E.P.C. Chief defends smart meters

The General Manager of the Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.), Lupematasila Tile Leia, has defended the introduction of smart meters saying do not cost consumers more than what they are already paying. 

Lupematasila offered the comments after the $4.1 million smart meter project was put on hold by E.P.C. while it reviewed some technical issues they encountered.

A smart meter is an electronic device that records consumption of electric energy and communicates the information to the electricity supplier for monitoring and billing.

So far, E.P.C. has installed smart meters for household consumers at Vaitele, Nu'u, and Falelauniu and for some 300 businesses. 

Lupematasila argues that smart meters are more accurate in terms of reading electricity consumption compared to the old metres. 

“I do not agree with the point from the consumers that smart meters are more expensive than the normal meters,” he said. 

He clarified that some customers have confused one of the advantages of having smart meters with it being expensive.

“Some of [E.P.C.] consumers were complaining that when they come to vend the next day the computer system here deducts some money from their account. But to clarify that point is that for the smart meters we allow the meter to continue supplying electricity for consumers when they run out of credit during night times. 

“We use that function of the meter because it’s a smart meter instead of disconnecting the consumers when they run out of credit during night time we continue to supply them and they owe us for doing that.”

The General Manager of E.P.C. also explained that when customers purchase credit for their electricity the next day, they will pay for the amount they owe and E.P.C. will deduct it first.

The balance is reflected in the units.

“Some of the consumers were complaining about that, for us we can turn off the meter at night when it runs out of credit but the problem is, it’s only a few consumers that are complaining about that but the majority of consumers they are happy with that setup," he said.

“We can set the meter to disconnect the consumer but because the majority is positive about that we let it."

He added that E.P.C. can supply electricity if credit is finished within an overnight period or 24 hours until it is officially switched off.

Furthermore, he also explained that consumers can purchase using prepaid phones, consumers can monitor their electricity consumption and know the quality of electricity they are receiving.   

Lupematasila added that if communication problems are fixed during this month then they will resume the installation of smart meters. 

“We need to address the issue that we are facing at the moment so we are working with the Office of the Regulator and the manufacturer of our smart meters in the US to solve the interference with the frequency bandwidth that was allocated to E.P.C. to be used for smart meters. 

“This is why communication between our main office and consumers is very slow. So until we solve that problem then we continue with installation of the smart meters. 

“We managed to address the issues with the customers that we have already installed the smart meters with.”

The Electrical Power Corporation Chief added that there are a lot of functionality things that are not available with the normal meters so those are the functions of the smart meters that will improve the quality of our service to the consumers.

“And the consumers will also have access to their meters. But all those things stuck at the moment until we fix the interference. 

“So we are putting the manufacturer or supplier of our smart meters under pressure to come up with solutions. It been three months now, we have our virtual meetings every week to follow-up the progress of the solution.”

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