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We will meter all customers in three years — Amoda

By on November 27, 2015

Oladele Amoda is the Managing Director, Eko Electricity Distribution Company. He speaks about the financial, metering and operational challenges facing the company in this interview with STANLEY OPARA

You were part of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, and now you have run one of the privatised power firms for two years. What is your assessment of the industry’s state?

It has been a rewarding experience having gone this far, though we had challenges initially as a privatised firm because we took over a dilapidated structure and network. This was obvious from the fact that the power sector was neglected for several years. You can’t run a power sector without funding; this is because the sector requires continuous funding, as it is capital-intensive to maintain. Be it generation, transmission or distribution, it requires a lot of money. When you now abandon it, so to speak, for more than 20 years, you can imagine the type of decay that would have hit the network. When we came in, we looked at these problems and we sat with the investors and the management and mapped out strategies on how to quickly fix the areas that were almost collapsing. We did a lot of rehabilitation work to sustain the network to some extent – at least for the critical areas that really needed attention.

We also did some network reinforcement on some lines that were undersized and some that were almost falling off. Transformers and other equipment have been upgraded and in some instances changed, but we cannot bring about the ultimate improvement that is required within this short period.

I have to also reiterate that we signed a performance agreement with the Bureau of Public Enterprises for a five-year period to reduce losses, meter customers, to reinforce our system, and so on.

We also have a programme for metering. So far, we have metered a total of 46,000 customers located at different locations on our networks.

Were they all metered through your Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation scheme?

Some were metered through the CAPMI scheme while others are through our direct funding scheme. The CAPMI programme is an intervention. We are supposed to give all customers meters free-of-charge. That is the mandate. That is what is expected of us. We have a meter rollout plan in which we have segmented our customers for different periods. But if those that are supposed to get meters in a year or two year’s time feel they cannot wait for us to get to their area, they can willingly subscribe to the CAPMI programme. Once they pay to us, we are duty-bound to install their meters within 45 days; after which we will start to pay back. We will pay the money back to them with an interest.

What is the ratio of those of CAPMI and those on your traditional scheme?

The ration is like two to three: that is, more of CAPMI. With the demand we have on ground, we have placed orders for more meters. But we will still be going along with CAPMI. The CAPMI beneficiaries are assumed to be loaning us money; hence our mandate to pay them back with interest. We will pay them back through their billing. We take amount from the bill every month until the debt is liquidated including the interest.

Can you tell us what your distribution capacity was before privatisation and now?

When we came in, the whole generation output plunged. It coincided with the time we took over. We were less than 200 megawatts from the national grid. Sometimes, it was less than 100MW; and there was a time we got nothing. System failures or collapses characterised the generation network then. So, we were dealing with that with all the frustration because customers do not want to know. They just want to see power. We were getting that then whereas the minimum we required that time was about 700MW.

By June 2014, we started having some improvement. Now, we get double we were getting when we came in. But we are not putting all our hopes in the grid. We are, on the other hand, looking at other sources of power that are not subject to grid activities. So, we are now partnering private companies that will put up their generators, generate power and then sell to us. This will be delivered to our customers in addition to what we get from the grid.

We have concluded arrangement for about 460MW that will come in as a short-term measure. The long term will be about 2,000MW.

What is the role of contemporary technologies in all your operations?

Apart   from metering and other things we were doing on the network, we are also introducing new technologies. We want to automate our network. Right now, we are looking at remote monitoring of all our networks from our control room. We want to be seeing what is happening everywhere on our network from here. For now, we do not have the visibility because our staff members are sent out to go and find out what the issue is whenever there is a problem. When we finish this automation process, we can locate problem areas from our office, isolate the location while supplying others. This will reduce downtime and increase customer service delivery.

We are also doing customer enumeration. We are going from house to house to ensure all our customers are captured. This will eliminate cases of double billing and billings that are not real. This will complement our robust metering plan, which is targeted at metering all customers within three years. In three years or thereabout, we are going to provide meters for all customers on our network. That is the target, and is part of the performance agreement we signed with BPE. We have a government representative on our board that monitors all we do.

What kind of meters should your customers expect?

The meters we are rolling out now are smart meters. This will align with all the various technologies we are introducing into the system.

What happens to the old meters on your network?

The old meters we inherited would be replaced. The ones we have installed already that are not smart meters will be converted to smart meters through the addition of some technological components. We want all customers in the network to have smart meters.