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Opinions of Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson

Killer electricity bill shrouded in dodgy electrical wiring and power trafficking

By Rockson Adofo


I have real difficulty finding an appropriate heading for the true story I am about to recount regarding a reported ongoing hefty utility bills, electricity bills to be more precise, being incurred by a tenant at Kumasi Tafo-Aboaso.

According to this tenant who lives in a rented single room in a house of multiple rooms, with each room rented out to a different tenant by the house owner, she is compelled to pay a huge unexplained electricity bill on two-monthly basis. The huge size of the electricity bill has gone way beyond her means and it is now causing her headaches and serious concerns.

The rooms in the multi-tenanted house are arranged in such a way that every two tenants, with each living in a single room, but sharing a common kitchen, toilet and bath, have their own electric meter.

In their rooms, each has the following basic electric appliances “a refrigerator, an electric ceiling fan, a single low-consuming energy bulb and an electric iron. They have a single electric bulb in the kitchen, one on the toilet and one in the bathroom. Interestingly, they are both workers who leave home very early in the mornings during the weekdays only to return around 17:00 to 18:00 hours (5 to 6 pm).

Apart from the irons that consume more electricity but are used occasionally to press their clothing, the rest of mentioned electrical appliances do not consume much energy. For the fridges and the electric ceiling fans are inductive loads, operating on motor and do not draw much current unlike the irons that are resistive loads.

She pays around GHC450 every two months with the other tenant with whom she shares the meter paying same. When they became worried about their bill, knowing they are not home during the greater part of the day and have fewer electrical appliances that do not consume much electric current, they notified the Ghana Electricity Corporation or their electricity supplier.

When engineers from the Electricity Corporation attended, they claimed it was because the water meter reading goes through the electricity bill as well, an explanation I find it very difficult to comprehend, being an electrical engineer myself. Anyway, that is Ghana for you and in Ghana everything goes and everything is possible.

The engineers that attended did claim to have separated the water meter or reading from that of the electricity. However, for about six months since the alleged separation of the water from the electricity, she continues to pay the same amount of money for her electricity consumption.

When the Electricity supplier or company was contacted on same issue, they said they suspect someone else in the house has their electricity consumption reading into the electric meter she shares with the other tenant as aforementioned.

What should the supplier do if they suspect some sort of illegal electricity
connection from within the house that has been causing the two innocent tenants such unexplained heavy electric bills? Have they helped bring it to the attention of the landlord or raised any such concern about it with the landlord? No!

Have they suggested to the two tenants how to go about resolving the mystery? No! This again, is Ghana for you.

I have to attend to other matters of more importance to me so I shall have to end here but until them, let me suggest to the unfortunate tenants and anyone finding themselves in such an awkward situation as follows:

Switch off all your electrical appliances, or better still, unplug all of them from the main power sockets for say, ten minutes while having your eyes on the electric meter to see if your electric mechanical meter will still be reading. If it does, then it is true there exists some illegal connection where someone is trafficking electricity from you. When such a fact is established, get it confirmed by the landlord and the electricity supplier.

Repeat the exercise several times at different times over say a month, and
especially, when almost all the tenants are home but without them knowing what you are doing to uncover any suspected illegal consumption of electricity reading into your meter.

A qualified electrician can reach the ceiling void, junction/connecting boxes etc. where such illegal wiring connections could be made to check but for laypersons, do as I have suggested above.

I could easily have assisted if I were in Ghana to tell whether or not there has been some form of illegal electricity connection that is causing the heavy bills to the said complainant.

The electric meters can as well be deliberately calibrated to cheat customers, especially under that corrupt regime led by former President John Dramani Mahama who was alleged to have imported into the country some so-called Usain Bolt Electric Meters to cheat Ghanaians to get more money to feed his insatiable quest for wealth through corruption.

The basic unit of measure of electric power is the Watt. One thousand Watts are called a kilowatt. When you use electricity to power a 1000-watt vacuum for 1 hour, you use 1,000 watt-hours (1,000 Wh) of electricity. One thousand watt-hours equals 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh). Your utility bill usually shows what you are charged for the kilowatt-hours you use. Electric meters use either digital displays or dials.

The difference between one month's reading and the next is the amount of energy units that have been used for that billing period. With the above reference quoted from Wikipedia, you can easily calculate the cost of
your electricity consumption on your own. There is what is called a standing charge which is the meter you are using and other service charges. This is a fixed rate that you will pay every month as long as you have the meter in your house. Then comes the running charges which are the number of kWh you use during a month, two or three depending on how your electricity payment has been arranged. Add the VAT placed on your utility bills by the government.

Therefore, STANDING CHARGE + (NUMBER OF KWH X UNIT COST OF KWH =RUNNING COST) + PERCENTAGE (%) CHARGE OF VAT ON TOTAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION will give you your electricity bill for the charging period.

Standing charge could be say, GHC5 per month. Unit cost of kWh could be 20 pesewas. VAT could be 17.5%

If you pay your bill every two months and you happen to consume say 550 kWh within that period, your bill will be 2 x GHC5 + (20P X 550) =10+110 +(17.5% 0f 120) =120 + 21 = GHC141.

Anyway, the calculation is beyond the comprehension of a layperson in the electrical field.

The electricity bills and any related illegal electric connections must be a matter of great concern to the new government for people are suffering in Ghana.

As long as we want to help Ghana prosper by being of service to our people, you are more than welcome to communicate your concerns to me and I shall not hesitate to help provide answers where I am capable.

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