NO fewer than 30.08 million consumers were recorded to have suffered from estimated electricity billing in Nigeria between 2015 and 2020.
This is according to a report on five-year data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics. The report is titled, ‘Electricity Report’ for the month of June 2022.
The report, which provides statistics on electricity consumption from 2015 to 2020, focuses on customer numbers, metered customers, estimated billing customers and electricity supply, as well as revenue collected under the reviewed period.
The report revealed that in 2015, 3.85m consumers were still on estimated billing, while 4.19m were unmetered in 2016. In 2017, 4.37m consumers were placed on estimated billing, while 5.05m consumers remained unmetered in 2018. In 2019 and 2020, the consumer figures that were unmetered were 5.76m and 6.86m respectively.
In February 2020, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) issued an order capping estimated billings in the Nigerian electricity supply industry (NESI).
This, the NERC stated, was to protect unmetered R2 (residential single and three-phase meters who consume more than 50kwh per month) and C1 (commercial single and three-phase meters) customers from arbitrary billing.
The Executive Vice-Chairman, Federal Competition Consumer and Protection Commission (FCCPC), Babatunde Irukera, explained in an interview that metering issues could be addressed by making estimated billing unattractive to distribution companies (DisCos)
Irukera said, “We have to make estimated billing unattractive. It is when it is unattractive that the Discos will rush to meet everybody. But to the extent that they can make more money from estimated billing than metering, what’s the incentive to meter everybody?
“And so, is it by enforcing the estimated billing cap? That will be, I believe, the game-changer, which we’re working on with the NERC to see how we can support that enforcement procedure more.”
According to online reports gathered by this paper, the NERC in the third quarter of last year stated that 62.67 per cent of electricity consumers in the country were still on estimated billing, as the commission’s Key Operational and Financial Data of the NESI for January 2019 to September 2021 showed that of the 12,784,685 registered energy customers by September 2021, only 4, 772,906 (37.33 per cent) had been metered.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had, in 2019, sponsored a bill that sought to criminalise estimated billing of electricity consumers by distribution companies.
The Managing Director, Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC), Dr Tinuade Sanda, in a recent mobile metering exercise, advised its customers to own prepaid meters.
“As much as we have made our estimated billing process to be as accurate as possible, it pales when compared to owning a prepaid meter,” Sanda said.