During a public hearing on the activities of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), and distribution companies (DISCOs), Sam Amadi, the outgoing Chairman of the commission revealed that the country needs 6,000 megawatts (mw) of electricity before power outages can be significantly reduced .Amadi also said that 55 percent of consumers remain un-metered. He attributed this to legacy issues, that have resulted in consumers being charged through estimated billing. He disclosed that cloning and bypassing of meters remain a major challenge particularly in some parts of the country and this results in loss of revenue for DISCOs.
Responding to reports that the regulatory body is soft on DISCOs for infractions and inefficiencies particularly in metering, Amadi agreed, but however noted that the agency is not quick to wield the big stick in order to build investor confidence in the sector. He also attributed it to the fact that the DISCOs are still experiencing several challenges. Saying “It is in the interest of consumers that we help DISCOs and generating companies to survive, but from the beginning of this year, we have been penalizing. Recently, we asked Abuja DISCO to pay N18 million to the family of a child who was electrocuted, and they did that”, he said.
Amadi added that the Abuja DISCO was also mandated to compensate 32,000 consumers with about N50 million due to over-billing. He explained further that the DISCOs are experiencing several challenges. “You talk about tariff, but what about gas? The telecommunications industry has the advantage of technological innovations. Electricity is a conservative technology, we cannot do without gas, even if we build solar everywhere,” adding that the discos have to deal with weak infrastructure.
Mark Karst, managing director, Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), said the company is targeting 20,000mw of electricity by 2020 and would need $1 billion annually to achieve the target. He noted that the money required is a huge sum. Karst put the current power generation at 4,800mw, with potential for 5,400mw and 6,000mw in a very short time if certain adjustments are made. He disclosed that the tariff application of TCN with NERC has been pending since the middle of 2014. the “Transitional electricity market declared in February 2015 has not been effective,” he also, added that the power sector remains a difficult field to navigate for all players involved.
Lawmakers had raised several challenges that consumers continue to experience, such as mass disconnection, paying for transformers, cables and even labour to get electricity and exploitation through estimated billing.