By Juliet Umeh
Nigeria is regarded as the biggest economy in Africa. However, its power sector is performing far below the level of a big economy. Over half of the population has no access to grid-connected electricity and those who are connected to the grid suffer extensive power outages.
Nigeria’s current installed capacity is estimated at around 13,000 MW, only half of this is operational, and only about 5,000 MW reaches the grid. Restricted output has been blamed on gas supply problems, water shortages, grid constraints and breakdowns. According to expert estimations, Nigeria is currently spending roughly $14 billion yearly on off-grid diesel generation.
Over the past decades, the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry, NESI, has continued to face challenges which has made the sector remain in the vicious cycle of instability, poor network distr- ibution and low customer satisfaction.
Some other challenges include estimated billings which most of the customers end up not paying, energy tapping through unscrupulous means among others. All these issues put together result in making the sector face dwindling income.
However, just as technology is bringing succour to other sectors of the economy, stakeholders in the information and communication technology, ICT sector, are optimistic that the current situation of the Nigerian power sector can improve tremendously through technology innovations called Smart Metering Solution.
This was the focus of the seminar organised by Computer Warehouse Group, CWG PLC, an IT solution firm, tagged: Using Value Services to Solve Energy Crisis, held at the CWG‘s Head office, in Lagos last week.
Speaking at the event, Chief Executive Officer of CWG PLC, Mr. James Agada said the company has developed technological solutions that could create additional revenue streams for the Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, in the country.
He said: “There are a lot of issues in the power sector obviously. The particular areas where we have interest currently is in the distribution company side where there is clearly an inability of the distribution companies to turn a profit if they keep depending only on the payment for energy consumers.
“The reason is not farfetched and it is not unique to Nigeria; it is something that is there in most Sub-Saharan Africa countries because our people are poor and they don’t use much of electricity. Even when they use, they worry about the costs.
Agada stated that it is unlikely that any Discos will be profitable from just selling electricity to consumers and therefore, they have to plan for value-added services and those value added services can be delivered using the same assets that they already have.
He said: “We have built smart meters that can create additional revenue streams for the DISCOs if they utilise the benefits of other communication systems embedded in the smart meter.
Agada said the value-added services solution that CWG PLC brings includes: CWG smart utility solution high speed 4G LTE modem +, Wi-Fi router inbuilt into the CIU for wireless internet access, remote off or on of electric supply line, mobile and Web- based Token recharge with manual option as a failsafe measure, Web-based dashboard view and control of the energy consumption.
He said: “Some of our meters come with the capability to provide Wi-Fi hotspot. Once you have Wi-Fi in an area, and you can stream video, you can do a lot of other services.
You can run advert which can generate revenue for the Discos.”
He urged these companies to use their meters to deliver additional services by buying the right kind of meters that can for instance deliver Wi-Fi internet connectivity to people’s homes, adding that with internet connectivity, you can stream videos and do other services.
Also speaking, Vice-President, Corporate Development of CWG, Daniel Das, said the root cause of non-viability of the power sector as of today is because power is stolen which should have been otherwise billed and accounted for.
He said: “The smart metering solution CWG is bringing to the market combines smart metering, where the meters have their own communication systems, they have software for capturing data and also the system for helping people remotely disconnect, reconnect their meters, recharge them without having to manually punch the keys.
“What we are bringing in is a theft prevention system. So every meter, smart or non- smart, prepaid or post-paid, the innovation would help make people to stop drawing power illegally from the lines,” he said.
On how the solution can prevent power tapping, he said the theft prevention system ensures that no power is lost by unscrupulous means and once you prevent that, the viability of the sector becomes possible.
“So it really doesn’t depend on the meter. Therefore, metering alone cannot solve the problem that the Nigerian electricity supply industry faces.”
“When it is billed for, the revenue will improve and increase and of course the sector becomes viable on its own accord because the tariffs we pay as customers has in it accompanied for energy, cost and operation.