PHED set to roll out smart meters to fight bypass, other losses

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* As N3Bn monthly loss persist

* PHED moves to customer non-person solutions with 500-capacity 24/7 call system

By Codratus Godson

The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) seems to have found another approach in the fight against revenue losses and energy theft.

Details

Solution may be on the way to eliminate or reduce the monthly revenue loss of about N3Bn suffered by the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) and save the energy distribution system of the power sector.

The indication emerged in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Monday, August 31, 2020, where a high-tech offering that would reduce human contact in solving customers’ problems was unveiled.

The energy theft and revenue loss menace may be solved by an upcoming ‘smart meter’ system; developed for PHED that would soon be deployed to replace the existing meters. The new meter is capable of reporting tamper. Also, a customer can be disconnected by the head office through the smart meter.

Energy theft with attendant revenue loss has been the biggest challenge facing most Discos with PHED being one of the hardest-hit due to the mindset of the people of its coverage area (the Niger Delta) who are said to be used to free services offered by the oil corporations as corporate social responsibility programmes.

Also, there are difficult terrains with swamps and highly violent enclaves where electricity officials hardly get close to.

Tampering and bypass are said to be rampant leading to almost 60 per cent revenue loss per month with average monthly revenue yield of about N2bn.

Several measures have been deployed in the past to fight the menace but new strategies have been deployed since the coming of a new CEO, Henry Ajagbawa.

His single mandate seems to be to fight the revenue loss crisis which threatens the survival of the PHED in the face of striking needs such as about N40Bn needed to procure enough meters in Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. There is also the need to step up power supply to win back consumers (especially top grade customers and bulk consumers) who are gradually moving out of the grid to seek alternative sources. On this, the Disco has had to take over construction of a power system at Rumosi to supply to more sections of the Rivers State capital.

The fight to rescue the revenue ability of the disco has thus been raging. An official of the PHED, Angela Ajere, head of customer service, who gave the hint in response to questions by newsmen at the unveiling of the IVR system said the present meters in existence only have a one-way communication capability but the smart meter coming soon has a two-way communication ability.

According to her, the new meter has tamper-proof mechanism that can alert the distribution company should a customer want to do by-pass or tamper with it in any form. It has the ability to communicate with both the customer and the company. The company can also disconnect power supply to a household right from the head office.

Ajere demonstrated how the new Integrated Voice Response (IVR) system works, saying all issues by a customer can be handled from the system including reporting a fault, buying credit (token) borrowing token during odd hours, confirming the identity of a PHED official that would come to render service, etc.

She disclosed that the new 24/7 integrated centre now has the capacity to handle up to 500 calls per shift which means almost 1000 calls per day. Present capacity is 360 per shift o 720 per day. The objective is to give PHED customers a hallucinating experience, she added.

In his remarks, the CEO, (Henry Ajagbawa) who was represented by the General Manager (General Services), Otuko Ama, admitted that Rome was not built in a day, but said the journey to an efficient energy distribution system is gradual.

The CEO said most things that look impossible in technology such as the ATM (automated teller machine) have now got close to us in Nigeria. “We are therefore happy that you are here to witness the launch of our call centre which technologically is called the Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

“This technology allows you to communicate with a computer operated- phone system through voice.

“Standardising our call centre with the interactive voice response (IVR) will not only enhance customer satisfaction but will also increase efficiency in three ways:

Self Service Enquiry: Customers do not need to visit our offices physically, all they need to do is to call and choose the appropriate prompt action, follow the steps and their issues are recorded and ultimately resolved.

Complaint Resolution via call agents: Customers can also have their billing and technical complaints escalated and resolved at an instance.

Work from home option: This technology provides seamless customer service right at the comfort of your home.

“This new addition to our numerous projects lined up would gradually take us to our vision which is to be ‘The No. 1 Electricity Distribution Company in Nigeria.”

The Centre was commissioned by the Rivers State Commissioner of Power and Energy, Milner, who was represented by the director of planning, research and statistics, Francis Odili.

The government commended the PHED for pursuit of hi-tech to solving the numerous problems the director said were glaring during the days of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).

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