The power sector regulator, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has reported that as at the end of the second quarter this year, meter supply shortfall in the sector rose to 58 percent, representing a marginal drop of 3.9 percent of the supply level in the preceding quarter.

The latest report by the Commission on the level of metering of consumers nationwide showed that out of the 8,135,730 registered electricity customers, only 3,434,003 (about 42 per cent) had been provided with meters as of the end of the first quarter of this year.

The regulator reported that the supply level in the quarter under review represented a mere 3.9 percent drop when compared with the supply level in the preceding quarter while registered electricity customers grew by 2.37 percent quarter-on-quarter.

The commission attributed the increase in the number of registered customers to the ongoing enumeration by the Discos, which had helped them to register some individual consumers who were previously consuming electricity through illegal connection to the networks.

It reported that three in every five registered electricity consumers were unmetered, with the Yola Disco having the lowest metering rate at 21 percent.

NERC stated: “Metering still remains a key challenge facing the industry,” NERC said, adding that only two Discos, Benin and Port Harcourt, had metered up to 50 per cent of their customers as of the end of the first quarter of this year.

“A major initiative towards improving revenue collection in the Nigerian electricity industry is the provision of meters to all end-use consumers of electricity,” the regulator added.

The regulator recalled that the Meter Asset Provider Regulations’ scheme was launched recently to enable third-party meter providers to work with the Discos in bridging the metering gap in the industry.

In addition, NERC pointed out that the MAP Regulations were introduced also to eliminate estimated billing practice, attract private investments into the provision of metering services, and close the metering gap through accelerated meter rollout.

According to the commission, “notwithstanding the growth in the registered customer population during the first quarter of 2018, the incremental meter deployment by Discos is significantly lower than the targeted quarterly metering stated in the performance agreement with the Bureau of Public Enterprises.”

It reported further that with the exception of Port Harcourt and Benin Discos, none of the remaining Discos had metered half of their registered customers.

The commission assured that it would continue to work relentlessly with the Discos to ensure total compliance with their respective metering targets as contained in their Performance Agreement with the BPE by enforcing the Meter Asset Provider Regulations.

It disclosed that in the first quarter, the power distributors received a total of 108,874 complaints from their customers and resolved a total of 72,846, representing 67 per cent of the complaints received, according to the report.

NERC reported further that during the quarter in review, customer complaints were typically on metering, estimated billing and service interruption, among others, adding that “metering and billing dominated the customer complaints, both accounting for 64,197 (i.e. 59 per cent) of the total complaints in the first quarter of 2018.”

It stated that out of the N171.1 billion billed customers in the quarter, only N106.6 billion was recovered, representing 62.3 per cent collection efficiency.

“Overall, the Discos’ collection efficiency remains abysmally poor, as just a little above the half of the revenue billed is recovered as at when due. The poor collection efficiency by the Discos has negatively impacted on the financial liquidity of the industry, which in turn, has led to reduced investment in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry,” the regulator added.

NERC noted that a major factor contributing to low collection efficiency “is customers’ dissatisfaction with estimated billing, which often resulted in unwillingness to pay.”

It also observed that financial illiquidity remained the most significant challenge affecting the industry’s sustainability, adding that this challenge is partly attributed to non-cost-reflective tariffs and high technical and commercial losses aggravated by consumers’ apathy to payment arising from estimated billing and poor quality of supply in most load centres.