Metering with Ing. Mrs. Sariel Etwire (SE) is the first of the series. Ing. Mrs. Sariel Etwire is the General Manager/Metering and Technical Services at ECG. Due to the recent complaints by customers on meters, Digital Media Team (DMT) caught up with her in her office to answer questions and seek clarification on issues with regards to Meters.
Below are questions and answers from our interview with her:
DMT: Good Morning Madam Etwire. How many Meters are installed in ECG's system?
S E: Currently ECG has about Three Million, Two Hundred And Seventy-One Thousand customer meters as at first quarter 2016. There are other meters installed for our operations.eg Bulk Supply Point (BSP) metering.
DMT: Where are the meters manufactured?
S E: Majority of our meters are manufactured in Ghana, Singapore, India, and China.
DMT: Why are there so many types of meters in the system?
S E: Meters vary in terms of source and functions but comply with a standard technical specification and this is due to technological advancement.
DMT: Why are some customers on prepayment and others on credit meters?
S E: ECG has a policy guiding the deployment of prepayment meters and credit meters.
They are generally based on location and customer categorization. E.g. we are currently deploying prepaid meter to all student hostels, Tertiary and Government institutions, all regional and district capitals of ECG.
DMT: If I have a credit meter, can I request it to be changed to a prepaid meter?
S E: Yes, if the deployment is in your area.
DMT: Is it legal for ECG to change my meter from post-paid to pre-paid?
S E: Yes. The replacement is based on company policy and the meter is the property of the company.
DMT: Is it possible as a prepaid customer to revert back to post-paid?
S E: No. The replacement is a policy and this leads to changes in our operations, e.g. Meter reading in the prepaid areas are curtailed.
DMT: What is the procedure for a customer to acquire a meter?
S E: Meters go with a service. The customer has to make a request for a service, by filling an application form at the customer service center.
After that, the customer is notified via text or phone call of the day for site inspection.
Based on the outcome of the inspection, a customer is either given a quotation to pay or asked to make changes qualifying for service.
After payment, a contractor is assigned to undertake that service for the customer.
DMT: How long would it take a customer to acquire a meter?
S E: Meters go with a service. After service application has been reviewed and approved, and payment made by the customer, it takes generally a week to get service.
If a pole has to be erected, it takes longer because this involves engineering studies.
DMT: Why do some meters run faster than others?
S E: For the same amount of electricity consumed, our meters are calibrated to measure the same in a specified time.
It may appear that some meters blink or rotate faster than others for the same amount of electricity measured, however, they will measure the same units in the same time interval. This is due to the difference in meter constants. Various meters have different meter constants (rev/kWh or imp/kWh). This can be found on the meter nameplate information.
DMT: Can a meter be transferred from one place to the other?
S E: No, a meter cannot be transferred from one place to the other.
A meter is issued for use in a specific location and should NEVER be transferred to another point. All our meters are geo-referenced for easy identification of customers and database collection. So movement from one place to other can result in data loss.
It also leaves room for illegalities.
DMT: What is the amount paid for a new service used for?
S E: This is a one-time payment for Installation (Labour) and Maintenance. Most meter replacements are done at no cost to the customer unless the customer is found culpable of destroying the meter.
DMT: What qualifies me for a separate meter?
S E: Separate meters are installed for customers when the service does not require the drawing of a new service connection from the pole to the residence. The existing load on a parent meter is separated and a new meter installed to capture/measure that consumption.
There must be a parent meter
The Parent meter in the premises should consume more than 300kWh (units).
When the new request is different from the existing tariff class. For e.g. from residential to commercial.
DMT: Who bears the cost for meter replacement?
S E: Generally ECG replaces meters at no cost to the customer unless found culpable of destroying it.
DMT: When meters are being replaced, do customers lose credit on their meters at the time of replacement?
S E: No. All available credit and debt are transferred to the customers’ new account when the old account is finally closed.
DMT: What's the difference between unit and credit?
S E: Unit is electricity consumption in kWh and this depends on the gadgets used.
Credit is money deposited into the meter to pay for future use of electricity.
DMT: Do pre-paid meters run faster than credit meters?
S E: Pre-paid meters do not run faster than Credit meters. All meters measure the same amount of Electricity in a specified time.
DMT: What accounts for different Prepayment meter types in different locations?
S E: The technology available and the time of deployment.
DMT: Do I get more units or credit when I buy from ECG offices than buying from other private vending points?
S E: All vending points disburse the same amount of credit. Always check your receipt to confirm amount paid.
DMT: What happens if a meter is tampered with?
S E: It affects the accuracy of the meter. Meter tampering is an offence with a punitive action. Meter will be replaced at the cost of the customer and then a penalty charge for energy lost will also be recovered before the service is regularised.
DMT: Does ECG test or calibrate all its meters?
S E: Yes.
DMT: Can any electrician reconnect your meter after you have gone to pay for the reconnection fee?
S E: No. This is the responsibility of ECG staff and we need to seal the meters and update our account on the status of the service. Failure to do that will implicate you for illegal connection during our next routine visit.
DMT: What are the stages ECG meters go through before they get to a customer’s premises?
S E: - Type test of all meters
- Pattern approval tests from GSA
- Factory acceptance test at the Manufacturer’s before they are shipped
Meter acceptance test in ECG meter lab
Meters are issued from the Head Office for the region and then to district.
And then assigned to third party contractors for installation.
DMT: Are meters sold?
S E: No. In applying for a service, a customer pays for a one-time installation and maintenance fee, and not the price of the meter. The meter nameplate indicates that the meter is a property of ECG.
DMT: If I pay for a meter at a certain location, and I’m leaving, should I pay for a new service charge in my new place?
S E: Yes. If it is a new service.
DMT: What causes customers to get negative credit?
S E: The following conditions can cause negative credit:
When customers move from the 50unit block (Lifeline) on the tariff to 51units and they don’t have adequate money. Between 50 to 51units, your credit in the meter should be more than 23 Ghana Cedis to prevent a negative credit.
If the credit in your meter is less than the service charge at the time of deduction.
For the NURI (the meter that sends text messages), when there is a temporary break in communication between the meter and server. The meter will continue to measure, and whenever it resumes communication with the server, if the amount consumed is more than the available credit in the meter, it will deduct from the available credit. And if it’s more than the amount you have in your meter, you will be in negative.
DMT: Can I top up my units when it’s not completely used up?
S E: Yes you can, it is a cash deposit for future energy use.
DMT: ECG changed my meter, and I had debt on it. How do I pay back on the prepaid system?
S E: All debts are transferred to the new account, and a schedule will be generated for you to pay.
DMT: When a customer buys units on his/her prepaid meter card and gets home to find out it has no units/credit. What must the customer do?
S E: The card should be returned to the vending point, and file a complaint. An investigation will be carried out and money reimbursed.
DMT: Is there any plan to roll-out smart meters in the future?
S E: Yes, we are already rolling out smart meters.
DMT: What is a service charge and how is it deducted in prepayment metering?
S E: Service charge is a monthly fixed charge in the tariff. In prepayment, Smart cash and Enersmart meters deduct the service charge from the meters on the first day of the month. With other metering technologies, the service charge is deducted on the first day of purchase of credit in a month.
DMT: What would be the billing implications after a meter that has not been captured on ECGs Billing system is eventually captured?
S E: The customer may receive more than one month bill.
Alternatively, a customer that has not yet been captured can visit any ECG office nearby with a snapshot of the meter and make a complaint.
DMT: My prepaid meter was changed but I didn’t receive the credit that was on it before the change. What should I do to get my credit back?
S E: Normally, such credit is transferred to the new account.
Visit the district office with the last payment receipt and any other supporting documents of credit in the meter at the time of replacement.
DMT: With purchases, its buy more gets a discount. But with electricity use more and pay more, why?
S E: Electricity is subsidised for low energy usage, and it is targeted for the poor in the society.
DMT: In the situation whereby your prepaid meter card get spoiled or misplaced, would the customer pay for the replacement?
S E: ECG will replace the meter card if it’s spoilt at no cost but if it’s misplaced, the customer will pay the cost of replacement.
DMT: Does ECG re-calibrate our meters after installation?
S E: Yes, but this is guided by a policy. For non-industrial meters, sampling is done every 5yrs. Based on sample size report, we either do a full calibration of such meters or do another sampling in the next 5yrs. We have the policy to undertake meter testing for all reported suspected faulty meters.
DMT: Can a prepaid customer get monthly statements for the previous month’s consumption and where can they get it?
S E: Yes. Visit the CRA (Customer Relations Officer) in the District Office with a copy of any of his/her receipt.
DMT: Can I request for my old meter back because the new meter runs too fast.
S E: No. The new meter shouldn’t run faster than the old one unless the old meter was faulty.
DMT: Can customers pay their bills to the meter reader?
S E: Never pay a bill to a meter reader. Make all payments at designated ECG offices and banks.
DMT: What are you final words to customers?
S E: ECG continues to provide exceptional service to its customers. As a customer-oriented company, the satisfaction of the customers is at the core of the business. We entreat customers with any complaints and issues regarding meters to visit any of our District Offices or Regional Offices for assistance. Our Customer Relations Assistants (CRA) are ever ready to help.
DMT: On behalf of DMT, we would like to thank you for the time, considering your busy schedule.