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High electricity bills a result of longer billing period, estimated usage – VINLEC

High electricity bills a result of longer billing period,  estimated usage – VINLEC
Thornley Myers

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Longer billing periods than usual, coupled with a higher fuel surcharge, has resulted in customers receiving a higher than usual electricity bill for April.

But the St Vincent Electricity Services Ltd(VINLEC) has assured consumers that this means that there will be a shorter billing period in May.

VINLEC’S Chief Executive Officer(CEO), Thornley Myers, provided a thorough breakdown of the situation at a virtual press conference on Friday, April 30.

“…On a monthly basis there are nine meter readers who visit all 46,000 meters and provide meter reading for billing,” he explained.

“Under normal conditions this is a fairly tight schedule because meter reading commences on the…first working day of the month, and ends approximately two to three days before the end of the month,” he said.

For April, meter reading began on April 1, and this was interrupted by the Easter weekend. Meter reading resumed on the Tuesday after Easter Monday. Then, the explosive eruptions began at La Soufrière on April 9.

“The week immediately following the initial explosive interruptions was difficult for all. Our meter readers essentially travelled by foot to every single meter, and it became extremely difficult for them to traverse the country doing meter reading,” the CEO explained.

They had to put a halt to meter reading, with a plan that when conditions improved they would recommence and read “as many meters as possible.”

Myers said during that period very few meters were read.  A normal billing period would generally reflect consumption for 30 to 32 days, and occasionally 33. However, the delay translated into a billing period that exceeded this, “and in some instances we have gotten to as high as 43 days.”

There are customers receiving bills for the normal billing period and “there are customers who are receiving an electricity bill for the month of April with a billing period as high as 43 [days].”

Furthermore, “…Essentially, time ran out on us, and we could not read all of the meters that we wanted to.”

Therefore, there are customers who received an estimated bill.

“…Our computer software that has the customer information data looks at each customer’s consumption over a three-month period,” in order to estimate the bill. It averages what daily consumption is, and multiplies the days of the billing period by this daily average,” Myers added.

Therefore, “…it is possible that that estimate may be lower or higher than the electricity that you would normally use, that’s why we would call it an estimate,” Myers said.

However, when the meters are read, and the actual consumption is recorded, if this is lower than the estimation, then the accounts would be credited.

“What you are guaranteed is that when the meter is actually read, your consumption is noted, and you will receive an accurate bill,” the CEO said.

“…For this month’s(April) bill you are likely to see a higher consumption because the estimated meter reading was done over a longer period, and that’s where many of our customers would naturally see a higher electricity bill,” he disclosed, “…and this is compounded by the fact that during the month of April the fuel surcharge was a little higher than the previous one.”

He underscored the integrity of the company and assured that: “Our customers should not be fearful, be concerned that as an entity we are involved in unsavory practices. That has not been the history, the tradition of this company.”

For April, 20,000 customers received bills for a period of 33 days or fewer, while 15,000 customers were charged for their consumption ranging from a period of 34 to 43 days. Approximately 6,000 customers received estimated bills. VINLEC has temporarily suspended billing for about 5,048 consumers evacuated from the danger zone.

“…If you have a long or an unusually high billing period for April, be assured that the billing period for May would be much, much shorter,” Myers reiterated.

The CEO also addressed some comments made by customers, stating that“…St Vincent Electricity Services is owned by the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, it’s managed by Vincentians.”

“…None of us have been born with riches, we’ve struggled to get to where we are, and we have a deep and abiding interest not only in our jobs, but in doing what is right, what is right for the company, what is right for our country.”

“There is no interest whatsoever on the part of any individual in this company to do anything to hurt our citizens. This is our country, this is our home,” the CEO emphasised.

“We don’t always get it right, that is for sure, but it’s not within our interest to do something that hurts, that pressures, that makes our life difficult for us citizens”.