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Energy efficiency in postpaid-prepaid metered homes: analyzing effects of socio-economic, housing, and metering factors in Lagos, Nigeria

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Advances in automated energy metering system over the years have engendered transparency, self-control, efficiency, and equity in energy use especially among residential households globally. Despite this development, only few studies have shown the disaggregated effects of household attributes, dwelling characteristics, and metering systems on residential energy efficiency in the Global South. This paper argues that apart from household contextual factors—socio-economic and housing—the metering systems could indirectly account for energy disparities among urban households. This study therefore compared electricity consumption by urban households under the postpaid meter system and the prepaid meter system using electricity utility data obtained from residents in Ojo Lagos, Nigeria. Findings indicated that electricity consumption levels differed significantly between the postpaid and the prepaid metered households. Further analyses showed that the prepaid meter households used 47% less electricity kWh per annum compared with the postpaid meter households, intra-group variations in domestic electricity use were attributed to the household socio-economic and residential characteristics, and inter-group variations in electricity use rates were attributed to the metering system used by households. This study has both practical and policy implications for urban energy management especially with regard to the metering systems put in place for residential energy use and the need to ensure energy justice in socio-economically polarized cities.

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  1. This is the acronym used in this article for postpaid meter systems. The acronym TMS is preferably used in order to differentiate clearly between the postpaid meter system and the prepaid meter system which could both be shortened to PMS. The postpaid meter system is regarded as traditional meter system (TMS) because it was the earliest electricity current measuring device introduced into the Nigerian households and the energy market since the colonial period.

  2. The aspect of electricity focused upon in this study was the public utility power generated and distributed by the formal organizations under various names of Electricity Commission of Nigeria (ECN), National Electricity Power Agency (NEPA), Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Power Generation Companies (GENCO), Power Transmission Companies (TRANSCO), and Power Distribution Companies (DISCO). The electricity utility surveyed in the study area was from the main grids and micro-grids and did not include power from the respective household generators or other informal sources. Despite the fact that energy reforms in Nigeria that started in 1999 finally led to the unbundling of PHCN in 2013, electric power generation and distribution remain problematic, and the urban residents had faced torrid time in accessing regular electricity for several years. In the late 1990s, prepaid meters were introduced into the Nigerian energy market, presumably to give consumers the liberty to control their energy demands, and provide a more transparent billing system. Since then, the traditional analogue meters and the prepaid meters have been utilized for electric power billing. Both meters are however very expensive and take long time to acquire in the country.

  3. Naira, the Nigerian currency represented here by “N,” was exchanging for N160.00 to $1.00 US dollar as at the time of this research.

  4. In most parts of Lagos metropolitan areas, single multifamily housing units primarily built to accommodate the low economic status city residents are ubiquitous, and the occupants of these residences share a number of facilities including toilets, baths, and kitchen and electricity meters. The rooms are in rows and face one another in a rectangular fashion reflecting high residential density. The implicit effects of these kinds of residences on health and home choices in Lagos have been extensively documented in recent publications (see Aliu and Adebayo 2013; Aliu and Ajala 2014), and their energy use implication is a subject of intense debates.


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I wish to thank my colleague Dr. I. S. Akoteyon for assisting with the map of the study area and the six anonymous reviewers for their robust and constructive comments that considerably improved the quality of the paper.

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Correspondence to I.R. Aliu.

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Aliu, I. Energy efficiency in postpaid-prepaid metered homes: analyzing effects of socio-economic, housing, and metering factors in Lagos, Nigeria. Energy Efficiency 13, 853–869 (2020).

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