NERC moves to strengthen electricity consumers’ rights

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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) yesterday took a major step to strengthen electricity consumers’ rights in the country, as it began moves to set up what is to be known as Nigerian Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network (NECAN).

The Network is expected to emerge as a focused consumers’ advocacy group in the industry and expected to draw membership from resident associations, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), National Association of Small Scale Industries (NASSI), business, artisanal and professional groups as well as non-governmental organisations.

It is also expected to provide a structured platform for better engagement with electricity consumers, as well as enhance the bargaining power of consumers. NERC said that it would first midwife the NECAN to allow it gain some level of bargaining advantages in the sector.

The commission blamed the deficit of consumer voice and power on the fragmented nature of individual consumers and consumer groups, stressing that their levels of engagement were too superficial to make the desired impact in the sector. NERC is to redefine the way electricity consumers are engaged in the sector with the advocacy network.

At a meeting between commission and consumer advocacy groups in Abuja yesterday, NERC Chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi, stressed that undue operators’ advantages also undermine transparent and accountable processes which define a fairly regulated electricity market.

Such overbearing influences, he noted, would be cut down by introducing and sustaining democratic processes and models in the way decision and choices are arrived at by operators and consumers in the sector, hence the network. He said: “We have institutionalised anti-corruption practices and procedures to inoculate NERC against regulatory capture, but in spite of our noble intent and progressive actions, outcomes are still not fair to consumers.

Until consumers are organised and therefore able to contend against operators, the democracy bargain in the Nigerian electricity market will remain deficient.

“To cure this deficit, we are proposing the establishment of consumer advocacy organisation that can easily build technical and political capability to effectively contend against other organised interests in the electricity market.

This organised consumer advocacy is not just focusing on challenges in tariff setting and such other commercial activities like metering and billing.

It should also step up as a major contributor to the big debates about building smart grid, clean energy, privatisation and modernisation of the electricity grid.

It should also be involved in the debate about the constitutional framework for energy policy in Nigeria.” The NERC boss, who noted that consumers are critical agents in the emerging electricity industry, said: “Either as consumers per se or as pro-consumers who could sell self-generated electricity to the grid, the consumer needs to be more engaged and more eloquent in the deliberation about the future of electricity in Nigeria.

There is a strong case to incorporate the consumers as part of the decision makers in the electricity market. This is the reason we are proposing the set-up of NECAN. The fact is that consumer voice is under-represented in the electricity in the emergent electricity market.”



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