Distribution Network Operators and Public Skepticism (2)

Distribution Network Operators and Public SkepticismIn continuation, these as Distribution Network Operators’ (DNOs’) problems, should not also be overlooked:

Inadequate power allocation from the fledging electricity market (mostly less than half of requirements) to the distribution companies, due to drop in power generation. Power shortfall threatening DNOs has been ascribed to shot down of some plants for maintenance and even failure of others to generate power at all in certain cases. This has made for load shedding, outages, and Nigerians’ reliance on private generating equipment.

Weak transmission capacity (of the Transmission Company of Nigeria or TCN) in the national grid has been taking its toll on Nigeria’s electricity network. With transmission grid still fragile and constituting the weakest link in this network (in some instances having stranded capacity of 100mw and more), wheeling of inadequate amount of power to the DNOs has often limited their capacity to deliver more power to consumers.

The government’s new moves to ensure efficient supply of abundant natural gas to thermal stations nationwide, and move away from “uneconomic price” of the commodity, through raising the price of natural gas to $1.5 per 1000 standard cubic feet (representing 50% increase in the current price of $1.00) will certainly affect pricing of power generation (with power producers ensuring recouping of costs incurred), and subsequent increased electricity tariffs to end users. Inadequate supply of gas to power generation plants in recent times, with its attendant effects on amount of electricity for delivery to consumers, has bearing on the favourable disposition of gas producers towards industrial customers (npr. fertilizer, cement, manufacturing companies) often willing to pay more.

Fulfilling customers’ demand for efficient metering system, to ensure payments for services rendered and doing away with estimated (or “crazy”) billing by some DNOs, has been a serious problem area. Most distribution companies are still grappling with how to evolve suitable modes of providing meters, to accommodate both their related plans and the Credit Advanced Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission or NERC.

It is quite evident that the above stated predicaments are not caused by these DNOs. They are no doubt impacting unfavourably on all initiatives aimed at meeting up with DNOs’ obligations. As I write, I realise that efforts of relevant authorities have been on ‘high gear’ in tackling these drawbacks, as they are quite surmountable. My cause for optimism is further strengthened by an impression of this federal government’s ‘blank cheque’ for anything that advances making effective electric power available. While I urge for more patience of Nigerians, in sync with the saying that “good things come to those who wait”, these new electric power distribution companies should take-to-heart issues summarized below (due to constraints of space), for their success and to overcome cynicism of consumers. My next piece, third in this series titled, “Letter to Citizen Buba: Dousing reaction about electricity pricing” further placates Nigerians, away from pessimism.

As electricity consumers seem to be of the impression that “no one is telling Nigerians anything”, these DNOs should (through simple marketing processes) step out now with a sense of directionBearing roadmap for much anticipated significant progressive improvements in operation, in order to reassure the public. While I leave how DNOs can have ‘a firm grip’ on the wholesale market (Transition Electricity

Market) for another write-up, other things they should do to raise consumers’ optimism include:

(a) Name recognitionThese DNOs should relinquish old corporate names of their various predecessor utilities for catchy names, for complete deviation from old unflattering labels and effective utility branding.

(b) Consumer education programmeNigerian consumers should be enlightened about this new order, whereby Nigerians should understand that the present situation on electricity provision and delivery is no longer what it used to be, for the PHCN and its predecessors. Consumers should refrain from always heaping blames about outages or failures on DNOs, being the most visible component of the electricity supply chain. Nigerians must, henceforth, be able to discern when faults (of unimpressive power supply) are not even DNOs’. That these new DNOs purchase bulk electricity from the electricity market, which they sell at retail rates to end users, and lose a great deal when outages occur, as outages have costs.

(c) Metering programmeMetering of all customers, to appease public demand, curb losses, and enhance customer demographics must be intensified. Where DNOs view CAPMI as inauspicious they should provide alternative metering programmes.


(d) Demand-side-management (DSM) programme – DNOs must embark on this shortly after initiative on metering. DSM je edukacija potrošača komunalnih o tome kako upravljati svoje električne energije i opterećenja. My package on this is an ‘eye opener‘on how energy saving appliances and incentives to consumers (npr. Vrhunac cijene) feature prominently in DSM.

(e) Steady electricity delivery – Nigerian customers yearn for this. If these utilities are ‘worthy of their salt’, their operations capabilities must reflect these at all times:

Reliability (no breaking down of supply); safety (not experiencing dangerous failures); availability of supply (having good condition always); and maintainability (being quickly repairable).

While issues related to reshaping what the DNOs met on ground (npr. need for new organisational structure, mass computerization, stemming skills gaps, and effective redeployment of retained former PHCN workers) must be tackled headlong for more efficiency, public skepticism will surely be doused if all elucidated here take form.

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