The Lagos State Government on Thursday launched a smart prepaid meter initiative aimed at curtailing the high number of unmetered electricity consumers in the State. In a virtual conference, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and the Honorable Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Power, Goddy Jedy-Agba unveiled the initiative.
The initiative tagged “The Lagos Smart Meter Hackathon 2020” is backed by Eko Innovation Center, and was reckoned as part of the state government’s efforts to improve access to electricity.
Sanwo-Olu said the success of the scheme will increase the willingness of Nigerians to pay for electricity.
“This Lagos Smart Meter Initiative is an important way for the Lagos Government to demonstrate its commitment to improving electricity access and reliability for Lagosians. We believe that adequate metering of Lagosians and in turn Nigerians would increase willingness to pay for electricity, improve productivity, and more importantly, continue to improve the living conditions of our people,” he said.
The governor said the initiative is in tandem with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7, which dwells on affordable energy for all by 2030.
The organizers used the opportunity to invite stakeholders, investors, technology experts and players in the energy sector to embrace the hackathon.
Sanwo-Olu said the initiative is open for public participation, including those with expertise in the software field. The organizers said the scheme is open for everyone who wants to contribute to the betterment of electricity supply in Lagos State, including teams developing from scratch or continuing existing projects.
Registration is free and prototype designs can be submitted as software or hardware. The organizers said there is N7 million prize to be won.
To boost people’s confidence in the initiative and encourage participation, Dora Ekeruche, Advisory Board Member, Eko Innovation Center said the idea will be executed transparently. She said experts in the tech and power industry will oversee the hackathon to ensure that participants are judged based on merit.
“Judges with knowledge and expertise within the power and tech ecosystem will review the entries and shortlist teams to proceed to the hackathon event,” she explained, adding that “final winners of the hackathon, in both the hardware and software, will win N7 million. They will also be a part of the co-creation phase with other experts, and then proceed to the production and testing stage before the full commercialization of the smart meter.”
The application submission window will close on August 28, 2020.
Metering has for years been a key issue in the power sector, creating monthly rift between distribution companies (DisCos) and consumers who are placed on estimated billing, particularly in Lagos.
Over 60 percent of electricity consumers are not metered in Nigeria, and Lagos has the highest share of unmetered customers. The situation has been blamed on many issues bordering on cost and availability of meters.
In June, the managing director of Mojec International Ltd, a local meter assembling outfit by phone, Chantel Abdul said the Nigerian Custom Services has been responsible for the scarcity of meters this time.
The Nigerian Custom Service imposed a 35 percent levy introduced by the government on imported meters and components used for meter production. The development led to the abandonment of meters and its components at the ports, as the clearing cost became exorbitant and deemed unaffordable for consumers who have been made to pay over N82, 000 for three-phase meters.
Players in the power sector believe that the government has been complicit in the scarcity of smart prepaid meters.
“If the government were serious about eliminating estimated billing, it will make an emergency proclamation removing duties on meter at least for a period of time,” said Lagos-based energy lawyer, Chuks Nwani.
While the federal government is yet to make a decision on the 35 percent import levy imposed on meters, the Lagos State government is seeking alternative through the hackathon, to provide locally made meters that will serve Lagosians and consequently, fill the gap.
The State Government and its partners are hoping that the initiative will reduce leakages in the power sector and improve last-mile electricity supply.