The management of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (Ikeja Electric) has stated that it invested about N11billion on network expansion projects within the zone in the last three years, while stressing that elimination of billing based on estimation is unrealistic in the short run.
Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on the challenges militating against stable power supply post privatization, the Managing Director, Ikeja Electric, Mr. Anthony Youdeowei, stated that funding is one of the main challenges due to the fact that gas is priced based on international gas pricing denominated in dollars.
He said in the last three years, the company has invested about N10.6 to N11billion on customer enumeration, metering of distribution transformers, asset mapping and advance metering infrastructure (AMI).
He argued that estimated billing will persist for now until all customers are metered. According to him, “it is my interest to meter all my customers. But it wasn’t easy because had it been it is easy, old NEPA would have metered all customers in the past. But that didn’t happen. We have been focusing on metering the trading point. Most of our distribution transformers are metered.
“In a community with 25 households out of which 10 have meters. The 15 do not have. The reality is that the people who don’t have meters are more than 15 households. There are around 30 other households still consuming what is meant for the 25 people. Because I don’t know them, we will distribute the charges to the people who don’t have meters that we know. This is where estimated billing came into effect.
“So if all the consumers are identified, even if they are not metered, what they get eventually will be small. So we are focusing on the metering points and counting the people within our network. I’m happy that people are now saying the quantity of the estimated billing is coming down. This is because we know that we cannot meter people at the rate that people expected. We cannot just afford it and until all customers are metered, estimated billing will persist.”
He also stated that the military and government agencies including government ministries and agencies are owing the company N6billion.
Besides, the Chief Finance Officer (CFO), Mr. Aigbe Olotu, argued that “status quo metering which is trading point metering, consumer metering, advance metering infrastructure (ami) metering, asset mapping, and all the consumer meters including replacement of vandalized equipment gulped about N11 billion.”
On specific amount that was spent to replace vandalised equipment, he posited that “It is difficult to estimate what has been spent on replacement of vandalized equipment. What vandalism does is that it increases cost of maintenance and replacement; 50 per cent of what we spent is on replacement of vandalized equipment. If my total maintenance gulped N6-N7billion in the last three years, half of it went to replace what has been vandalised.”
Furthermore, Olotu said metering exercise doesn’t end because “as you are covering that gap, new communities are developing. Overtime, estimated billing will be decreasing until you get to a point where only new structures will be estimated for the period they are awaiting metering because the law actually says nobody should be connected to the grid until it is metered. Going forward, no new estate will be connected without a meter. The commitment by the investors is to meter all backlog within five years.”