Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The bizarre trends of our monthly light bills

The LEC bill came in yesterday and it was $ 458.00 - $ 157.00 cheaper than last month's bill. Here's what it looks like:

After having steadily increased every month, it is a relief to see that the bill is not climbing any more and who knows these ridiculous numbers may even start to retreat and we can have the pleasure of paying what we are consuming. 

See below the bizarre trends of our LEC bills since 2009:

November 2009 - $ 139.40 ^
December 2009 - $ 397.21

January 2010 - $ 240.54 *
February 2010 - $ 177.15
March 2010 - $ 271.89
April 2010 - $ 237.17
May 2010 - $ 206.79
June 2010 - $ 222.95
July 2010 - $ 246.65
August 2010 - $ 174.49
September 2010 - $ 187.21
October 2010 - can't find the bill
November 2010 - $311.96
December 2010 - $523.66

January 2011 - $ 424.41
February 2011 - $ 484.39
March 2011 - $ 578.84
April 2011 - $ 614.18
May 2011 - $ 458.80

Can anyone make sense of it? It keeps jumping up and down. We have not increased consumption and it has more or less remained consistent. And more over, during some of these months, LEC might have been out for 2 days at a time due to some transformer breaking down or a thunder storm. Or we kept getting robbed and were cut off from the LEC for days at a time. 

Writing letters to the LEC is quite a useless exercise - a complete waste of paper and ink. Visiting the LEC is also a waste of time and money if you want to ask them why your light bill is higher than last month.  They do have a hotline to call up in case there is an outage and you'd like to confirm whether indeed the light is out in your area or to get an estimate when it would be back.  The LEC hotline number used to be always on our quick dial but the service has improved over time and we have learned to 'guesstimate' on what's going on. 

There was the time when the light was out and we drove all the way to the LEC offices in Bushrod Island to request them to just put our apartment back on - we reached an 'understanding' and sure enough after one hour a special crew was dispatched to connect our place to the street light. That did the trick and we could sleep in peace instead of being devoured by mosquitos and exhausted by the humidity. This was before the back up generator. 

Recently out of frustration because of the $ 500 + light bills, we asked an LEC field technician to take our meter to the lab to see if there was something wrong with it. He took good unofficial money from us but whatever hocus pocus he performed on it did not help. 

We have tried all that we could - bribery, sending our staff everyday, visiting the offices ourselves, turning off appliances and lights when not needed, writing letters, investigating what's going on by asking neighbours and friends and so on. 

All in all, clearly, it's a badly-run organisation and our monthly bills do not reflect actual consumption. Apparently, it's a problem all around. The truth is that we are actually paying the same as running a generator. Our back up generator would probably wear out and we'd have to be spending money on maintaining it. Plus, it's too noisy as it right outside our office. The other option could be purchase electricity from someone who is running such a service. It would be slightly more expensive. 

What's more, the LEC is a giant generator itself. This isn't hydro-electric or nuclear power we are talking about. I do not see nuclear power coming any time soon to Liberia but it is reasonable to think that eventually Liberia will go back to hydro-electric power like in the past. That should bring down tariff's. Until then, we have to take the bullet.

Let's hope the bill next month is even lower and we can fall back into an average bill between $ 200 - $ 300/month. 

^ The air conditioner got damaged during the first month of the connection because of a power surge. 

* This is the month during which we got disconnected because we were late in paying the bill and had to spend about $ 150.00 to get ourselves re-connected. 

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