• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Re: NERC admits failure of electricity metering scheme


I write quite regularly to Sam Amadi or send him copies of most of my comments on the power situation. The last time I tried to speak to him on the phone, he just cut me off immediately I introduced myself.

A reader, a young woman barely out of the university, recently asked for my “view on the N213 billion given to DISCOs by the government to purchase meters”. What follows is derived essentially from my response to her.

I must reveal at this point that the opinion I offered was the gist of what I had up my sleeves in my last invitation to Amadi asking him to humbly ask for help. He was not forthcoming. Well, here is it. Free as usual.

Do we all need to have meters?
In South Africa and some other places, consumers at the very low end do not get issued a meter, but an electrical current limiting switch, say, a 5Amp tripper. Using location and neighbourhood-based scientific observations of power usage pattern, a consumption is deduced.

This is then de-rated to accommodate actual average availability (%) in the billing period month, quarter, etc). If power availability remains on the high side, no consumer will have the incentive to dispute the flat rate bill he gets. This is actually an estimated billing system with some scientific and mathematical basis behind it. What our people complain about, and rightly too, is the very popular arbitrary crazy billing which has strangely found its way into our lexicon.

If there is a general fall in percentage availability in a distribution area, then NERC should be in a position to wield the big stick and force the defaulting DISCO to immediately rebate the relevant fraction of the monthly flat rate bill to all the customers on that platform. Leaving the individual poor hapless customer in this category to personally take up the challenge of getting justice from the DISCOs is tantamount to abdication on the part of the regulator. This should not be allowed to continue.

It will be quite interesting to compute the savings in labour in these difficult neighbourhoods when you eliminate the vast teams that parade there ostensibly to read often non-existent meters. These marketers, as they are called, corrupt the masses and/or open themselves to corruption.

Note that the latest promise made by NERC about a month ago, to ensure that everybody gets a meter in under two months is foolish, to say the least. It is simply not possible, not even in six months. We must provide an alternative means of addressing the supply gap. Putting on our thinking caps seems like the right place to start.

Oduche Azih
[email protected]