The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has released a new set of guidelines to define the relationship between electricity consumers and Distribution Companies.
Although the new regulation appears to have been designed to protect electricity consumers, it failed to address the critical issues of provision and maintenance of infrastructure.
According to NERC, the objective of the new regulation is the alignment and updating of customer service standards in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry to conform with international best practices, but the refusal to ensure that DisCos embark on aggressive infrastructure upgrade and supply left a huge burden on the consumers.
For instance, Section 12 subsection 2 states, “Customers requiring connection to their premises shall be responsible for the provision of the connection materials in accordance with standards approved by the Distribution Company (DisCo), while the DisCo shall be responsible for the connection from the available supply to the customer’s metering point.”
However, Section 18 (1) puts the burden of provision for tapping into existing electricity sources in any community on the consumer.
“A customer that requires to be connected to electricity supply at a premises where there is no existing connection to the distribution system shall – subsection (d) make arrangements for the connection of the premises to electricity supply in compliance with these Regulations,” it stated.
On metering and estimated billings, NERC approved for installation of analog meters in an era where smart meters are in vogue and estimated billings, thus giving room for leakages in revenue collection.
To further encourage the use of post-paid meters or estimated billings, NERC said, in Section 20 (2) (b) “….Bills may be delivered physically to the customer’s premises or by some other electronic means, including text messages or electronic mail, as agreed with the customers.”
In what is reinforcing the use of post-paid meters and estimated billing, NERC in Section 28 (1) said, “Every DisCo shall obtain, through its authorised representatives, an actual reading of meters within its area of operations every month but not later than once in every three months.
Subsection 3 “in circumstances where a DisCo estimates a customer’s consumption of electricity, it shall ensure that the estimate accurately reflects the customer’s expected usage for the period based on prior consumption over the preceding 3 (three) months and shall not under any circumstances artificially inflate it.
Other issues addressed in the new regulation include payment of outstanding bills by a new occupant of premises, payment of security deposit and the rights of electricity consumers.