EXPERT METERING INTERVIEW: “To have a successful meter rollout with sustained benefits, it must be planned hand-in-hand with a connection re-structuring programme”

1)      Let’s start with some background on you and your organisation, ADROIT Metering Services Limited.
I'm a 45 year old Nigerian and I hold a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and an MBA from the University of Cumbria. My experience in the Nigerian power sector started in 2001 while working for Lysa-Ortech consortium where I rose to become Technical Manager in 2010. I left in 2011 to start Adroit Metering having realized that a privatized power sector would be in need of highly specialized, professional and reliable service providers in metering. As a result of our knowledge base and experience, we were chosen as the Nigerian agent for Itron, the global leader in metering solutions. Adroit currently employs about 90 people and was recognized as "Africa's best meter installation, maintenance and management service provider, 2018" by the African Brand Congress.

2)      Any energy projects that you are involved in in the region currently that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
We are particularly excited about our work for IHS Nig. Plc, the largest telecoms infrastructure service provider in Nigeria. Power supply to telecoms base stations is arguably the biggest challenge and cost factor for telecoms operators in Nigeria. Using data remotely collected from smart meters we installed in its base stations across Nigeria, we have been helping IHS to monitor the availability, quality and utilization of power supply from DISCOs, thereby reducing costs from diesel fraud and over-billing by DISCOs, as well as reducing noise and CO2 pollution from the use of diesel generators.

3)      Any specific success stories you can share?
In 2016, Adroit deployed Itron's highly successful 3E/EVG vending systems as a 'cloud' service for Jos Electricity Distribution Plc, JED Plc. This replaced and 'unified' islands of highly inefficient and vulnerable systems installed across the DISCO. The new 'unified' and cloud-based system has been very successful in eliminating 'internal' fraud by system users, and has introduced a remarkable level of convenience to JED Plc customers with the integration of about 15 major aggregators bringing in various vending channels including USSD codes, bank branches, ATMs, mobile apps, web platforms, street agents, etc.

The tremendous benefit of the cloud deployment is very visible from the "0" hour downtime experienced in over 2 years of running the system, and the overall efficiency and cost effectiveness of operations. This in our view is the most efficient vending infrastructure in the Nigerian power sector at the moment.

4)      What in your view are the challenges to the energy sector in Nigeria and the region? And the metering sector in particular?
I see regulation as the single biggest challenge facing the Nigerian power sector as a whole. I do not believe the new MAP regulation on metering is appropriate, as an example, in the same way that I don't see adequate regulatory oversight on the activities of operators in the sector. I see 'copy and paste' regulations that are completely detached from the reality that those of us in the field are seeing. I expect the regulator to be bold and courageous to develop and implement 'common sense' regulations without necessarily looking for corroboration from other parts of the world.

5)      How optimistic are you about business opportunities in Nigeria’s energy future?
I am hugely optimistic that the current Nigerian government has demonstrated an honest attitude and the political will to significantly improving the fortunes of the power sector. It is therefore only a matter of time that the main constraining factors are identified and resolved.

6)      What is your vision for the energy sector in the region?
I'm looking forward to seeing a significantly private-sector driven sector with very minimal government intervention. This means effective regulation, market-driven and transparent pricing, improved private investments.

7)      At the upcoming Future Energy Nigeria conference, you are part of a session on “Achieving optimal performance from your meter roll-out” during a panel discussion on “How can you use technology to work smarter, not harder to increase revenues?” – can you give us a preview of what your message will be at the event?
I'll be providing an 'on the field' perspective on the real factors affecting meter rollouts, especially looking at previous experiences of DISCOs in Nigeria. I'll be addressing why energy theft is prevalent, why turnover is high on installed meters and customer billing response diminishes rather quickly, and I'll be linking this to the state of the distribution network, how consumers are 'allowed' to connect, and how DISCOs maintain their networks. I'll be concluding that to have a successful meter rollout with sustained benefits, it must be planned hand-in-hand with a connection re-structuring programme. I'll be using a pilot we implemented for Eko DISCO as a case study.

8)      What are you most looking forward to at Future Energy Nigeria?

The reminder that we still have a lot of work to do in the sector.