Utilities turn to digitalisation not just to keep up with a world stepping onto the fourth industrial revolution, but because it makes business sense.
A recent Conlog sponsored webinar highlighted insights into power usage, customer purchase patterns and detecting potential fraud. It also focussed on how easily, seamlessly and cost-effectively utilities can deliver customer services through remote digital vending, managed metering and Conlog’s cloud platform, saving utilities money and improving on customer engagement.
Elungile Mzimba, general manager Conlog Nigeria, set the scene by describing how COVID-19 induced lockdowns have forced utilities to concentrate on extensive process reviews. Company shutdowns, a downturn in consumption of energy, inaccessible utility offices and limits on movement all conspired to challenge how utilities worked: “Increasing debt through limited income from the services, this is pretty much what has been happening with loss of jobs in the big players and consumers of electricity.
“Creative ways had to be found. Well done to the distribution companies because we’ve seen you come up with creative manners to make your customers find their way easier to access the product and services you offer,” said Mzimba.
Nigeria’s original supply constraint problems were exacerbated during lockdowns mid-2020. “The unmetered connections that we continue to have on our grid, the mass electricity theft, limited vending and payments, macro-economic challenges that continue to rise, the financial pressure that our utilities, and Discos especially, continue to experience that we continue to resolve, generally constrained grid ITO of the infrastructure challenges we have; these are the issues we continue to navigate,” explained Mzimba.
Digitilisation in Nigerian utilities is leading to jobs and localisation
She pointed out though that meter installations remain a big project across Nigeria. In the country Conlog specifically has a current production capacity of 20,000 meters per month and installation rate of 3,000 meters per week. They have created 760 direct and indirect jobs as part of their contract with Nigeria’s MAP programme to install 420,000 meters. Their plan is to eventually ramp up production to install 20,000 a month.
“Expansion of the plant is currently our biggest discussion… and to make sure that we create jobs, we produce more meters, we localise more technology and we continue to mature and grow more talent in the country,” said Mzimba.
Lance Hawkins-Dady, Conlog R&D and services manager, explained how they use the concept of managed services – the practice of outsourcing the responsibility for maintaining and anticipating the need for a range of processes and functions to improve operations – as a business principle. For example “by introducing third party vending, essentially, what you are doing is you are increasing the accessible footprint that customers have to access the buying of electricity.”
Managed services form part of the Conlog 3 pillar approach to manage revenue optimisation, revenue protection and revenue collection. If you want to know more about this approach and so much more, watch the on-demand-session of Managed services and metering insights to ensure maximum financial health for utilities in West Africa online.
Where there is money, there is a need to secure that money
Viven Perumal, Marketing Manager at Conlog, explained a major theme of revenue optimisation is digitising the revenue architecture by moving the services online. This then necessitates protecting the movement of the packets of data. Perumal said they have noticed some very ingenious fraudsters applying their minds to electricity meters: “What we’ve seen is syndicates can log into meters, clone meters, duplicate tokens and defraud the system.”
They have seen and analysed a real-time decline in revenue collected, not just with their own meters but across the board, because of this type of fraud and have thus patented Crypto Vault Technology to secure electricity meters. Sibusiso Skosana, Commercial director at Conlog pointed out revenue collection is cash to keep the business running. And, as Elungile Mzimba said, if people cannot move around they cannot go to offices to pay bills: “If you provide convenience through mobile apps, through web apps, you are able to give people access to a safe reliable ecosystem for them to be able to exchange cash and in doing that, the utility then manages to secure their cash.”