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EVN's ‘selfie' sticks may bump up electricity bills

Update: July, 09/2015 - 08:00
Electric workers use selfie-stick-like tools to collect data from electricity meters in Ha Noi. — Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — A new tool similar to a "selfie-stick" has been given to workers collecting data from electricity meters.

This is an attempt by Electricity of Viet Nam (EVN) in Ha Noi to use modern technology to make workers' lives easier and safer.

The tool set includes a stick of adjustable length with a camera at one end. The camera takes photos of numbers shown on meters and saves them on a separate tablet on the stick.

The new tool is considered helpful by the director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority, Nguyen Anh Tuan. He said data collectors with EVN would no longer have to climb rickety ladders to record numbers.

"The collecting work will be easy, even on rainy days," Tuan told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.

The tool set was officially introduced by EVN Ha Noi this month. The power organisation will use 1,129 sets to collect consumption data from about a million customers a month.

EVN Ha Noi also said that photos taken and saved by the tool set would help any questions from customers about consumption.

Reports by the Ministry of Industry and Trade indicate that EVN Ha Noi had more than 30,000 complaints from the customers about electricity rates in June alone, while the number at EVN HCM City was 117,115.

Residents may pay

While the intention of the plan seems good, many Ha Noi residents are worried that the cost of the tools will be included in their electricity bills.

The price for each set is about VND4-5 million (US$180-230). If Ha Noi wants to collect all power data this way, at least 5,000 will be needed.

Simple maths calculation shows that a minimum of VND20 billion ($909,000) would be added to Ha Noi EVN's cost balance. And no one can be sure whether EVN will try to raise electricity prices, which are already puzzling consumers, to cover its investment.

Last year, a report showed that 67,000 employees of EVN worked as data and bill collectors, but were still guaranteed an average monthly wage of about VND7 million ($318), much higher than the regulated salary of Government workers, who are on about VND2.2 million ($100).

The huge cost of keeping those employees is in doubt if it is partly responsible for keeping power prices high.

EVN Vice-director Dinh Quang Tri said that the tool was only used for big customers like governmental organisations and companies. The method to collect electricity data for the other 22 million households, which is equivalent to 22 million meters, is still through visual checks.

If EVN wants to use the tool set for data collection, all 22 million meters should be replaced by more advanced digital meters. As each new meter costs about VND600-700,000 ($27-31), it is expected to cost EVN a total of more than VND10 trillion ($454.5 million) to replace all the residential meters in the next five years, Tri added.

That cost will be inevitably included in the power rates, Tri said. — VNS

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