Snap! Vietnam power utility EVN is now the biggest fan of selfie sticks

By Dan Ha, Thanh Nien News

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 Two EVN workers read an electric meter in Hanoi. Photo: Dan Ha
State-owned monopoly Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) announced on Tuesday that it is expanding the use of selfie stick-like tools and tablets for reading electricity meters in Hanoi, after positive feedback to its trial since April.
The latest move is "for the benefits of customers," fostering their trust in the company and improving workers' efficiency and safety, EVN Hanoi said on its website.
Each set of reading equipment, reportedly costing around VND4-5 million (US$183-229), has a stick with a camera allowing workers to capture the readings of elevated meters without climbing a ladder. The photos are then transferred to a tablet.
It takes two workers to operate each set of reading equipment, EVN Hanoi said.
Customers can know how much electricity they used and whether the amount increased or decreased from the previous month immediately.
EVN Hanoi has used 1,129 sets of reading equipment to read 500,000 meters every month since April.
Corporate consumers
Starting this month, one million meters around the capital city, or 40 percent of the company's customers, will be checked with the hi-tech equipment, Nguyen Anh Tuan, chief of the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam was quoted as saying in Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper.
However, Dinh Quang Tri, deputy director general of EVN, said the new reading technique is going to be applied for corporate customers only, while about 22 million meters at households around the country will continue to be read by humans.
The reason, he said, is the new technique's cost is higher than the current one -- EVN now spends about VND5,000 for its workers to read each meter in the traditional way.
EVN has come under suspicion recently after many households reported month-on-month increases of 30-100 percent in their electricity bills in May. Some even saw their bills up by three-four folds and said EVN workers could have read their meters wrong. 
The supposedly "unusual" increases were also reported in June.
But, speaking to local media, the representatives of both EVN Hanoi and the Ministry of Industry and Trade dismissed the claims, blaming the situation on the record heat waves.
Costly tech
EVN is boosting the application of technologies in its operations in order to increase efficiency, Tuan, the chief of the electricity regulatory department, said in Lao Dong.
One of the measures is use digital meters to save costs and human resources for the jobs of recording meters and collecting bills, he said, adding that so far the modern device has been installed at some apartment buildings and hotels around Hanoi.
EVN planned to replace old meters at its customers within the next five years with new devices costing around VND600,000-700,000 ($27-31.5) apiece, according to Tri.
The power giant, which continuously faces public criticism for its annual price hike which it blames on increased input costs, is expected to spend over VND10 trillion ($450.39 million) replacing all old electric meters by 2020, the newspaper reported.

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