12 November 2015, Lagos – The Managing Director, Ikeja Electric, Mr. Abiodun Ajifowobaje, in a chat with reporters, speaks on the state of the company’s network, inadequate power supply from the national grid and efforts at metering customers as well as other issues in the power sector.
On taking over the company on November 1, 2013, you complained of low supply from the national grid. How much are you getting now and what do you need to service your customers?
When we took over in November, 2013, power allocation to Ikeja was between 300 megawatts (Mw) and 320Mw. At a stage, it went to as low as 200Mw, and due to power supply crisis early in the year, at a time we got zero megawatt. Following improved power generation, especially driven by the progress recorded at Egbin Power which generates 1100Mw, we have in the last few months seen improved allocation to Ikeja, of between 450Mw and 500Mw. This has translated to more power supply to our customers.
However, there is still a shortfall as we require 1,250Mw of power for customers within our network. Since the takeover, we have, among other strategic initiatives, continued to upgrade our network for seamless and equitable distribution of the power that we get. We have also localised cases where we have witnessed issues with transformers and feeders. We are responding to these issues whilst implementing a holistic overhaul programme that would reposition Ikeja Electric for optimal performance at all times and across our network. We have made significant progress in this regard and remained committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that our esteemed customers are serviced excellently, efficiently and sustainably.
When the new management took over, promises were made to replace bad transformers and upgrade assets, how far have you gone in fulfilling the promises?
We are replacing bad transformers and upgrading our assets. Between January and June this year, we have replaced 96 defective transformers and have carried out major repairs on feeders and other installations. The upgrade is a continuous process that will ultimately ensure stability and efficiency within the network. There is one aspect of asset that we consider as the most crucial. That is, our people. We have since the takeover continued to invest in our people through local and foreign training programmes designed for all categories of staff. We are confident to state that our people are among the leading professionals in the power sector and we have a seamless succession plan for the future through our Graduate Engineering Programme (GEP). We believe that all of our human capital investments will culminate in the best possible service for our customers.
What is the update on your metering scheme?
We have rolled out our Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) scheme. We projected that we would, on a monthly basis, install 12,000 meters. As soon as our contractors mobilise more teams, we will be hitting 15,000 meter installation per month. After our 2,000 meter installation pilot scheme, we have installed another 8,500. We need less than 2,000 units to hit the target, and this will be achieved by the end of this month. We had earlier said we would install 10,000 meters in October. The programme is very much on course and we are confident that we will realise our target of deploying 300,000 smart meters to our customers.
What caused the delay in your metering scheme?
We wanted to install meters that are smart, reliable, secure and futuristic. This is in line with our customer-centric approach of ensuring service excellence in all our operations. Prior to the ongoing deployment, we had to embark on a thorough review of the project to ensure that the solution we adopt is one that will resonate with global best practice. We went through a lot of painstaking attention to details and stakeholder engagements to arrive at the meters we are currently installing. These smart meters that will be installed at residential and business locations can be monitored remotely from our office. A customer can also monitor how he/she progresses on a daily basis using the meter. For instance, if a customer intends to spend just N10,000 on a monthly basis, that could be achieved. What we have now is secure, tamper-proof and puts the power of conservation and management of usage in the hands of our customers.
Have you put any programme in place to meter customers on your network?
We have drawn our timetable on how we will cover our customers. In the first instance, we will meter 300,000 customers. But there is no way we can bring in the 300,000 meters for installation in one month. There are some we will install now, and it will continue until December 2016. The holistic timetable for the installation will be strictly adhered to as it was informed by parameters that are vital to the overall success of the project. In addition to the AMI project, our Board has just approved the implementation of Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) scheme to boost the process of metering. The fact still remains that the meters are free–whether through CAPMI or the AMI scheme. If customers pay for meter under CAPMI, Ikeja Electric will refund such monies over time. The procedure, through which our customers can leverage our CAPMI scheme, will be made public soon. The meters will help us effectively monitor and manage customer consumption as well as minimise losses.
Secondly, our Customer Enumeration, Technical Audit and Asset Mapping (CETAAM) initiative is targeted at making every consumer of power within our network, our customer indeed. This initiative has kicked-off fully and we are going from house to house. The plan is to ensure that customers are adequately captured on our database. This will ultimately lead to enhanced service delivery and more efficiency in billing. This aspect of the initiative is the technical audit. All the power assets from transformer, cables, poles, and so on, used for our operations will be captured using our technology. In the long-run, immediately we identify a customer, we can map the customer to a transformer; map the transformer to a feeder; among others.
The data is needed to manage the system effectively. We expect that this project will be concluded in the next seven to 10 months. A combination of the metering scheme and the CETAAM initiative is certain to produce seamless service within the Ikeja Electric network. In fact, by-passing of our meters and other acts of sabotage will ultimately be checked. By the time we finish CETAAM, we will be able to identify all the weak technical points on our network and plan on how to do network expansion and maintenance. Of course, this will assist us to do good management and balancing.
Electricity tariffs are expected to rise this year, according to NERC. What is Ikeja Electric’s position in this regard?
Our 10-year tariff schedule went through the regulator’s process. The truth is that whatever is realised from the tariff is used to fund the entire value chain of the power industry – generation, transmission, NERC (Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission), and others. When we say tariff must be cost-reflective, we mean it must pay for everything along the value chain. If the tariff is cost-reflective, the only thing that distribution companies keep is less than 20 per cent of the entire money made. NERC brought out a guideline, and part of the guideline is that we meet our customers and agree on pricing terms. We had to do public consultation with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) as well as other stakeholders and consumers.
After that, we made our initial presentation to NERC. The regulator looked at it and referred us to the customers again to tell them what the new tariff would be after all cost parameters have been considered. We have made that input, and have submitted our tariff plan to NERC, waiting for its final approval. NERC had admitted that there is no way tariff review would be done without having a form of increase. The sector needs a tariff that will support the entire value chain of the power sector for efficiency and sustainability. We expect that the resultant cost-reflective tariff will help reposition the sector for improved service delivery. We would like to use this medium to appeal for the support and cooperation of our esteemed customers in this regard.
What is your company doing to check the spate of vandalism of power equipment in your network?
It is unfortunate that there are individuals out there whose activities have been detrimental to the progress of our projects in Ikeja Electric. In fact, there are certain consumers, who through illegal connections steal energy from the system. These people commonly referred to as “energy thieves” abound across the network and need to be checked through collaborative efforts that needs the support of well-meaning Ikeja Electric customers. The actions of these people led to disruptions within the system and also affected the process of effective billing. We appeal to our esteemed customers to help identify such people to ensure sanity and efficiency in the system. In our efforts to check this problem, we have been carrying along communities at various levels through continuing engagements. We have established collaborative initiatives with virtually all the security agencies and in fact, we have a working relationship with the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Before, we could have as high as five cases of vandalism in a month; but now, following our collaborative initiatives, the cases have been drastically reduced. The process of identifying and prosecuting the energy thieves is one that requires the support of all customers within the network. Currently, over 10 people have been arrested for illegal connections and they will be prosecuted. There are still many more out there that need to be stopped. We urge customers to report any case of illegal connections to the nearest Ikeja Electric office. Let me also stress that customers should also report cases of extortion in any guise from people purporting to be our staff or members of staff. In Ikeja Electric we have zero tolerance for any form of unprofessional act by our staff. We are building a team of people, who are ethical and professional. That is the new Ikeja Electric, new spirit, new drive and new energy.
- Emeka Ugwuanyi, The Nation