A Nigerian firm, Meter Assets Finance and Management Company (MAPCo), has concluded plans to raise N480 billion ($1.2 billion) over the next 3 years, to purchase electricity meters and help the electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) plug revenue gaps in their operations.
This is also in line with the Federal Government’s initiative to ensure that all electricity consumers are metered, which will put an end to estimated billing by the DISCOs.
According to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, less than one-tenth of Nigeria’s 41 million households have their electricity consumption metered, and half of those are faulty. As a result, distribution companies have to estimate bills, resulting in constant conflict with the consumers that delay payments.
The Chief Executive Officer of New Hampshire Capital, Onion Omonforma, said the Meter Assets Finance and Management Co. hopes to end the practice of estimated billings by raising funds to purchase and supply meters to consumers.
New Hampshire Capital, FBNQuest and Kairos Investments Africa are helping to package and structure the venture, known as MAPCo, for investors to either buy equity or inject debt into the company.
What they are saying
Omonformaa said, “The electricity distribution firms will then have the money to go back and buy more meters and the cycle continues, paving the way to close the metering gap. MAPCo will collect the cost of the meters from consumers at a premium over the next 10 years. The meters will be handed over to the power-distribution companies once paid off.’’
While disclosing that MAPCo plans to issue a N100 billion bond in the next year, Omonforma also pointed out that roadshows have been planned for the U.S. and Europe, and will include local institutional investors.
He said, “We envisage that a lot of people who are looking for a long-term instrument will key into it,”
It can be recalled that apart from repealing the estimated billing methodology in determining tariffs for electricity consumers; the Federal Government had insisted that all consumers must be metered, as part of the condition for a tariff increase.
Also, as part of the agreement reached with the organized labor in respect of the tariff increase; the Federal Government disclosed that the National Mass Metering Programme will be accelerated, with the distribution of 6 million meters to Nigerians for free.
What this means
A huge number of electricity consumers across the 36 states and the FCT are still unmetered by their respective DISCOs. This initiative by MAPCo will help bridge the existing gap, with more electricity consumers acquiring a prepaid meter and doing away with the controversial estimated billing.
Why the proposed Borno power plant may not materialise
The glaring security challenge cannot be overlooked in considering a major power plant project in Borno State.
Only a few days ago, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, led a delegation to Borno State to meet with the Governor of the State, Babagana Zulum.
In the conversation with Zulum, Kyari promised the establishment of a gas-fired power plant in Borno State within a maximum of 4 months to solve the recent blackouts that resulted from insurgents cutting off Borno from the national grid since January this year.
In Kyari’s words, “We have talked to each other and we think it’s very possible to establish a dedicated power plant in Maiduguri which will serve current needs of power supply not only in Maiduguri but to other parts of the neighbouring cities.”
Yet, there is a significant possibility that the power plant promised by Kyari may not materialize for many reasons, the first of which is security. In the meeting with Kyari, Governor Zulum had noted: “The ongoing insurgency has cut off the entire Borno from the national grid in the last three months. We put all our efforts and restored it back… but unfortunately, after 48 hours, the same group of insurgents went back and destroyed the main tower again.”
This glaring security challenge cannot be overlooked in considering a major power plant project in Borno State, particularly noting that the State and its surrounding communities have been the hot zone of insurgent and terrorist attacks by Boko Haram insurgents since 2009. Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have particularly been states where the insurgents have set up shop and carried out various activities, including kidnap, extermination of entire communities, burning of markets and religious buildings and the attack on the United Nations compound, in each case claiming tens or hundreds of innocent lives.
One report reveals that at least 37, 500 people have been killed by the insurgent group since May 2011, a modest number, some say. Also, till date, some of the secondary school girls kidnapped in the April 2014 Chibok incident are yet to be returned to their families. It is then bewildering how Kyari intends to see to the construction and operationalizing of this gas power plant.
Additionally, while the Minister of Petroleum for State, Chief Timipre Sylva, announced last year about the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the North, we have not seen any exploration and production kick-off. It then begs the question of where the gas for the Borno power plant intends to be sourced. The only gas pipeline that runs through the North – the AKK- is still in its first phase of construction out of three phases and has been earmarked at the earliest, to be completed in 2023 – not counting the typical delays the project will experience along the way.
Should the AKK by some stroke of luck materialize much earlier than the target date, the pipeline route is a considerable distance from Borno. It runs the route of Ajaokuta-Abuja-Katsina-Kano, its endpoint, a striking 481km from Borno State. Thus, there would have to be construction of a tie-in pipeline almost as long as the AKK from Kano to Borno State to get gas to Borno.
Optimists may reference the oil and gas discovery in the North and how production may start soon, thus obliterating the need for a 481km pipeline. This optimism however is not well-founded, as insecurity has been shown to be a major risk to oil and gas projects everywhere in the world. One of the major reasons the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline proposed to run from Nigeria to Algeria was abandoned was due to security challenges posed by Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Tuareg guerilla movement in Niger and other insurgent groups along the proposed route of the pipeline.
These increased the risks across board, including for completion and operations through the lifecycle of the project. As such, failing to fix the security threats in northeast Nigeria makes any proposed gas plant project a pipe dream. Transporting gas via LNG trucks is not a better option, given that the drivers and their cargoes would be in danger of being kidnapped, shot at or bombed. The risks for both personnel and investors are high.
In any event, promising a power plant in 4 months for the people of Borno is unconscionable, since a typical gas power plant will take between 1 to 6 years to construct in relatively peaceful regions. What the government needs to do instead of making promises it cannot keep is to work arduously to fix the security challenges in Northern Nigeria and at the same time consider using decentralised solar power to provide power supply to homes, government institutions, schools and businesses while plans to produce gas in the region or transport gas to it are underway.
FG to open LPG distribution channels in all local governments
The project is targeted at reaching 99 million women and households within three years cutting across 774 LGAs in the federation.
The Federal Government disclosed that it is planning to launch Liquefied Petroleum Gas distribution channels in every local government in Nigeria.
This was disclosed by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, at the inauguration of the Nigerian Women for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Project, organised by the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Zigma Gas Limited and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources on Friday in Abuja.
What the minister said
“The ministry is targeting to ameliorate the energy challenge in Nigeria and clean cooking gas is key in this regard because 70% of greenhouse emissions are caused by deforestation.
“This LPG project will enable us to empower rural women to use a more cleaner energy source for cooking.”
Mrs Mary Ekpere-Eta, DG NWCD added that the scheme would benefit Nigerian women and youths as it will support the efforts of the Federal Government in achieving its 2023 sustainable energy targets.
“The project is targeted at reaching 99 million women and households within three years cutting across the 120,000 polling units and all wards in the 774 LGAs in the federation.
“The first phase of this project will be targeting 11 states – Katsina, Sokoto, FCT, Ebonyi, Plateau, Adamawa, Borno, Bayelsa, Cross River, Imo and Ogun,’’ she said.
What you should know
The FG has launched other policies aimed at maximising Nigeria’s internal gas usage, Nairametrics reported in February that the FG plans to convert one million cars to gas at no cost, in its autogas initiative.
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