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5.3m Prepaid Meters Risk Crashing Over Software Expiration

August 25, 2023

Electricity consumers nation-wide are faced with possible dilemma and risk of not being able to energise their pre-paid meters after the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) alerted on software expiration by November 2024.

Though NERC said the pre-paid meters software would crash next year, some Electricity Distribution Companies, DisCos, have warned customers that they may not be able to load energy token by the end of this year.

LEADERSHIP Friday reports that NERC has advised DisCos to assist customers update their meters, warning that failure by electricity customers to update their metering devices would make them face challenges with recharging by next year.

In a message on its Twitter handle, the Commission said the process of updating would be free of charge, with customers expected to approach the power Distribution Companies (Discos) on how to go about it.

“ 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 two free Key Change Tokens (KCTs) which will update your meter,” NERC stated in the message.

It further stated that the process will not in any way impact the units in the meters, even it urged consumers not to be apprehensive.

“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,” it said.

The NERC further explained that the update would not affect meter units, nor would it result in any acceleration of its usual operational pace.

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

However, a message by Ikeja DisCo said though NERC indicated that all current software for all pre-paid electricity meters in the world, including Nigeria, would expire on 24th of November 2024 in what it referred to as TID rollover, all customers with Standard Transfer Specification (STS) pre-paid meters within its network, who fail to upgrade, are at the risk staying in darkness from 1st November, 2023.

The DisCo said it had set that date for its own TID rollover process.

This move is coming as MOJEC, Nigeria’s foremost indigenous meter manufacturer, has stepped up action to support DisCos in providing upgrade process for customers.

Ms Chantelle Abdul, managing director and chief executive of MOJEC International Holdings, a conglomerate with subsidiaries in the power and energy sectors, in a chat with our correspondent, confirmed that the deadline for the TID rollover migration is November 2024, not 2023.

She said NERC’s directives is for electricity distribution companies and utilities as well as meter manufacturers to ensure compliance with the TID rollover for Utilities Software infrastructure (Vending Solutions) upgrades to support the issuance of the TID rollover Key Change Tokens (Tokens) as well as the conformance of the electricity meters already deployed to the customers.

She also said the directive would ensure new meters are produced on the new base date of 2014 and will not necessitate the need for TID rollover for new meters yet to be deployed.

According to Abdul, the TID rollover process is only possible if the energy meters support the TID migration.

“It is believed that all STS prepayment meters supplied (produced) since 2011 by local manufacturers and others should support the TID rollover as meters that do not support the TID rollover must be phased out of the system as customers will not be able to vend at the set deadline.”

She noted that local meter manufacturers must also upgrade their infrastructure, (manufacturing software) to enable energy meters yet to be supplied to be configured with the new base date of 2014.

According to her, once the upgrade of the vending system is done by the DisCos/Utilities, meters supplied by local manufacturers must be produced on the new base date before it can work.

Currently, she stated, MOJEC meters is partnering with the DisCos/Utilities to ensure a seamless TID rollover.

“All MOJEC STS prepayment meters hardware and firmware deployed across all the electricity distribution companies comply with the TID rollover and can be migrated.

“The Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), the monitoring system for the meters deployed, can be used to seamlessly implement the TID rollover for the percentage of meters with smart features activated by the DisCos/Utilities Technical support to all DisCos/Utilities throughout the migration process,” she said.

Abdul said the process had commenced for the Secondary Markets/Estates and Off-Grid projects where MOJEC controls the vending solution, with the firm having over 50 estates, she said.

Speaking on the situation, she said the periodic upgrade is not something to avert as it is an algorithm of how the STS prepayment meters works.

She, however, revealed that the next TID rollover would be in over 30 years’ time when the existing meters should have been phased out.

“It is also a form of security to eliminate the reuse of tokens and revenue protection to DisCo/Utilities that deploy the STS prepayment solution,” she said.

Offering more explanation, she asserted that all energy prepaid meters deployed by the electricity distribution companies in Nigeria adopt the Standard Transfer Specification (STS) protocol in achieving its prepayment functionalities using its encrypted algorithm, protocols and standards.

“For all prepaid meters, this protocol regulates the encryption and uniqueness of token generation and usage by STS-certified prepayment meters. In STS-compliant tokens, the TID Rollover, also known as the Token Identifier, is a 24-bit field that contains the date and time the token was generated. It is used to check whether a token has been used in a prepayment meter. The TID is the number of minutes that have passed since January 1, 1993. The 24-bit field is incremented, which means that eventually the TID value will roll over to zero.

“All STS prepayment meters will be affected by TID roll over on the 24/11/2024. Any tokens generated after this date and utilising the 24-bit TID will be rejected by the meters as being old tokens as the TID value embedded in the token will have reset back to 0.Which raises the need to change the Base Date of the Prepayment meters from 1993 to 2014. The TID Rollover will achieve this with the use of Key Change Tokens generated by the Discos/Utility Vending systems and issued to all customers to apply on the meters physically to complete the migration,” Abdul.

Meanwhile, a report released by NERC shows that distribution companies installed 171,107 meters for consumers in the first quarter of 2023.

The figure represents an additional 6,495 meters installed, which is a 3.95 percent increase compared to the 164,612 meters installed in Q4, 2022.

According to the report, only 5.36 million of the registered 12.38 million subscribers have prepaid meters.

“As of 31st March 2023, there were 12,378,243 registered customers with 43.31 percent (5,360,434) of them metered,” the report reads.

“Over the course of 2023/Q1, 171,107 end-user customers were metered which increased the metering rate by 1.06 percent relative to the 42.25 percent recorded in 2022/Q4. Compared to 2022/Q4 (164,612), an additional 6,495 (+3.95%) meters were installed in 2023/Q1The report shows that the meter asset provider (MAP) scheme covered 92.71 percent of the total 171,107 installations in the quarter under review.

The new data indicates that the scheme was responsible for the installation of 158,633 meters in Q1 2023, considered a significant number.

At the beginning of the year, the federal government proposed that about six million meters are to be deployed nationwide in the first and second quarters of this year to reduce the number of unmetered electricity consumers in Nigeria.

This was disclosed in a December 2022 document on the review of the performance of the power sector/Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry under the current administration.

In the document from the Federal Ministry of Power, the government said it had successfully executed a metering initiative post privatisation with one million meters rolled out in the first phase of the National Mass Metering Programme.

The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission were fundamental in designing and implementing this programme.

Courtesy:Punch

 

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