Muscat: Muscat Electricity Distribution Company (MEDC) is employing more advanced techno-logy to serve its customers better. Close on the heels of the launch of the self-meter reading (SMR) billing procedure, MEDC is currently conducting a feasibility study on new-technology remote meter reading having concluded similar one on pre-paid meters.
Speaking to Times of Oman, Zahran Zahir Al Ruqeishi, corporate communications specialist at MEDC said, "Since SMR has received a positive response from customers, we are now considering remote meter reading."
Al Ruqeishi explained that MEDC study on pre-paid meters has demonstrated potential for these types of meters adding, "We have conducted an assessment on whether pre-paid meters are suitable for the Oman market as well as suitability to weather factors. So now we are in the execution stage. In fact, MEDC's temporary new connections at construction sites are pre-paid meters. The advantage is that contractors can use the same meter when they move to another site."
He added that MEDC is in discussions with suppliers regarding the recharging of pre-paid meters. "We want to make it convenient, accessible, and similar to phones. Discussions are underway, and we expect tremendous demand for pre-paid meters from realtors because it would be good for both the landlords and tenants," he said.
Talking about the advantages, he noted, "They work on minus credit during the weekend and on official holidays." Al Ruqeishi explained that prepaid meters are supplied with small screen which will enable the customer to figure out his hourly reading. "The customer can even find out which appliance is consuming more electricity than others because it is possible to check real-time consumption," he remarked.
It is also possible for customers to check how much credit is remaining since the meter produces a beeping sound when it needs recharging. "We expect an overwhelming response once recharging options become more convenient and accessible to customers. However, the launch depends on the progress of our negotiations with our suppliers. We want recharges to be available at convenient locations and possibly online and via mobile phones," he stated.
MEDC is also assessing the viability of new technology called 'remote meter reading'. "This will employ technology that reads the meter through a chip attached to the meter. It is now being assessed from many angles. Through this technology, we intend to target initially high-consumption meters. As technology becomes available and affordable, we may expand on this service so that we can centrally read meters in remote locations."
MEDC is elated by the response to SMRs — a new system of electricity-consumption cataloguing, wherein customers record their readings and relay them to MEDC. "SMR is the first initiative to be undertaken by a distribution and supply company in Oman and perhaps in the region. It has many advantages. The reason MEDC introduced it is that we have had some complaints from some customers about bills not being delivered on time, bills not reflecting actual consumption, and bills that are not exact in their calculations. MEDC wants to use a multi-track approach to overcome this issue.
"SMR was launched as part of an overall strategy to deal with customer complaints regarding bills. SMR empowers the customer to read his own meter. This also has another dimension as it makes the customer more confident about his reading because he is reading it himself. Some customers complain about exaggerated readings, but when customers perform the reading themselves, it eases their doubts. It allows the customer to monitor his consumption patterns because he will be noting the reading during the new cycle from the 15th to the 25th of every month," he added.
Al Ruqeishi explained that MEDC had set up various channels through which customers could relay their meter readings. "An array of communication channels such as smart phone applications, SMS, e-mail, e-portals, the MEDC website, or the MEDC call centre are currently available to customers for delivering the reading," he remarked."If many people opt for SMR, then MEDC will consider returning the savings it makes to the customers," he said.
MEDC also plans to expand its customer interaction offices. "We now have an office in Grand Mall and MCC. Plans are underway to open offices in other commercial centres. This will make it more convenient for customers since the offices will be open during shopping hours or commercial-centre opening hours," he noted.