An occurrence at the sideline of a seminar intended for interested parties in an anticipated (at the time) private-sector driven power sector in Nigeria several months ago, during which I was urged to replicate my stance at the occasion in this column, has prompted what this piece heralds – A six part series on electric power distribution marketing. This is fallout of one’s professional input in the area, from a marketing perspective, since three years after the 2005 enacted Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act, with my fingers-crossed about the liberalization of the electricity market which I was certain would come.
All the articles in the series bear viewpoints on electric power distribution marketing. They are intended to facilitate consumer education of a Nigerian public that exhibits a high degree of skepticism towards the power sector, and quite justifiably so; benefits to recently acquired electric power distribution companies (Distribution Network Operators or DNOs) through deriving vital tips in order to do it right; and interested business ventures around who gain from hints about the immense opportunities that abound in the power sector (e.g. wealth creation, job opportunities). Ultimately it is Nigeria that gains.
This first article in the series emphasizes what should be the place of marketing in the functions of these new Nigerian private sector driven DNOs, in view of well acclaimed ‘public bashing’ (and resultant mistrust) ascribable to their public owned vertically integrated monopolistic predecessors. For much desired success, these new DNOs must shift to transforming marketing from now ‘archaic’ (and mistaken) support function to an active player in deriving much desired revenue, through marketing having a ‘line’ role instead of the historical ‘staff’ role. I see any of such companies ‘shooting-itself-in-the-foot’ if the responsibilities of Distribution System Services (not Distribution System Operations) not remaining in the ambit of marketing.
I strongly suggest that these new DNOs should hasten on any efforts at propagating consumer education, in order to douse current obvious public cynicism about their capabilities. Even where the piece after this, titled “Distribution Network Operators and Public Skepticism”, helps in offering solutions on post-privatisation hitches, recommending steps that should be taken (from a marketing perspective), for them to launch out in ways that will make Nigerians give them ‘thumbs up’, there is need for lots of clarification. Furthermore, I am not deterred by being referred to as “The Electric Power Preacher” by some members of the public, being fallout of one’s standpoint in a recent Radio Continental’s popular programme, “Kubanji Direct”. Clarifying here what electric power distribution is really all about is a good place to start.
Before delving into the fulcrum of this piece, distribution system with ‘‘services” in an electric power distribution company vis-à-vis marketing as hub, it is not out of place to make known that electricity distribution remains the final stage in the delivery of electricity to end users.
If one is to apply the term ‘role’ to this, a typical DNO does not ‘provide’ electricity to end-users (ratepayers or customer, consumers). It ‘delivers’ it, through carrying out the job of getting power from the substations to the customer. Bear in mind that the entity that provides electricity is the generation company. By way of key functions of a typical DNO, transportation of electricity, catering for infrastructure maintenance, and what most Nigerian consumers are now ‘chanting’ about (after having a feel of its advantages from goings-on in the telecommunications sector), metering, make up these. Customer service is a vital fourth function that weaves, like a thread, through the above three
Mapping an electric power distribution network portends the flow of electricity from (i) the Sub-station through (ii) area Feeder, to (iii) the Distribution Transformers, and from the distribution transformers to (iv) Poles, from poles to (v) homes, businesses and industrial setups – Consumer.
Interpreting what obtains here in terms of voltages, power distribution network is synonymous with the boundary (of power flow) which starts from the interface point where high transmission voltage is transformed into low distribution voltage (substation), tracked as it flows from the primary (33Kilovolt or kv), to the secondary (11Kv) down to the tertiary (0.415Kv) distribution voltages – All depicting that system which gets electric power from the substations to the customer.
Even where I do not claim to be an engineer, I am aware that electric power distribution systems “operations” (which entails the technical or engineering side of things) has to do with application of principles and procedures for the operation of a power distribution systems; cabling systems, electrical equipment, power system protection and coordination, instruments and meters, operational procedures, etc, I do not mince words about the distribution system “services” remaining within the ambit of marketing at a DNOs corporate head office, having functional responsibilities that touch on the retail outlets (the local offices) – Taking cognizance of the primary purpose of an electricity distribution system being to meet the customer’s demands for energy, after receiving bulk electrical energy from the electricity market.
One’s more than two decades of experience in what marketing is all about within various corporate settings makes for realisation that operations people, by orientation, most times opt for rigid adherence to probing the nitty-gritty of operational hitches (when they occur) at the expense of caring less for customers’ ‘heart beat’ – The core of marketing. (To be continued)