Nigerian households including businesses numbering 5.309 million may have to wait for a while to upgrade their prepared meters in line with the new mandate given by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), findings by The Nigerian Observer have revealed. This is because the authorization to commence the upgrading is yet to be given to some electricity distribution companies.

NERC recently ordered businesses and households using prepaid meters to upgrade before November 2024, failing which the concerned meter(s) will not be able to access electricity.

“If you have a prepaid meter, it may be time for an update. From November 2024, you may not be able to recharge your meter. However, updating is easy and free. DisCos shall commence issuance of 2 free Key Change Tokens (KCTs) which will update your meter,” NERC said in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter).

“The update will not affect the units in your meter nor will it make your meter run faster than usual. Contact your DisCo for more information,” the regulator said.

There are 5.309 million prepaid meters in Nigeria with the highest concentration under the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), based on the latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) as of March 2023.

With a total of 942,315 prepaid meters, IBEDC accounted for 17.7 percent of the total prepaid meters in the country. Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IEDC) has 810,832 prepaid meters accounting for 15.3 percent of the total prepaid meters, while the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) accounted for 14.7 percent with 782,713 prepaid meters as of the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) is ranked 4th in terms of the number of prepaid meters in the country, with 615,296 prepaid meters, accounting for 11.6 percent, just as the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) accounted for 10.4 percent with 554,707 prepaid meters.

The five distribution companies listed above have 3.705 million prepaid meters, representing 69.8 percent of the total prepaid meters in Nigeria as of March this year.

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Concerning what the new upgrade means, an engineer who preferred anonymity explained the meaning of the NERC mandate.

“The upgrade is all about STS standard edition 2 for all the STS-compliant prepaid meters. An approved standard by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and adopted by the Nigerian government,” the person explained.

“It is called TID Rollover Token. It enables the meter to continue to accept credit tokens from 2024 upwards. All STS-compliant prepaid meters only (Smart card prepaid meter not affected),” he said.

According to YTL, a Chinese high-tech enterprise, “Standard Transfer Specification (STS) prepaid meter is a type of electricity meter that allows consumers to pay for their electricity usage in advance, rather than receiving a bill at the end of the month. The meter keeps track of the amount of electricity consumed and the remaining balance, and the consumer can recharge the meter as needed. This type of meter helps consumers manage their electricity usage and costs more effectively.”

YTL added that the benefits of the STS meter include cost savings, increased control, convenience, improved cash flow and reduced tampering.

On the other hand, the Token Identifier (TID) rollover, according to Standard Transfer Specification Association, is contained in STS-compliant tokens, that identifies the date and time of the token generation. It is used to determine if a token has already been used in a payment meter.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking employee of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, who preferred anonymity, said the exact time for the commencement of the programme has not been stated, noting that the information in public space is just for sensitisation purposes.

“Truth is, we have not received any instruction from anywhere with respect to the commencement of the programme. To the best of our understanding, the notice given by NERC is just for the sake of sensitisation. Consequently, we believe the deadline may also change as everything depends on the time of commencement,” he said.