Only customers under the MAP category will pay the new charge, which will go to fund the cost of the new meters.

NERC officials familiar with the new arrangement told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday the service charge was different from the fixed charge abolished in December 2015 by the electricity sector regulator.

Fixed charge is a component of the electricity tariff consumers pay every month, separate from the cost the consumer pays for the volume of electricity actually consumed.

The official, who requested that his name should not be revealed, as he was not authorised to speak officially on the issue, said the new service charge to be paid monthly by the meter user would be broken into two.

“Those who would be metered under the MAP scheme would have their electricity tariffs broken into two every month – energy charge and meter service charge. While one is the cost of the electricity consumed during the month, the other is the cost of meter maintenance,” he explained.

When compared with the often criticised estimated billing arrangement, the official said the new charge will be better, as the previous system was susceptible to exploitation and extortion of consumers by the distribution companies.

He said the only challenge NERC is facing is its capacity to effectively monitor compliance, to ensure the DISCOs do not extend the charge to other categories of consumers outside those they metered, or continue to charge customers beyond the ten year lifespan of the meters.

The new regulation announced last week would be implemented by a new class of operators in the power sector, the Meter Asset Providers (MAPs), unveiled by NERC.

The MAPs have been granted a 15-year operational license by the Federal Government along with a 30 per cent local content mandate to enable them produce more electricity meters within the next four months, starting from July 2018.

With the commencement of the present arrangement, those familiar with the sector said at least 30 per cent of all meters deployed in the country would be procured from local manufacturers and assemblers.

As the regulation progresses, he said the need to use local providers would be increased in line with the NERC local content regulation.

The provisions of the MAP Regulations 2018 to regulate the activities of the new operators would come into full effect by April 3, 2018.

The NERC Commissioner for Legal, Licensing & Compliance, Dafe Akpeneye, said going forward, MAPs would take up the responsibility of supplying electricity meters to customers, among other functions.

To provide standard rules for the development of independent and competitive meter services, Mr. Akpeneye said the Commission granted licenses to 87 MAPs to supply prepaid meters to consumers.

Apart from the introduction of MAPS to join the DISCOs in providing electricity meters to consumers, PREMIUM TIMES learnt the new law would also bar the distribution companies from acquiring, owning and managing equity shareholdings in any of the MAPS firms.

“No official should hold directorship or senior management positions in MAP,” the new regulation stated.

The directive also affects the owners of the DISCOs, who are the core investors, subsidiaries, directors and affiliates from also taking up shares in the new firms.

NERC said the new operators would support the 11 DISCOs to speed up the process of supplying electricity meters and their installations to customers.

“MAPs would not only provide meters, they would also ensure those meters are maintained and replaced within 48 hours if anything goes wrong with them”, he said.

Apart from the option of self-financing, the Commissioner said consumers would be able to obtain meters from MAPs under a payment plan that allows a metering service charge spread over a period of 10 years.

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Bassey Udo is PREMIUM TIMES’ Business & Economy Editor. He has covered finance, energy, oil, gas & extractive industries for over a decade. He is a winner of the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation (Wealth of Nations) Award for Business Reporting. Bassey is an alumnus of the U.S. International Visitors Leadership Programme. Twitter: @ba_udo

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