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COLUMNIST, Echoes of Business

Turning The Screw 0n Discos

Posted: Jun 28, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Echoes of Business

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) recently made good its threat by turning the screw on one of the electricity distributing companies (Discos) which violated its regulatory guidelines and provisions on estimated billing regulation.

Using  the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC),as a scapegoat , NERC directed  it to with immediate effect,  commence the refund, through energy credit of all excess charges billed its customers as a direct consequence of the adjustments in estimated methodology in some of the company’s business units.

The Commission was specific of the breach. It accused AEDC of tripling its customers’ bills issued in September 2014 and issued it as bills for October 2014, without evidence of a commensurate increase in electricity supply within the same period.

To  ensure that the directive was not another ritual, NERC said: “AEDC is to within five days, notify the affected customers of the overbilling in writing in line with Regulation 9 (7) of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission’s Meter Reading, Billing, Cash Collections and Credit Management for Electricity Suppliers Regulation 2007”.

Not satisfied, the Commission added:  “AEDC is also expected to publish in a newspaper with wide circulation within its franchise area an apology to affected customers stating their business units and the amount of excess charges billed them during the period under review”.

Albeit, the NERC’s masterstroke appears tardy, in view of the rip-off millions of  electricity  consumers have suffered nationwide through estimated bills scourge, the action bears commendation. But, beyond that, there is the need for this battle to be extended to other fronts, i.e other Discos operating in different parts of the country which are milking hapless consumers dry with their spurious estimated bills. The Commission would be shocked to find out that the AEDC fleece pales off in the face of uncontainable cheat perpetrated in other discos.

To perpetuate their inordinate pursuit, the Discos have turned deaf ears to the issue of embracing the prepaid meters billing system . They stop at nothing to ensure that that scheme dies a natural dearth.  This defiance is coming in spite of the Federal Government’s directive that the discos should patronize local meter manufacturers. Report has it that local meters worth about N9.5 billion are lying waste in warehouses due  to lack of patronage.

However, even if the Discos are to make a U-turn, and embark on prepaid meters billing system, Nigerians may not have quality power supply they have been yearning for.  This is because one of the greatest hiccups militating against effective and efficient power delivery in the country has been the issue of inadequate power generation in the country. The Discos can only distribute what is allocated to them  from the national grid.

Two electricity generating firms in Lagos;  Ikeja Electricity Distributing Company (IKEDCO) and Eko Electricity Distributing Company (EKEDCO) recently cried out, saying that the significant drop in power allocated to them is having a telling effect on their ability to deliver  electricity  to consumers in their jurisdictions.

The two firms, IKEDCO and EKEDCO have seen their average power allocations from the national grid drop by more than 100 per cent to 350 megawatts and 250MW, respectively.

While EKEDCO can handle 700MW load, IKEDCO can take the minimum load demand of 1,250MW.

With the shortage of gas holding the country to ransom, one cannot but ask, what has become of the Nigeria Gas Company which was charged with the responsibility to deliver gas to the power producers. If the company does exist, how has it been faring in the Transitional Electricity Market (TEM) which was declared in February this year?

The Gas Supply Agreement (GSA)  under TEM, mandates the gas supplier to provide the agreed minimum amount and quality of gas to the power producers.

The agreement also mandates the power producers to pay for gas supplied, and provides for penalties for non-delivery of the required gas and non-payment for the gas delivered.

But all these may not take us to the promised land.

Perhaps, at the risk of being rhythmic, as it has been advocated in this column, it is high time Nigeria started to take the issue of alternative sources of power generation more seriously. It is that of renewal energy sources which has attracted global attention. Renewable energy  comes from natural resources such as; sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat.  These sources  are naturally replenished.