June 13, 2024
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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is considering increasing the price of prepaid meters once again.

This consideration comes in response to the escalating production costs faced by meter manufacturers, according to sources familiar with the matter  process in the country.

We also gathered that the regulator may even go further than price increase and just allow market forces to determine the cost of meters. Currently, meter prices are determined by the regulator.

These sources, who requested anonymity, revealed that manufacturers have ceased issuing invoices to Distribution Companies (Discos), in anticipation of an upward price revision by the NERC.

According to the sources, the increase in prices is directly related to the foreign exchange crisis affecting the economy, leading to increased production costs and inflationary pressures on manufacturers.

Earlier last week, NERC accused the 11 Distribution Companies (DisCos) nationwide of overcharging unmetered customers, resulting in a fine of N10.5 billion.

Meanwhile, an official from a Distribution Company informed  that new applications for meters are no longer being processed, as there are indications that NERC will soon announce a new pricing rate.

The source also mentioned that the applications can only be processed once the new prices are announced, leaving many applicants without a prepaid meter.

He said,

“The cost of prepaid meters is going to go up soon. Meter Asset Providers have stopped selling new meters as they await NERC to approve new prices.

“New meter applications are not being processed until the price changes are reflected.

So due to FX issues, the meter manufacturers have stopped sending invoices until the meter price is reviewed.”

Some customers who spoke to about the development complained of not being able to get meters despite applying weeks earlier and in some cases months. Others who had paid for their meters also complained of delays in getting the meters.

Another DisCo source opined that the new applications for meters are not being processed until the cost of meters is reflective of the situation in the country.

However, they stated that customers who have paid will get their meters and may not be required to pay any other cost regardless of whether a new meter cost is approved.

NERC, the sector regulator, approves the cost of prepaid meters, most of which are imported into the country as semi-knocked-down units and assembled locally for use.

Prepaid meters have also evolved over the years with DisCos including features that mitigate against energy theft and offering more consumption data.

Nigeria’s meter deficit is thought to be over 7 million as most customers continue to be billed on estimates.

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has earlier reported in its ‘Manufacturing Sector Outlook for 2024’, that average capacity utilization is expected to linger around the 50% mark due to forex-related challenges and the prevailing high inflation rate.

The report noted that the forex crisis and high inflation in the country will limit its performance in Nigeria till mid-2024.

It said: “Average capacity utilization will still hover around the 50% threshold as the forex-related challenges and high inflation rate limiting manufacturing performance may linger until mid-year.

“The sector may experience a meagre improvement in manufacturing output as forex and interest rates-related challenges are expected to subside from the third quarter.”

With a 27-year high inflation rate of 29.90% and an incessant fall of the Naira against the Dollar in the FX market, Nigeria’s manufacturing industry continues to grapple with rising costs of production.

In September 2023, NERC upwardly reviewed the price of prepaid meters in a circular marked NERC/2023/020, jointly signed by Sanusi Garba, the commission’s chairman ’and Dafe Akpeneye, its commissioner, legal, licencing, and compliance.

According to the circular, the commission said a single-phase meter will now cost N81,975.16 instead of the previous price of N58,661.69.

Similarly, the price of a three-phase meter was increased to N143,836.10 from N109,684.36.

At that time, the inflation rate was 26.72% and $1 was around N800 in the official market.

Meanwhile, inflation continues to worsen as the Naira lost over 40% of its value since the last evaluation of the price of prepaid meters.

With a new price review prepaid meter price sight, consumers are more likely to pay over N100,000 for a single-phase meter and perhaps N150,000 for a three-phase prepaid meter.

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