Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1359, (7 - 13 September 2017)
Wednesday,20 September, 2017
Issue 1359, (7 - 13 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Help reading the meters

The government is looking for help reading electricity meters and collecting electricity bills, reports Ahmed Kotb

 

Help reading the meters
Help reading the meters

The Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy (MERE) is studying offers from companies wanting to help read household power meters and collect electricity bills. According to MERE spokesman Ayman Hamza, the initiative comes in the wake of complaints from consumers of wrong readings of electricity meters and consequently error-ridden electricity bills.

Some consumers have refused to pay their bills as a result, while others have withheld payment because of the rising cost of electricity. There have been rumours that the MERE intends to employ collection agencies to collect unpaid bills, but these were denied by Hamza.

Although the company making the best tender has yet to be revealed, sources at the MERE said that the contract would likely be awarded to the Falcon Group, an Egyptian joint venture providing security services including private security, premises protection, cash in transit and touristic safety services.

The Falcon Group became a recognisable brand locally after it successfully secured the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2013 and 2015. It has also been awarded contracts to secure public universities and airports.

“The name of the company has not been decided, as the ministry is considering the offers that have been made in order to choose the most suitable one,” Hamza told Al-Ahram Weekly. He said the winning company would be announced soon, as there was an urgent need for its services, he added.

Hamza said that rumours that the MERE had already finalised a deal with the Falcon Group were not true, and that the chosen company would sign a three-year deal with the ministry. “A committee will decide on the best offer very soon,” he said.

The MERE spokesman said that there were about 4,000 meter-readers and 7,200 bill-collectors across the country, and that the ministry needed at least double that number in order to ensure more systematic meter-reading and bill-collection.

“The new company will start its work with the ministry by the beginning of 2018,” he noted. MERE has nine electricity distribution companies across Egypt, each being responsible for providing electricity to specific areas, reading meters and collecting bills.

The electricity consumption of households and commercial and industrial sectors in Egypt reached a total value of LE12 billion during July. Although officials at the MERE have not revealed the size of losses from unpaid bills, or from the unpaid bills of government bodies, the sum is estimated to run into the billions of Egyptian pounds.

According to a press statement, only 24 per cent of government agencies pay their electricity bills, against over 90 per cent of private individuals. The nine electricity distribution companies are losing billions as a result, with five of them seeing losses amounting to nearly LE500 million.

However, the number of people refusing to pay their bills increased last month following an increase in the price of electricity to all six segments of subscribers as part of government plans to gradually remove subsidies on electricity and energy. If subscribers refuse to pay their bills for three consecutive months, the MERE distribution companies have the right to cut off their electricity.

The private company that has yet to be named is expected to cooperate with the MERE for only a few years, as the ministry is planning to replace its 32 million traditional electricity meters with new pre-charged ones over the next five years.

The latter automatically cut the power from households when a pre-set amount has been consumed, with the power coming back on once the meter is recharged. New customers are already obliged to install pre-charged meters, and the current number of subscribers using them is estimated at 3.75 million.

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