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Prepaid meters not “Guyanese-proof”

GPL CEO Bharat Dindyal

Electricity theft by GPL consumers issued pre-paid meters has reached levels that are causing the company’s management to worry.

This was disclosed by CEO Bharat Dindyal at a public forum on Friday. The prepaid meter system was introduced in 2009 as part of the company’s loss reduction efforts and to improve customer consumption.

“We’re seeing about nine percent of the instances in the investigations where there is tampering and bypass, with the prepaid meters it is about five percent. It is big enough, it is significant enough to cause worry.”

The CEO added that their last estimate for losses resulting from electricity theft stood at $2.4B annually.

He said a planned advanced metering project is underway and they have installed more than 1,800 smart meters with 350 of them running in series with pre-paid meters that were previously installed. The smart meters or Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) allows GPL to remotely monitor customers’ consumption.

“It’s showing up some very interesting results. Bypassing the prepaid meters is an issue, how consumers are doing it we are aware, there are a number of ways they do it, who they engage to do it, so it’s something we’re working on,” the CEO said.

He was understandably coy about where the meters were installed only saying that they were placed in an “interesting part of the country.”

“While the new meters are in some people I know are singing and dancing out there but we’re gathering intelligence and it’s astonishing what we’re seeing. So when we turn up at those premises as we’ll probably start doing today (Friday) they’ll be astonished at what we’ll be able to show them.

So the fellows who are taking out the meters 2 o’clock in the morning and those who are doing it at different times of the day and all sorts of things will be astonished at what we can show them and we’ll be showing them shortly,” Dindyal said.

He added that they will be pursuing prosecution of the offenders.

The CEO said while the intention was to install fraud proof systems they were aware that it was perhaps impossible to eliminate electricity theft in the face of Guyanese ingenuity. The hope is that a demonstration of the smart meters’ capabilities would act as a deterrent. The pilot programme was started in December last.