‘Increase in electricity tariff crucial to power sector’s growth’
Barely two years after the privatisation of the power sector, the operators, regulator and electricity consumers are still at a crossroads on the actual solution to the prevailing challenges. In this interview with SULAIMON SALAU, the Managing Director, Ikeja Electric, Abiodun Ajifowobaje, spoke on salient issues affecting the electricity value chain and proffers solutions. Excerpts
Your customers have continued to solicit for meters but it seems these meters are not available. What are you doing to ensure the meters go round to customers?
We have rolled out our AMI infrastructure and we will be doing 12,000 on monthly basis. We hope that we will soon hit 15,000 monthly as soon as our contractors have mobilised for more team. As I am talking to you, after the installation of 2000 as pilot scheme, we have installed another 8,500, so for this month now, we have over 10,500 meters installed and we are poised to hit the target by the end of the month. These meters are futuristic. People only raised concern that why are we delayed, why are we not doing CAPMI etc.
But a good businessman who wants to succeed must study what is on operating and find a way to improve on it for the betterment of the customers and the company itself. By the time we finish the assessment, we discovered that the best thing for us is to go for Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI), these are smart meters and we can easily monitor and manage it from our office. Even the customers can easily monitor it on a daily basis, so its good for you to regulate what you are using and it is good for us to monitor and manage what we supply.
Why are you installing meters on the poles not minding the exposure to dangers.
There are two types on installations. The one installed on the poles and the other one in customers’ premises those on the poles consists on about 4-6 meters together and we connect them to these things. The AMI metering scheme has taken off fully, and we have mapped out our time time table on how we are going to cover our customer network and the meters are free.
How are you going to manage a situation whereby the last set of customers on your time table will be waiting endlessly.
We also have provisions for them, anybody that wants to jump queue only need to get a meter through CAPMI scheme. The procedure for that has been made public and we are still printing more flyers to further enlighting people on the process. But we are working hard to ensure that all our customers are adequately metered within the stipulated time. By the end of this year, we would have installed over 40,000 meters. This will help us to reduce our ATC&C losses and help us to monitor and manage the consumers’ profile.
How far have you gone about the customer enumeration process.?
That is operated under CETAM (Customer Enumeration, Technical Audit and Asset Mapping). By the time we finish the enumeration of customers all electricity consumers will be registered with due information about their consumption pattern. We need more enlightement on this because we will be visiting peoples houses and we need their co-operation.
How are you managing estimated billing in your network?
That is the essence of these scheme. The CETAM will help to eradicate estimation, because estimation is based on number of people that we have on our data base, so if we have more customers, it means what we are going to share as bill will reduce per customer. The second aspect of that project is the Technical Audit, all our core assets such as cables, poles, transformers etc will be captured using our GPRS system and that is third one which is asset mapping. So, on the long run, what we are going to have is that immediately we have a customer, we will tie that customer to a transformer, we will tie the transformer to feeder and then a 33kv feeder, so by the time a customer appears, we can easily locate him in the network.
By the time we marry these two projects together you will discover that everything will be working seamlessly and bypassing of our meter becomes a thing of the past, estimated billing will be eradicated and we will also be able to identify all the weak link on our network and this will help us to do network expansion and further assist us to do load management and balancing.
What is you position on the planned tariff review?
NERC had giving us a process to prepare the tariff and there are data that goes into tariff setting, by the time you get a tariff the money we made is the one that fund the entire value chain- generation, transmission and distribution, so when we say a tariff must be cost reflective, it means pay for everything along the value chain. Let me tell you, even when the tariff is cost-reflective the only thing that Discos will get is less than 20% of the entire money we made, so NERC has issued a guideline for us to go to our customers and brainstorm with them on the right tariff. We have done that with Manufacturers Association on Nigeria and all other customers and submitted our tariff structure to NERC, we are now waiting for them to give us the go ahead.
So, must the customers pay more to get stable supply?
There is no way, it won’t come with a little increase, how we will manage the increase without any backlash is the concern today. We at Ikeja have done a lot of customer interaction and as at today Ikeja still have one of the lowest tariff that we have presented to NERC for approval. If you will agree with me power has improved tremendously from the last four months since the new government came in. Before our average power allocation was between 300-350Mega Watts(MW), but today, it is between 400 and 450MW.
You will ask me what was wrong. The generation plant were not getting gas to run their plant, because they were not paying the companies and they were eventually cut off. They were owing the gas companies because the distribution companies were not getting enough money to fund the entire market, because we were charging customers that time could not run the entire chain and that was why the Vice President, Yemi Oshinbajo had to intervene and ask to get the cost-reflective tariff.