The recent directive by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) that distribution companies (DISCOs), under the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) should ensure the metering of all customers’ houses across the country within 18 months could simply be seen as a blue-Peter or blanket-bath for the unbundled power company.
It has since been noticed by Nigerians that even when houses are metered, NEPA/PHCN staff do not read meters before billing, rather they deliberately estimate and issue ‘crazy bills’ and charging consumers for power they did not consume. Even the distribution companies claim that average consumption of those who were adequately metered was applied to a cluster of residence to arrive at estimated consumption and customers believe that the DISCOs calculations for estimated billing were not based on established scientific or reliable parameters.
Eyo Ekpo, the Commissioner for Marketing, Competition and Rates of the NERC had ordered all the DISCOs to submit their metering plans for an effective billing system, adding that the distribution companies were expected to complete the metering process between 12 and 18 months.
“We have told them that between 12 and 18 months, they should be able to meter all houses of their customers” , Ekpo said.
According to him, NERC is determined to ensure greater number of meter distribution to customers.
The main issue bothering customers and Nigerians as a whole is not the metering of their houses but the question is, are PHCN staff prepared to read the meters and give consumers accurate bills?
Metering of electricity in Nigeria, according to a report submitted by the Metering Inquiry Committee, began with the production and consumption of electricity around 1895. The system and process are, however, bedeviled by inefficiencies and corrupt practices.
Historically, electricity metering was centrally coordinated with the various units of NEPA/PHCN at the distribution end relying on the procurement apparatus at the headquarters to procure and distribute meters to customers through three central stores. This inefficient system led to a backlog of meter requests by customers who pay for such services without the meters being installed.
The resultant effect has been the institutionalization of the unwholesome practice of estimated billing and the attendant customer dissatisfaction and disappointment, which partly accounts for consumers’ refusal to register for meters.
It is against this backdrop that the Metering Inquiry Committee was set up to garner data and information on the root cause of the endemic metering crisis in the country which impacts the electricity sector negatively. During its assignment a few weeks ago, the committee discovered that less than 50 per cent of the registered customers in the Nigerian Electricity sector are metered.
This has led to the prevalent practice of arbitrary charges based on unscientific estimation of electricity consumed by customers by the DISCOs in order to meet up with their overhead costs in an environment of inefficiency and dwindling supply of electricity.
According to the committee’s report, the total number of customers captured in the records of operators of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry is 5,172,979, which represents 18.65 per cent of Nigeria’s total households put at 28,900,492 as provided by records from the National Bureau of Statistics in 2006. This record, however, does not include those enjoying electricity illegally who are not registered by the DISCOs, known as illegal consumers’.
Out of the number of customers registered, 2,893,701 or 55.94 per cent were metered, while 2,355,045 or 45.53 per cent were unmetered. The Committee, however, discovered that out of the total number of customers metered, about 701,385 or 22 per cent of the meters were faulty. At present, a total of 2,956,069 or 54.83 per cent of all the customers registered are not metered at all or have no functional meters. On the average, therefore, only about 2,434,541 or a minute 8.42 per cent of the total households in Nigeria are currently being billed correctly by all DISCOs if a household is used as our metering index.
The remaining registered customers are, therefore, at the mercy of estimated billing. This development has created a wide gap in effective billing which calls for emergency response.
In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, the Business Manager, Diobu Business Unit of the PHCN, Festus Mmegbu disclosed that as at march this year, 85 per cent of the 36,000 customers using electricity in the area do not have meters. He said there was massive deployment and installation of meters going on and called on customers to register and pay for meters.
He regretted that failure by customers to install meters at their premises was causing under-estimation.
Most customers are clamouring for pre-paid meters as a more efficient metering system that can guarantee accurate billing. This is why the Chief Executive of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company Plc expressed concern over agitations of customers for prepaid meters which are being used in the area currently.
There is need to develop and adopt a metering system aimed at making smooth and effective our electricity operations. To ensure customer satisfaction, special units should be established by the distribution companies such as tracking/management of customer account records and debts to ensure that no unwarranted debts or excessive estimations are made and also ensure that where frivolous estimates were made in the past, they will be expunged to give credibility to the bills and billing operations.
Electricity distribution companies should ensure fairness in dealing with their customers to maintain the trust and confidence reposed in them. There should be an elaborate customer reclassification exercise aimed at ensuring that no customer is placed on the wrong tariff class. To enjoy the cooperation of customers, distribution companies must make sure that their Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are responsible, efficient and accountable.
They should avoid the situation where monies for meters are paid through draft by customers to the CEOs and there is no feedback as to whether they get the meter or not, and how long the customer stays before getting meter. It is discovered that in most of distribution companies, customers paid for meters for years and yet were not supplied any. In most cases, meters are not scarce but the company staff demand for kick-back before releasing the meter.
There are also evidences of some DISCOs refusing customers’ payments for meters, especially pre-payment meters. Indeed, sharp practices and inefficiencies are the hallmarks of the metering system in Nigeria, from ageing power plants and terrible transmission lines to more importantly, rampant corruption and poor collection rates.
In all the six geo-political zones visited by the Metering Inquiry Committee, complaints ranging from refusal to meter customers, estimated billing following refusal to read installed Non-PPM meters, culture of impunity of PHCN staff, connivance of some unscrupulous PHCN staff with private individuals to defraud the public were received.
Other irregularities discovered were demand for money for preferential treatment in various forms such as hot lines, tamper code, PR (unreceipted additional payment for supply of meters. Estimated billing was the norm in all the DISCOs visited by the committee. For instance, customers in Lagos, Enugu, Yola, Kaduna, Makurdi and Abuja distribution companies alleged that delay in the supply of meters to customers and blantant refusal to obtain correct meter readings which resulted in estimated billing were deliberate. They were of the view that with the poor supply of electricity in the country and gross inefficiency on the part of distribution companies to curtail operational losses (human and technical) estimate billing remains the only option for the DISCOs.
For Nigeria to get it right in the metering policy, the Federal Government through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) should review the operations of the distribution companies, especially now that the power sector reform is on the front burner of the present administration coupled with the privatization process of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
NERC should adopt a regulatory system that would make it obligatory for DISCOs to meter their distribution transformers for adequate energy accounting and equity as well as intensify its monitoring and enforcement machinery to ensure proper implementation of existing regulations on metering, billing and cash collection. There shall be overall improvement in customer service and operations to eliminate the culture of impunity prevailing in the electricity sector.
‘Renewable Energy Waste Crisis Is Much Worse Than You Think’
Waste disposal is not a popular topic of discussion in the media when it comes to renewable energy. Most of the coverage that solar and wind power is getting is strongly positive, with a focus on falling costs and rising efficiencies, as well as government plans for huge increases in installed capacity. Yet problems tend to lurk and wait to spring up. Now, the waste problem is springing up.
TheInternational Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated in 2016 that unless we made significant changes to our treatment of solar panels, they could add up to 78 million tons of waste. The IRENA did not phrase it this way. It said that “recycling or repurposing solar PV panels at the end of their roughly 30-year lifetime can unlock an estimated stock of 78 million tonnes of raw materials and other valuable components globally by 2050.”
The thing is that most panels do not live to see their 30th birthday, as an article in the Harvard Business Review from June pointed out. Solar waste, it said, is growing much faster than it should have, theoretically. This is because another thing that you wouldn’t see widely publicised is solar panels beginto lose efficiency from the moment they are installed.
Meanwhile, new, more efficient panels are being developed. Even if the loss of efficiency is minuscule, at an average 0.5 percent, that figure is off the top of a typical efficiency rate of less than 30 percent (light-to-electricity conversion), so when offered a higher efficiency installation, many residential solar owners would consider it. The authors of the article, dubbed The Dark Side of Solar Power, point to the continuous improvements in solar panel technology as a reason for shorter actual lives for residential panels. They note that thanks to these improvements, both in cost and efficiency, consumers are a lot less likely to wait for their panels to turn 30 before they replace them. As a result, these early replacements could lead to 50 times more solar panel waste than IRENA had forecast.
It’s worth noting that IRENA’s forecast for the 78-million-ton opportunity from solar panel waste was made in 2016. A lot of things have changed over the past five years, including the rate of growth in solar panel installations. Unfortunately, what hasn’t changed a lot is the economics of recycling solar panels.
Grist reported recently that, according to researchers and recycling industry insiders, the cost of recycling a solar panel varies between $12 and $25. Meanwhile, the income from recovering certain elements from it comes in at about $3. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, recycling a solar panel costs between $20 and $30, while sending it to a landfill costs $1-2. And while the EU has put in place recycling mandates, the U.S. has no such mandates on a national level.
This massive difference in the cost of recycling versus the cost of dumping panels at landfills hints at an unpleasant truth that we are seeing in the EU already. There are recycling mandates there. The countries with the highest solar capacity pay the most for their electricity. This could, of course, be a coincidence, but that’s quite unlikely: recycling costs money, and somebody has to foot that bill.
It is this bill that busts the myth of the cheap solar power that can fuel the whole world because the sun is there and shines for free. This is true. But once you add the costs of recycling to the total cost of solar energy, as the Harvard Business Review authors note, the cost of solar jumps four times.
The future, in the absence of quick action, looks bleak, according to the researchers who penned the HBR article.
“If we plot future installations according to a logistic growth curve capped at 700 GW by 2050 (NREL’s estimated ceiling for the U.S. residential market) alongside the early replacement curve, we see the volume of waste surpassing that of new installations by the year 2031,” Atalay Atasu, Serasu Duran, and Luk N. Van Wassenhove wrote.
“By 2035, discarded panels would outweigh new units sold by 2.56 times. In turn, this would catapult the LCOE (levelised cost of energy, a measure of the overall cost of an energy-producing asset over its lifetime) to four times the current projection. The economics of solar so bright-seeming from the vantage point of 2021 would darken quickly as the industry sinks under the weight of its own trash.”
This sounds bad enough. It’s even worse because there are only a handful of companies in the U.S. that recycle solar panels. But there is also wind turbine blade waste that is building up, and while, unlike solar panels, it does not contain toxic materials, the sheer size of the blades makes it a significant waste problem. Wind turbine blades are not recyclable yet, and tons of them are coming to landfills over the next 20 years; more than 720,000 tons in the U.S. alone.
“Because there are so few options for recycling wind turbine blades currently, the vast majority of those that are no longer able to be used are either stored in various places or taken to landfill,” says CEO, and co-founder of CruxOCM, Vicki Knott.
“While the waste stream represents only a tiny portion of municipal solid waste, it’s clearly not an ideal scenario. As wind turbines are being replaced, there’s certainly a need for more creative recycling solutions for used blades,” Knott also said.
It all sounds like a waste nightmare scenario, and it pretty much is.
While many residential solar panels will live out their lives, many others will not. But this is only the beginning of the problem. Recycling costs must be brought down and capacity built before the current wave of utility-scale solar farm additions subsides because anything done later would be playing catch-up with little chance to win.
Slav writes for Oilprice.com
By: Irina Slav
Oriental Energy Resources Announces New Managing Director
Mustafa Indimi has been appointed the new Managing Director of Oriental Energy Resources Limited.
Mustafa takes over from Mr Ignatius Ifelayo, who served the company meritoriously for seven years.
Prior to the new appointment, Mustafa was the Executive Director (Technical) and a member of the company’s Board of Directors. He brings with him an in depth knowledge of the business and he is well positioned to drive the company forward.
A Master’s Degree Holder in Petroleum Production engineering from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Mustafa has an impressive track record of leading teams to deliver outstanding performance and results.
On his new challenge, Mustafa commented: “It is an exceptional privilege to be appointed as Managing Director at a time that provides great opportunity to take the company to new heights. I am looking forward to working with the board, management and staff to strengthen and grow the company by building on the solid foundation to generate significant value for all stakeholders.”
“Underpinning everything is my commitment to the company’s vison to set the standards that all other E&P companies in the Nigerian oil and gas industry will be compared against.’’
MoniPulo Empowers 70 In Akwa Ibom
A total of 70 indigenes of Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, host to an indigenous oil firm, Moni Pulo Petroleum Development, have benefited from the 2021 community empowerment programme of the company.
The empowerment programme, which is in the 12th cycle, saw to the distribution of 70 motorcycles to the benefiting members of the host communities.
Speaking, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Moni Pulo, Dr. Seinye O.B. Lulu-Briggs, said the company has had a very healthy relationship with the people of Mbo LGA and has left positive footprints since 1999.
Lulu-Briggs said the company believes that provision of an economic-enabling environment, sustainable employment, secured opportunities and human capital development in Mbo LGA, remain the guiding principle for social transformation.
She emphasised that the company has a passion for transforming communities and catalyzing personal and communal growth in a sustainable manner, which is why corporate social responsibility is her cherished core corporate value.
“MPLs Corporate Focal Responsibility package is structured along four core areas: Educational Development, Skill Acquisition and Empowerment, Infrastructural Development, Sports and Social welfare.
“It is believed that capacity building will ameliorate the Niger Delta region’s economic challenges and reduce the incidences of youth restiveness. Thus, MPL takes this gesture further to empower Mbo and Effiat Community youths with high class motorcycles.
“This is the 12th cycle of our Community Empowerment Programme, and it is designed to empower 70 business Start-Ups from within Mbo Local Government Area in Akwa lbom State.”
Lulu-Briggs represented by the Head pf Administration and Community, Alabo Clifford Daerego, said MPL’s empowerment programme provides opportunites for entrepreneurs to set up and establish businesses that will help increase the employment rate in Akwa lbom State and in the country.
“A review of the social responsibility projects we have carried out in Mbo Local Government Area, reveals that our activities have aligned with the current global Sustainable Development Goals. This Community Empowerment Programme hinges on SDG Goal 8, which is to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Despite the socio-economic challenges that we, like everyone else, have had to weather, we have continued to invest in the wellbeing of our host communities through empowerment exercises and sustainable development projects. We have done and will continue to do this because we know that ultimately our work is about people the men, women, youth and children of Mbo and Effiat.”
Also speaking, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Power and Petroleum Development, Dr. John James Etim, who commended Moni Pulo for being a good corporate citizen, expressed delight to witnessed the empowerment programme.
Etim disclosed that upon his assumption of office, he was briefed that the company has trained many members of her host communities in several skills and also awarded university scholarships to many.
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