GPL’s consumption index heavily favours company – PUC

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has highlighted that the consumption formula used by the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) to determine the consumption rates of consumers who are caught stealing electricity heavily favours the company.gpl-logo

According to the Commission in its recently released 2015 Annual Report, the Electricity Sector Reform Act (ESRA) authorises the utility company to act against such consumers, that is, it empowers the company to back-bill customers for a determined period once they are caught stealing electricity.

However, the PUC believes that the company’s consumption index overestimate consumers’ electricity usage.

“GPL has a chart that estimates the average monthly consumption per equipment used by a consumer and assumes this to be the level of consumption of each customer. The Commission has been reviewing GPL’s list of estimates being used by the company for some time and is of the opinion that the consumption levels used are heavily weighed in favour of the company,” the PUC stated in the report.

The Commission outlined that GPL’s estimates have similar patterns to a North American utility. It noted that such a method was flawed from the inception since empirical evidence suggested that electricity consumption in an affluent society would be higher than in a developing country.

In reviewing GPL’s consumption index, the PUC pointed out that there was an assumption that a consumer utilised a microwave for 30 hours per month or one hour per day, but its research suggested otherwise. To this end, the Commission prepared a list of consumption per equipment which it believes would be fair to both the service provider and the consumers based on its own research.

Furthermore, the PUC indicated that it has compared these estimates to those in use by the Regulated Industries Commission of Trinidad (RIC) and has found that the Commission’s estimates are close to those on its prepared list.

Among the estimates put forward by the Commission are: 7.2 kilowatt per hour (kwh) for television, while GPL’s estimate is 30 kwh and RIC is 18.0 kwh; 0.12 kwh for a microwave oven while GPL’s is 30 kwh and RIC 4.0 kwh; 58.2 kwh for a refrigerator while GPL’s is 90 kwh and RIC is 54.0 kwh; 0.12 kwh for a blender while GPL’s is 5 kwh and RIC is 0.8; 6 kwh for a computer system while GPL’s is 30 kwh and RIC is 4.5 kwh; 16.4 kwh for an electric water pump, while GPL’s is 30 kwh and RIC is 11.9 kwh, and 0.52 kwh for a washing machine while GPL’s is 19 kwh and RIC is 2.0 kwh.

The PUC said it intended to take up with this matter with GPL with the aim of reviewing the estimates used by the country’s premier electricity company.

On the other hand, the Commission also highlighted in its report the ongoing technological innovations that involve the efficient use of energy. The PUC noted that focus was placed on appliances using the inverter technology, since the unique configuration of the inverter units means less power is used than the non-inverter units, while giving the same energy output.

The PUC gave an example of two air conditioning units rated at 8000 Btu, one with an inverter and the other none. The compressor motor of a non-inverter air conditioner only operates at a maximum capacity, or is switched off altogether. This, the Commission pointed out, leads to unnecessary electricity consumption and higher electricity bills.

“The inverter air conditioning units have increased efficiency in contraction to non-inverter air conditioners, extended life of their parts and the sharp fluctuations in the load are eliminated. This makes the inverter air conditioners units quieter, and lower operating cost. The inverter air conditioners units might be more expensive than the non-inverter air conditioners, but this is compensated by lower energy bills. The payback time is approximately two years depending on the usage,” the Commission explained.

The PUC had stated that its Engineering Division would be monitoring the technical components of the operators in 2016 with the view to ensure that consumers stand to benefit from the changes in technology and were treated fairly by all public utilities under the Commission’s jurisdiction.