Metering and billing of electricity services in Cuba

At present 95% of the Cuban population has access to electricity – a figure that exceeds the current average of the Latin American and Caribbean regions by more than 20%. Using a solar photovoltaic system, more than 1,960 primary schools in rural areas and more than 200 family medical practices have also been electrified.

As far as metering is concerned, the main focus of attention on the part of utility Unión Eléctrica (UNE) today is centred on commercial metering – that is to say, in the delivery to clients. The UNE comprises one central commercial office and 15 commercial offices that correspond to the 14 provinces and one special municipality, all involved in developing metering, meter reading, billing and collection. There are also 348 commercial offices that cover the residential segment, which are located in all the municipalities and throughout the country.

Our aims for 2006 and 2007 in the field of metering and associated services are:

  1. To install meters that have multifunction electronic counters in the premises of all major clients using more than 100 kWd. The majority of clients who consume more than 250 kWd already have this type of meter.
  2. To change all the single phase meters installed earlier than 1990, as well as those with a capacity of less than 15 A.
  3. To change 50% of the direct threephase meters and those with metering equipment of up to 100 kWd.
  4. To reconstruct and improve the services to residential customers through the introduction of security measures, technical and aesthetic conditions.
  5. To strengthen the customer care centres in all the provinces.
  6. To implement energy-saving measures in all sectors, with the aim of increasing energy efficiency in the country and establishing control systems.

We hope to complete the automation of the billing process during 2006 by improving access to the portable reading terminal (TPL), thus benefiting more than 90% of our clients. Despite the fact that we do not have the state-of-the-art technology of the First World, we obtain an income greater than 97% of what has been billed each month, although distribution losses make up 12% of the energy delivered over the network.

The electricity tariff system in force today is based on time of use; it applies to all client groups, and was introduced to encourage energy saving. This means that customers who use more electricity during times of peak demand will receive higher bills than those who are able to defer consumption to a time outside the peak demand period. However, the electricity tariff always protects those with lower incomes.

We are evaluating the possibility of introducing two additional services in metering and billing in the medium term (up to 2009) – a gradual introduction of a prepayment system, and the implementation of remote meter reading using AMR technology.

The introduction of prepayment will depend on our ability to finance the investment, but we believe it will have massive benefits for all residential customers, and particularly for those in the lower income groups. Remote meter reading, on the other hand, will apply mainly to large consumers of electricity, because they are in a position to take advantage of the country’s communications infrastructure.

All our activities are based on the principles of supplying top quality products and excellent customer service, as specified by SIGECO (System of Commercial Management). The Cuban SIGECO has already introduced four modules covering topics such as these, with a further four still in the development stage.

Finally, I believe the only way that developing countries will be able to bring electricity to the whole population, at a time when the price of fuel increases every day, is to ensure the implementation of the government’s energy strategy, while at the same time encouraging customers to become more aware of the need to conserve energy at every opportunity.