Employees of EVN Hanoi, the capital city’s power utility, have been equipped with thousands of ‘selfie sticks,’ but not to use them to take self-portrait photographs.
Instead, the equipment, a long stick with a camera attached on top, enables the power employees to read electricity consumption numbers without having to climb onto ladders to reach the meters situated on tall power poles.
EVN Hanoi, a subsidiary of the Vietnam Electricity Group, the country’s power monopoly, is proud that it is “the first unit to apply advanced technology in reading electricity meters.”
The hi-tech adaptation is intended to “make the meter reading more transparent” and “supply more benefits to customers,” the company said on its website.
Photo: EVN Hanoi
EVN Hanoi said it has put nearly 1,300 sets of such equipment into use as of this month.
While the new method has spared employees the ladders, they still need to work in pairs with the ‘selfie stick.’
One employee will use the stick to read the meter, while the other holds a tablet, waiting for the photo to note the numbers into the device.
There is apparently no automatic data transfer between the camera and the tablet. The numbers recorded from the meters still have to be input manually.
But at least the employees do not have to carry pens and notebooks with them.
Photo: EVN Hanoi
“Customers can ask to see the photos captured of their electricity meters,” EVN Hanoi said, adding this helps “rebuild customers’ trust in the power sector.”
The utility also said the equipment can “calculate the power consumption right after the new numbers are input, and alert employees when abnormal consumption is detected.”
The ‘initiative’ of EVN Hanoi apparently came after a number of customers in the capital city complained that their electricity bills have been unusually high in the last few months.
Around one million residents in Hanoi, or 40 percent of its total population, will have their electricity billed by the new equipment, Nguyen Anh Tuan, head of the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam, told Lao Dong (Labor) newspaper on Tuesday.
If the new meter reading method is applied to all power users in the city, EVN Hanoi will need 5,000 sets of the equipment, which cost around VND4-5 million ($180-230) apiece.
This means the company will have to earmark VND20-25 billion ($918,695 to $1.15 million) in its bid to “make power prices more transparent.”
Industry insiders are concerned that the costs for ‘hi-tech adaption” will be counted into electricity prices, and consumers in the end will be the ones to suffer.
Vietnam’s power prices increased 7.5 percent in mid-March, averaging VND1,622 per kWh.
In 2014, then-EVN general director Pham Le Thanh told a meeting that as many as 67,000 of the power giant’s employees are tasked only with reading meters countrywide, in addition to informing consumers of late payment.
EVN currently has to earmark around VND110 billion ($5.05 million) on a monthly basis for reading 2.2 million electricity meters across the country, according to Lao Dong.