Meter Installation Brings Widespread Power Sector Benefits in Nigeria
Nigeria’s power sector continues to wrestle with limited functionality, leaving many homes and businesses without reliable electricity. The country’s 11 electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) struggle with high aggregate technical, commercial, and collection losses; aging infrastructure; and insufficient tariffs. Power Africa technical support to four DISCOs between 2016–2018 resulted in dramatic improvements, including more than $160 million in additional revenue collection to strengthen the utilities and the sector.
However, challenges remain. One major challenge is that fewer than 50 percent of electricity customers have power meters installed at their premises. DISCOs, therefore, rely heavily on estimated billing, which frequently results in inaccurate bills and unhappy customers who often contest bills or refuse to pay. A 2020 study found that more than 4.6 million customers receive estimated bills.
Eliminating estimated billing is vital to improving the fiscal solvency of distribution companies and to allow power sector stakeholders to operate predictably and transparently. Installing electricity meters is the most effective way to make customer billing more accurate, build customer trust, and increase willingness to pay. As DISCOs improve bill payment and revenue collection, the utilities are better able to invest in operational efficiencies and contribute to enhanced liquidity of the entire power sector.
Metering Initiatives Aim to Close the Gap
To reduce reliance on estimated billing and scale up meter installation, the Federal Government of Nigeria launched the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) Program in 2018 and the National Mass Metering Program (NMMP) in 2020. The two programs aim to collectively install 6.5 million meters by the end of 2022.
“These programs aim to unlock barriers to procuring and installing meters and use distribution companies to facilitate the procurement and installation of meters across Nigeria,” explains Narlene Egu, Senior Energy Advisor and Power Africa Team Lead at USAID Nigeria. “The benefits of these programs are crosscutting. The programs are supporting local meter manufacturing and offering opportunities for U.S. meter companies to enter the Nigerian market.”
In addition, the programs incorporate the use of smart meters, which may help manage energy consumption and lead to better overall grid management. As Nigeria works to reduce emissions and build a sustainable power system, smart meters may play a role in supporting emission reduction, resilience, and sustainable development.
Improving Performance Monitoring and Transparency
At the beginning of the MAP Program and NMMP, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) acknowledged the challenge of tracking meter installations. Initially, the programs had only loosely defined what information needed to be collected, with no clear guidelines on how to measure progress and no platform to centrally consolidate and monitor installation information.
To improve performance monitoring, Power Africa developed the MAP/NMMP Meter Installation Performance Dashboard. The dashboard allows NERC to assess each distribution company’s progress towards meter installation targets by collecting, collating, and presenting relevant data.
In 2021, Power Africa also hosted a training course for commercial operations staff at core distribution companies. The course equipped staff with inspection and audit skills to assess meter installations and verify that energy bypass had not occurred — a critical component of transparent billing and collections.
“Prior to the training, Enugu Electricity Distribution staff had limited capacity to inspect and identify installed meters, including metering bypass or tampering,” shares Mr. Praveen Chorghade, Managing Director and CEO of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC). “The training gave our staff the right combination of skills and competencies to overcome identified gaps and is instrumental to EEDC’s revenue performance improvement.”
As of October 2021, the two programs have installed a total of 1,414,247 meters, with the NMMP currently installing over 100,000 meters per month. Through its capacity-building programs, Power Africa has trained over 900 staff in meter installation auditing and customer service support. Additionally, Power Africa trained nine NERC staff members on how to operate and maintain the Meter Installation Performance Dashboard.
At the request of Nigeria’s Ministry of Power, Power Africa is also playing a central role in the development of Nigeria’s National Electricity Consumer Metering Policy. As Nigeria’s first metering policy, this will help expand current metering programs and guide the Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry towards achieving short, medium, and long-term goals. The policy will address the challenges of installing 6.5 million consumer meters by 2023, improving indigenous metering capabilities, and developing a smart metering platform.
Looking forward, Power Africa will continue to support the design, development, and implementation of the National Electricity Consumer Metering Policy and the rollout of metering initiatives. Power Africa is also expanding training programs to more distribution companies and using a “train the trainer” method to enable senior meter inspectors to train other staff.