The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission says it would not change its policy of restricting approval of importation of electricity meters in the country.
The Chairman of the Commission, Sam Amadi, said although the government has not banned the importation of electricity meters, approval for such meters would only be given to distribution companies where there was sufficient evidence that local manufacturers lacked the capacity to supply them.
“The leadership of NERC is strongly committed to promoting local content, because we want the growth in electricity sector to contribute to the improvement in job creation and household income as well as growth in the country’s economy,” Mr. Amadi said.
The decision in 2012 by the Commission to make local content obligatory for every operator in the Nigerian electricity market, the Chairman explained, was to ensure the continuous localization of employment, services and technology.
He said the imposition of restriction on certification of meter importation was to demonstrate NERC’s commitment to the local content obligation in metering of customers and the provision of other services in the industry.
“NERC demands that every electricity meter importer must produce proof that the distribution company that gives it supply order cannot source such number of meters from local manufacturers.
“In other words, as long as there is available supply from local manufacturers to meet demand by distribution companies, NERC will not approve importation of meters,” Mr Amadi said.
He said the clarification became necessary following recent complaints by local meter manufacturers about low patronage by the DISCOs, most of whom they accused of patronizing their foreign counterparts to the neglect of local industry.
Mr. Amadi said the restriction would remain despite several pending applications from meters importers, including Chinese firms, requesting interim licenses for six months to enable them establish meter manufacturing plants in Nigeria.
“Any distribution company interested in importing meters to meet its demand for reasons of price or technical competence, etc., must provide justification to the Commission in writing, to enable it reach a decision on each case,” the Chairman insisted.
Meanwhile, he said a committee has been set up to review allegations by some local meter manufacturers that DISCOs violated the local content policy by installing imported meters in place of locally manufactured ones.
The committee, he explained, was mandated to review the local content framework to authenticate the allegations, warning that NERC would issue stiff sanctions against any operator found to have violated the regulations on metering and local content.
On smart meters regulation, the Chairman said NERC has already received the draft document, pending public consultation to enable operators and the general public review and make their inputs towards the final approval by the Commission.
When approved, he said the regulation would provide framework for deployment of smart meters to protect the revenues of the DISCOs and help customers better manage their electricity consumption.
The regulation, he said, would equally provide a supporting framework for smart metering in the Nigerian electricity market, particularly to help DISCOs overcome metering cloning and other forms of frauds.
While drawing attention to the growing incidence of “criminal acts of stealing power”, Mr. Amadi warned electricity consumers to desist from such practices; as such sabotage at the retail level was responsible for the high commercial losses resulting in increased tariff for customers.
On capping of electricity bills estimation by DISCOs, the Chairman said the market has continued to suffer high revenue losses as a result of customers refusing to pay arbitrary bills, adding the resort to outright power theft has been traced to the issuance of “crazy bills” by operators.
To address the problem as a result of metering gap in the system, Mr. Amadi was considering an 18-month phased metering plan with the introduction of the Credited Advance Programme for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) to resolve the funding challenges involved.
Despite customers willingness to make advance payments for meters, he lamented that the CAPMI scheme has struggled, as a result of some DISCOs who would either not provide meters to those who paid, or failed to adjust their software to make the mandatory refunds, six months after installation.
As an incentive to make the scheme work, he said NERC has proposed a cap (limit) on the DISCO’s ability to arbitrarily estimate unmetered consumers within four months to provide the customer with meter.
“After four months before capping starts, the DISCOs would have additional 12 months to meter every customer, after which the customer who does not get metered, would be excluded from paying bills at all,” he explained.