n recent times, the Nigerian National Assembly passed a bill that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) should stop harassing Nigerians by disconnecting their power supply via climbing the electricity pole and cutting off their cable from the main supply. They deemed such practice in this 21st century as unwholesome and backward. In the light of that, the Assembly proposed that by January 2021, NERC should distribute ‘free’ prepaid meters to every household in Nigeria just to curb the menace of harassment/embarrassment faced by both the consumer and the electricity worker especially when it comes to default bill payment on the part of the consumer and drastic measures seem to be taken forcefully by the electricity company (workers or marketers, as the case may be) to collect the unpaid/outstanding bill.
And, this year, between January and now (the time of writing this piece – September), millions of homes especially across major cities in Nigeria have received one or a couple of prepaid meters for their homes and apartment. Many would agree with me that it comes with a lot of benefits as against a few demerits.
Benefits of prepaid metering
The benefits of having a prepaid metre in your home or office include, but are not limited to the following:
No more ‘crazy bill’: There is a term that often pops up whenever a postpaid electricity consumer goes to lay a complaint at the monopolized electricity company in Nigeria which is called ‘crazy bill’. It simply implies that the electricity bill charged by the company is outrageous and, it was not based on what the consumer used but, based on a random figure the electricity company imposed on the consumer at a particular month(s). And, such practice is a reoccurring decimal month by month for postpaid electricity users since the PHCN (Power Holding Company of Nigeria) are the sole supplier and regulators of electricity in Nigeria, consumers have little or no power or right whatsoever to complain let alone take action. But, with a prepaid meter in the hand of a consumer, no more ‘crazy bill’ as you now have the power to control what you consume as the minute goes by.
No meter readers: While having a meter reader visit your home in previous generations might have been unnerving, meter readers now pose a number of security threats. In the old days of prepaid power, the electricity company would send a meter reading official to your home to assess your monthly consumption. Unfortunately, because of crime and fraud, having strangers on your property or even in your home is extremely dangerous. There are no meter readers when you convert to prepaid electricity, so you do not have to worry anymore.
There are no billing errors: Have you ever had to challenge a bill because it was incorrect? You have complete control over how much electricity you buy each month if you use prepaid electricity. The electricity supplier cannot overcharge you because you can only use what you have purchased. Prepaid electricity allows you to budget for electricity more precisely each month. In the vast majority of cases, the postpaid electricity meter reading is invariably wrong, resulting in over-exaggerated and overestimated billing.
Better budgeting: If you use postpaid power (you get billed at the end of the month), you have no idea how much you are spending per day, week, or hour. A prepaid electricity meter features a read-out that shows your units as well as the amount of power you have used. This allows you to keep track of how much electricity you use and, as a result, better budget each month. If you frequently receive electricity bills that are significantly higher than you anticipated, switching to prepaid can enable you to better monitor and manage your electricity usage.
Avoidance of non-payment issues: Failure to pay your power bill on time can result in a slew of complications, including a negative impact on your credit score. By switching to prepaid power, you will never have to worry about the consequences of not paying your electric bill on time.
There are no charges for disconnecting or reconnecting: If you have ever had your electricity disconnected, you are aware that there are penalties for disconnecting and reconnecting power at your house or company. If you install a prepaid meter on your property or apartment, you will never have to worry about being disconnected and the additional fees associated with reconnection.
No initial deposit is needed: Having postpaid electricity installed on your property often necessitates the payment of a deposit before the energy is turned on. This is not the case with prepaid, and you will not be required to pay a deposit whether you already have a meter or are considering installing one.
Availability of service round the clock: Prepaid power is available from merchants all around Nigeria and can be used at any time of the day or night, 365 days of the year. It is not necessary to call or go online to activate your electricity. Simply enter your prepaid electricity token and your electricity units will be credited to your account at the most convenient moment for you.
The flip side of using prepaid is that some heavy-duty (that is, high-powered) home or office appliances such as water pumping machine air conditioner, electric stove/cooker, pressing iron, electric-powered microwave oven, electric kettle, copier machine, and so on, cannot be used with a prepaid meter since they are high-powered electrical devices, they would consume all the units in no time. Other than that, prepaid metering is worth having especially at home.
Ways to use prepaid metre effectively
In view of the recent surge in electricity billing, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has proposed measures to reduce electricity consumption and they include:
When you are not using something, turn it off: Keep your electronics and light bulbs turned off during the day. Even at night, when at home, switch off some appliances that are not in use at the moment.
Switch to energy-saving light bulbs: Traditional light bulbs squander 95 percent of their energy on heat, with only 5% going to light. Replace them or use them only when necessary.
It is quite wasteful to leave them on for extended durations. Halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) utilize 25-80% less energy than standard bulbs and last 3 to 25 times longer.
Reduce your use of water heaters: Water heating accounts for a significant portion of your overall energy usage. There are two ways to cut your water heating costs besides acquiring an energy-efficient water heater. Simply use less hot water or lower your water heater’s thermostat.
Invest in energy-saving equipment: In residences, businesses, and enterprises, appliances consume a huge amount of energy. With this in mind, it is critical to be deliberate when making purchases so that energy-efficient equipment are fitted.
Set the temperature of the refrigerator according to the manufacturer’s instructions: This is crucial in order to avoid wasting electricity and cooling too much.
When not in use, unplug battery chargers: Many gadgets, including battery chargers, consume power continually even when they are not in use.
Connect home gadgets to power strips: Power strips, such as adaptors and extension boards, can help you save energy. When the equipment is not in use, turn off the power strips. With one simple switch, you can turn off the power to these devices while they are not in use.
Let the sunlight in: Turn off artificial lights during daylight hours and instead use windows and skylights to brighten your home.
Regular Air Conditioner maintenance: Simple maintenance, such as replacing or cleaning air filters on a regular basis, can help to reduce the amount of energy used by your cooling system.
Use an external source of power to pump water: It is always imperative to know that a pumping machine buried way below 100 feet beneath the earth’s surface is arguably the most power-consuming of all the devices at home or office. So, it is advisable that whenever you want to get that water up to the surface (that is, your water storage tank) endeavour to connect your water pumping switch to a high-powered external power source such as a power generator so as to save up some units on that meter. But, if you can bear the cost, go ahead and use the prepaid metre for such a purpose. I bet you, it is not worth it!
Moderation is key to everything in life; if all of these guidelines can be followed through, believe you – me, prepaid metering will be worth your while because you would only use what your ‘pocket’ can afford.