Authorities at the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCo), a subsidiary of the Volta River Authority (VRA), say they have deepened collaboration with security agencies to clip what they describe as the “devastating operations” of cable thieves in northern Ghana.
Cable theft, often carried out at nighttime, is rampant across the north, throwing communities into sudden darkness and prompting armed robbery raids in its wake.
NEDCo’s Managing Director, Frank Akligo, disclosed the company’s pain and plan to newsmen on the sidelines of a public energy conservation forum held at Walewale, capital of the West Mamprusi District in the Northern Region.
“Besides the burden of cost implications of cable theft on the country, there are social effects of plunging communities into darkness by stealing cables. It encourages robbery attacks on households. We have been collaborating with the security agencies to clamp down on cable theft.
“We want to encourage people to report any suspicious move around our networks particularly in the night. It affects our operation and customers. We want to encourage customers to be on the lookout for people who come around to sell scraps, aluminum or copper materials. Mostly, those are the materials they steal from us,” Mr. Akligo said.
NEDCo, customers sort out grievances
The energy conservation campaign was organised by the VRA/NEDCo Ladies Association and themed “Energy Conservation, the Role of Women and Youth”.
A sequel to a similar programme launched in Accra in the middle of 2016, the campaign at Walewale was aimed at educating the public how to consume less power and pay fewer bills.
The organisers moved through the main streets of the district, sharing fliers and offering free tips to households and traders on energy conservation. And as anticipated, the public welcomed the opportunity with some reservations they seemed to have bottled up for a long time.
“What is worrying me so much is that the bills don’t come on time,” complained Zakari Iddrisu, a middle-aged holder of a post-paid meter. “They continue piling them. And when they pile them and you later on pay, you will not even get the feedback. It (the feedback) will come in late. And when it comes in late and you want explanation, they don’t even know how to explain. And sometimes when they are reading the meter, they don’t even tell you. They will just go and put anything there,” he stressed angrily.
Another consumer, Maafus Issah, grumbled: “I have a problem with their reading of the meter. For example, if it is 21st that they have come to read the meter, you know that they will come back next month 21st to read the meter again. They don’t. Next month, they will come somewhere 15th to read the meter and give you a different bill, too. They will always come when you have not used what you’ve paid for. There is no specific time. And in the end, you will have arrears you have to pay.”
Reacting to the grievances, the VRA/NEDCo Area Manager for the Upper East Region, Lucy Perbi-Nyarko, indicated that the alleged misreading of the post-paid meters could be as a result of some technical hiccups.
“We have the billing cycle and we have the reading cycle. When should we read and when should we bill? So, the instruction is that if we read your meter on the 5th, it’s supposed to be one month. So, the following month, we have to read it on the 5th. Unless we have some hitches somewhere; other than that, the number of days within a cycle should be the same,” she said.
Standby modes ‘killing’ consumers
About 30% of the energy purchased by most individuals goes waste due to poor management practices, according to experts.
“Sometimes, 20 to 30% of most of the energy we go to buy goes waste. We are fond of leaving our appliances on standby mode. You are watching your television; you are going to sleep; you only use the remote to put it off; it’s on standby mode.
“Research has shown that those standby modes contribute to the waste of energy. About 6 to 15% of our energy is wasted through leaving our appliances on standby mode. If you have finished watching your programmes on television, put off the set. It’s very necessary that we see how we can practise energy conservation to save money in our pockets, to improve the economy and to protect the environment,” Richard Kansang, CEO of Richmanda Engineering Ltd and key speaker at the forum, explained.
He added: “Another thing is the bulbs we use in our various houses. We have moved from the incandescent bulbs to compound fluorescent lamps. We are graduating from the compound fluorescent lamps to the LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, which are also more efficient than compound fluorescent lamps. We should go for energy-efficient appliances from bulbs to fridges. Even though they are costly, it pays so much more in the long run.”
More fora ahead
Whilst assuring the general public that the energy conservation education exercise would be carried out in as many communities as possible, the President of the VRA/NEDCo Ladies Association, Esenam Agbebo, also enumerated the corporate social responsibility gestures the association so far had made.
“We have ever donated to the children’s ward at the Tamale Teaching Hospital and the Nyohni Children’s Home in Tamale. We also donated items to the Sirigu Babies Home in the Upper East Region and other children’s homes in the Brong Ahafo Region.
“The association gave support to the Ghana Prison Service and Social Welfare Rehabilitation Centre in Sunyani. We are sponsoring a lady at the Nalerigu Health Assistants Training School and we have ever embarked on Energy Conservation Walk and Education in second-cycle institutions,” the president said.