Worsening power situation beyond our control, says IKEDC
FELIX OFULUE, Head, Corporate Communications of Ikeja Electric, tackled some questions from TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA on the hydra-headed problems of the power sector and the worsening state of electricity in its network areas.
The power situation in the last few days has gone from bad to worse. Why is this so?
From reports, the generation capacity has dropped from 3,959MW to 2,662MW and this is attributed to the low water levels at the hydro power stations and shortage of gas to the power plants due to vandalism. That means if you use to get 10 hours a day before, you will probably be getting less than that and on our part, we have resorted to load shedding, so that the what we get can be shared equitably among our customers.
What does Ikeja Electric get from the national grid?
It fluctuates depending on the supply we get; there are times we get between 300MW and 400MW while there was a time it remained at 200MW for some reasonable length of time. It is not stable. Ordinarily, in Ikeja for instance, we require about 1,250MW to service our customers but in the last few days we have received an average of barely 300MW. That is such a huge disparity. That is why the onus is on us to manage the distribution better because we are the ones that interface with the customers on the power value chain.
You seem to be getting the most complaints among the DISCOs, what could be responsible for this?
The reason we have the most complaints is because we are the largest network, in terms of consumer base. A large percentage of industries in Nigeria are under our network and we have fast developing areas also under our network. Our area stretches from Epe to Ikorodu all the way to Akute, Abule Egba and beyond. These are fast developing areas.
It is almost impossible not to have challenges coming up because there are properties springing up on a daily basis in these locations. And this means that IE will have to make additional expansion to accommodate the requirements of the newcomers. Don’t forget that as the requirements increase, the allocation has not increased but we must distribute the supply equitably. So what we are doing is to expand our network infrastructure to meet the needs of our customers. And what I can assure our customers is the equitable distribution of available power. What we have we will share adequately.
Could frustrations over the worsening power situation have led to an increase in attacks towards your officials?
You have raised a very important issue. There is an increasing spate of violence against our workers. It is appalling and becoming alarming, and totally unacceptable. On a frequent basis, our field staff are attacked by aggrieved customers. Only last week the Civil Defense authorities apprehended a woman who stabbed one of our workers.
It is pertinent to note that we have created several channels for aggrieved customers to present their complaints, but to vent their anger on our workers is criminal. Some of the issues they are complaining about are beyond our control. For instance, there is poor power supply, which is as a result of certain known challenges that cut across the value chain and we are the last arm of the chain. These challenges are beyond our control, there is no point directing your anger at any of our staff because they are also customers of a network where they reside.
I see it as misdirected aggression because we can only give what we get. We are appealing to customers to exercise patience and restraint. Anybody that attacks our staff will face the full wrath of the law. We are also appealing to community leaders to sensitise their people towards this.
The second issue we are battling with is vandalism, which is also rife in some areas under our network. Vandals destroy our equipment and cart them away, which require huge amount of money to fix. We are appealing to communities to ensure that they guard and secure these infrastructures in their respective areas to guard against vandals.
For the consumers, getting metered and being billed appropriately is of major concern, which you seem not to be addressing?
Ikeja Electric came into existence on November 1, 2013. As prescribed by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the DISCOs have a five-year plan to meter customers. It is an ongoing process. What we have done is to carry out an enumeration to know how many customers are actually registered on our network and also capture the ‘free riders’ on the network who are consuming power for free.
Incidentally, we have people on the network that are consumers but not customers. What it means is that they enjoy supply through illegal connection, which is called energy theft. They are not billed and they don’t pay for the power consumed.
The enumeration has enabled make the necessary adjustment to guide the metering roll out plan. The deployment may not be as fast as we planned in light of the present realities, but definitely, we are working towards realizing the goal of metering all our customers.
For our maximum demand customers, we are working towards the February deadline to ensure they are all metered. The maximum demand customers are the industries and large corporates. They are the commercial customers, while we have the residential customers.
But it is the residential customers that are at the mercy of crazy bills and need the prepaid meters more?
Estimated billing is the only way you can bill people when there are no meters. It is not peculiar to Nigeria. However, we have adopted a billing methodology, which is best suited to serve everybody. Even with that, if you have an issue with your bill, you can take it up at the nearest undertaking office where they will carry out a load assessment of what you use and adjust appropriately.
The methodology we have adopted is to ensure that crazy billing is taken off. We will bill you for what you use. Again, the perception of people is that the length of light does not necessarily mean the worth of energy consumed. That is not true. You can consume in a short period of time what you can consume within a longer period of time. It doesn’t have anything to do with the length of time; it is the appliances and devices pulling power at the given time that matter.
And don’t forget, all our distribution transformers are metered. So, we know the amount of energy that is coming in, the amount allocated to a particular area and how much is consumed from a particular transformer.
That brings me to the menace of energy theft. There are people not registered on our network who are stealing energy. We have cases of people like welders who come out only at night to work. These are the people indirectly affecting your consumption and your bill. What happens is that if you do not report these people, they will be consuming at your expense and that will result in the estimation approximated to you.
Those stealing energy in your community will be recorded in transformer as energy utilized and when we are giving bills, automatically customers on estimated bills will bear the burden and pay for those stealing energy in their area. That is why we are saying customers should assist us by reporting whoever is stealing energy to us, it will reduce what you are billed.
And we are following the NERC billing methodology, which is that we are mandated to follow what is being recorded by the transformer. At no given time should our billing to consumers be at variance with what has been recorded by the transformer. This is why we hammer on payment of electricity bills. If you don’t pay, how do you expect us to service the network?
A community came here to protest yesterday, but while they came to protest against blackout, our books showed us they are owing us N560 million. If we put that money into our system, it will go a long way to address many challenges. As at October 2016, a total of N78 billion was the debt yet to be paid by our customers and it is a completely commercial venture now. We pay for what we receive from the GENCOs. In spite of the fact that the present tariff and pricing do not reflect cost, we are still being owed such amount of money.