30 June 2015, Abuja – The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on Tuesday disclosed that it will likely excuse electricity consumers who have not been metered by their distribution networks from paying electricity rates soon.
NERC stated in Abuja that its intention to exempt unmetered customers from paying electricity rates was due to alleged reluctance of distribution companies (discos) to fully carry out their metering plans but prefer to continue with estimated charges as currently obtained in the sector.
It explained that the new proposal would follow its recent decision to cap the maximum charges that an electricity distribution company can levy on its unmetered customers within its approved estimated billing methodology.
Chairman of NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi told reporters at a briefing that the Commission had after a recent regulatory meeting, decided to employ these means in pushing the Discos to engage in widespread metering of electricity consumers in their networks.
Amadi however explained that the new proposal will be subjected to democratic reviews by industry operators after which a 16 months grace period will be granted to the Discos to exercise their full metering plans or lose revenues from consumers who they fail to meter by virtue of their exemption from paying for electricity consumed.
He said that the initiative was a self-policing approach to getting the Discos undertake their obligations as part of the terms and conditions of their distribution licenses.
Amadi noted that it was not aimed at hurting stakeholders in the sector, but to get every player in the electricity industry to be active to their responsibilities.
He said: “There are three-prong approach to this; one is that there is a moratorium between now and the next four months for the capping of estimated revenue to start.
Two is that the capping means that within that period of four months, you must have metered all your Credit Advance Program for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) customers and as many of them as you can.”
“After four months, you have extra an 12 months within which to meter all customers who are in your network.
After the 12 months and four months which is 16 months, every unmetered customer will no longer pay electricity bills until they are metered,” Amadi added.
He explained: “This proposal is to be sent to the Discos for their final comments and opinions. Don’t forget we had a first public hearing on this and we will still call a last consultation after we send to the discos.
“We have taken an extra safeguard to have two public consultations on this because we consider it an important regulation that customers and operators will have a lot to think about.”
NERC said that in its fair regulations of the sector, it had initiated measures to encourage Discos to provide meters to their customers but that the Discos have often sidestepped these initiatives and instead continued with practices that are unsustainable.
“The situation has not improved as there is still abysmally low level of metering in the NESI. As at today, over 50 per cent of all the registered customers are either unmetered or have non-functional meters,” Amadi said.
He added that customers continue to contest arbitrary bills, thus resulting to revenue loss for the sector.
But notwithstanding the proposal, NERC has also asked Discos to severely punish customers who are found guilty of stealing electricity and shortchanging the sector of revenue.
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– This Day