The Guyana Power and Light Inc’s (GPL) smart meter pilot programme will be evaluated over the next 30-60 days following which a decision will be made as to whether there will be a wider roll-out of the project.
This was announced as the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) reviewed GPL’s 2013 operating standards and performance targets at Duke Lodge on Friday. In November, GPL had announced the start of the first phase of its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) pilot programme with 2000 smart meters expected to be installed in the Georgetown business hub. The AMI programme incorporates technology that allows electricity meters to be read remotely and is financed under a loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank.
According to information provided to the hearing, 1867 smart meters which are capable of remotely disconnecting and reconnecting consumers have already been installed. The meters can monitor electricity consumption in real time while providing voltage regulation reports. The power company will see its investigative capacity being bolstered so it would be able to specifically identify where leakages in electricity have occurred or are occurring.
The technology would also provide consumers with the ability to monitor their own consumption as it occurs via an online portal for which they would receive a secure login username and password. This would complement the online bill payment system that has already been launched. The benefit to the consumer besides convenience would be more prudent use of electricity which could lead to conservation of electricity and impact Guyana on a larger scale.
The hearing was told that that the pilot project, which is being spearheaded by the company’s Operations Director Colin Welch, is still in its early stages and will be evaluated over the next 30-60 days. After assessing the actual benefits, effectiveness and shortcomings, a decision will be made as to whether there would be a wider roll-out of the project and the replacement of the meters currently in place. More infrastructure work however, has to be done to see this project realizing its full potential.
Furthermore, a collection point has to be established with the necessary mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the data being gathered coupled with the securing of a proprietary frequency via which the information will be transmitted.
At the hearing, several of GPL’s directors made presentations on the attainment of the standards and the challenges that they faced in that regard. The panel consisted of Chief Executive Officer Bharat Dindyal, Deputy CEO Aeshwar Deonarine, IT and Commercial Services Director, Renford Homer, among other company officials.
The hearing was to determine if GPL failed to meet the standards in any material respect and to give it an opportunity to respond. They were assessed according to System Losses, Customer Interruption, Billing and Meter Reading, Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable.
According to Welch, reduction of losses for 2013 was pegged at 0.8% out of a target of 1.6%, while 14,198 meters were installed and there was a vast improvement in the company’s investigative capacity.
Despite the challenges of availability of meters shipped given time delays and strict shipping requirements, they persevered, he said. The company took strong measures against theft resulting in 489 arrests and 39 convictions. They removed 7,039 illegal connections, conducted 205 raids and have 1,200 cases pending in court, he said.
With regards to Customer Interruption, GPL was tasked with limiting interruptions to 140 for the year but there were 180 interruptions exceeding the target by 28%. The previous year, 2012, saw a total of 120 interruptions. The utility was expected to limit the duration of interruptions to 160 hours but surpassed this at 164 hours per customer, a 2% failure.
It was explained that GPL expected the increase which was due to infrastructure development and installation of new substations.
An analysis of Demerara and Berbice interruptions was done because they accounted for 95% of operations and this revealed that feeder trips and generator faults accounted for 60% of overall interruptions. In Demerara, 65% of interruptions were transient trips which the consumer would not notice because it happens so quickly.
Generator trips accounted for over 30% of interruptions in Berbice. The main reason for interruptions was stated to be vegetation on transmission lines which can be controlled. Work is needed in the distribution services to combat this. Other reasons for the interruptions were limitations of generator capacity.
Meantime, planned activities and emergency activities contributed to 60% of overall interruptions compared to 75% in 2012. Generator availability target was 75% with actual performance being 71%. The generators that caused the most interruptions were #6 at Garden of Eden which was down in 2012 and set for a major overhaul which was delayed until April 2013, #4 in Murray’s Cane field and #5 at Onverwagting which malfunctioned
In 2013, GPL set out to address all reports of voltage fluctuations within 55 days which was realised at a rate of 100% as compared to 2012’s 98% completion rate. Voltage fluctuations are not detected by the company, therefore occurrences cannot be addressed unless it is reported to their call centre.
Customer billing and Meter reading
In relation to billing, the target was 90% but GPL achieved 89%. For non-maximum demand bills, officials detailed challenges such as an inability to access meters, changes in lifestyle, criminal impersonation of inspectors, defective meters and poor weather.
Of a total of 170,000 customers 87% out of the target of 90% was achieved. 2% were read with hand held terminals.
During the questions and comments segment, it was suggested that representation be made to the Chancellor of the Judiciary to have a separate magistrate’s court to expediently resolve cases. Dindyal responded that it was discussed and that major legislative changes will be required but it is still a prospective solution.