On NERC’s policy somersault

THE Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), two years ago, introduced a very laudable scheme called CAPMI, to help willing customers get energy meters installed for them and bridge the metering gap in the country. The scheme enabled customers to pay for energy meters, its accessories and installation, while the Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos), in-turn, paid customers back over a period of 24 months with interest.

The scheme also assisted the Discos that didn’t have the funds to execute a comprehensive roll out plans, thereby metering their numerous unmetered customers.

With the commencement of the scheme, some Discos leveraged on this to meter their customers, while others did not.

For those that did, they developed a process for the smooth running of the scheme — from payment by customers, to physical installation of the meters, to the payment plan to refund to customers, which was incorporated in the billing system.

Contractors approved by NERC were employed to supply and install meters for customers who paid.

The operations of the scheme led the Discos to employ more staff, while creating new department in implementing same.

While the scheme was being improved upon, and customers were taking advantage of it to get metered, thereby stopping the crazy estimated bills, the regulator, NERC, suddenly instructed the Discos to wind it down for no justifiable reason.

This action by the regulator is denying hundreds of willing customers who want to get their houses or business places metered under the scheme that opportunity.

As a result, this has further widened the metering gap being experienced now.

Also, various contractors who had made huge investments in various types of energy meters, meters ware houses, logistics and meter installation personnel’s training, might lose their investments, while trained meter installation personnel will lose their jobs

In addition, the Discos using the scheme to bridge their metering gap may not be able to continue as they lack the needed funding to embark on a meter roll out plan for their numerous customers.

The Discos had equally made investment on the vending system for the pre-payment and billing system for Maximum Demand Customers to automatically generate the repayment to customers who have advanced the Discos’ money to buy energy meters. The vending and billing systems need to be modified at a cost. More so, in-house staff who had been trained and employed to run the scheme may become redundant.

Furthermore, the regulator did not provide an alternative to the CAPMI scheme, neither did it have the dexterity to sanction Discos that did not participate in it before its winding down.

Also, the regulator is confused about how to successfully run the scheme to achieve its goals.

The issue of prices for the various meters under the scheme is no longer realistic because of the current high exchange rate of $1 to N420.

Again, there were cases of delay in the supply and installation of meters beyond the stipulated period for customers who had paid, but this was not beyond the regulator to handle.

These impediments were not enough to wind down the scheme, as the few Discos that embraced it had substantially reduced the metering gap and assisted willing customers to get metered.

The cases of estimated crazy billings was also reduced, while contractors provided jobs for technicians in the sector.

The regulator should, therefore, look into how all the impediments identified during the scheme can be removed and the programme sustained.

  • Babatope