An intellectual piece titled ‘Remedying the power sector for service delivery’ authored by Ani Nkemjika Nnenne which was published in various national dailies recently refers. I reverentially, comparatively conceded in a fraction particularly the point that stable electricity is a critical determinant of socioeconomic growth and development in any society.
Commendably, the piece as well intelligently did justice in tracing the historical and legal developments the sector underwent despite its deplorable present position resulting to some fitting nicknames from the society including ‘Never Expect Power Always’ (NEPA) and ‘Please Hold Candle Now’ (PHCN). However, a vital omission was the abysmally shout of ‘Up NEPA’ that has impenitently characterized the sector indicating power supply; on and off or even a spark.
Unapologetically, it has become the first thing newborn babies flawlessly, perceptibly master in every home without anyone’s aid and as everyday mantra while learning to speak.
Indisputably, tariffs increments, government bailouts and subsidy are positive ideas; however, they shouldn’t be misconstrued as feasible means of revenues by virtue of DisCos present classification as private companies. Besides, the fundamentality rests squarely on making the system firmly run on accountability and prudent management. The present analogue revenue system that runs on estimation instead of prepaid meter rather poses as the greatest ‘sledgehammer’ on the distribution companies (DisCos) by the managements. Economically, any unmetered customer or without prepaid meter should be seen as consented leakages or loss of revenues to the organization. In fact, DisCos must first and foremost consider all unconnected population to the grid as neglected, untapped or unexploited revenues. What a gross oversight.
Principally, the key factor affecting the sector is the defective privatization that myopically mortgaged it to people without in-depth knowledge of the sector unlike government’s apt action in the telecommunication industry. Hence, even if the tariffs are reviewed multiplicatively or bailouts granted lavishly, without expertise and accountability in place as seemingly exists presently, DisCos will continue to cry foul over insufficient funds due to mismanagement and lackadaisicalness while their workforces continues to feed fat from their deservedly revenues.
Structurally, DisCos merely distribute generated energy to the end users at stipulated prices which implies that any wastages or unaccountable energy will metamorphose to losses. This is on account that DisCos purchase energy in bulk and retail to consumers, and therefore where the bulk purchased is mismanaged, losses automatically occur. For example, if a DisCo procures a specific quantity but due to inefficiency unable to recover revenues accordingly, it is automatic transmission to loss of revenue. Losses are inevitable in analogue system even with surveillance due to protracted corruption in the society.
Thus, the fundamental is for DisCos to compulsorily meter all customers with prepaid meters, so that estimated billing will cease. Then, reinforce the surveillance unit objectively for checkmating electricity bypass and other illegal connections. With that in place, the system will run on a corrupt-free template that will ensure that customers pay accurately for all energy consumed.
Furthermore, it is reminiscent of administrative ineptitude and nonchalance for DisCos to comfortably have an option to prepaid metering thereby unconsciously short-changing themselves while their workforces leverage on the inadequacies. Prepaid shouldn’t be subjected to preferences particularly for accountability purposes. Any consumers rebuffing prepaid meters should be severed from the grid.
However, DisCos owe a duty to enlighten their customers that only one approved tariff regimen exists whether on digital (prepaid) or analogue billing systems. In addition, that digital system is the most effective for accountability thereby curtailing loss of energy and resources.
Candidly, no serious-minded investors in a sensitive sector like power needed to be counselled on infrastructural development for persistent productivity. Thus, for DisCos to be on tenterhooks for government bailouts, subsidy or tariffs increments instead of seeking for investors and loan facilities is to say the least, height of gullibility. DisCos as public limited liability companies can effectively source for funds from the public for enhanced capacity on operations.
Unfortunately, the arrowheads in the privatisation deal were probably enticed by arbitrary billing system and outrageous targets that are usually spread across districts, without business acumen for expansion and service delivery. The Global System for Mobile communications companies are perfect examples for the DisCos. GSM companies go extra miles to power their substations round the clock to circumvent poor services despite financial implications including safeguarding equipments against vandalism even in remotely uninhabited areas. Possibly, a periodic evaluation of the privatisation vis-à-vis service delivery akin to the banking industry may be considered a remedial mechanism.
Shockingly, investigations show that DisCos across the nation cannot resourcefully absorb the 7000 megawatts purportedly generated presently due to infrastructural deficits except only about 4,500 megawatts. It therefore implies that currently, all the applauded generated energy cannot be utilized optimally, instead a high number discarded by DisCos amidst shortage due to infrastructural shortfall particularly defective transmission lines, insufficient transformers, and other nuts and bolts.
In a nutshell, infrastructural development, expansion of operational territories and prudent management of DisCos are indispensable for significant attainments. The primary task of the marketing unit should be to locate isolated areas not connected to the grid for expansion, and not to prioritize harassing and bombarding customers with outrageous bills, strategically for covertly illicit deals at the detriment of productivity. Thus, a clarion call to intensive planning and reorganization.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United-Kingdom).