Speaking at a press conference at the Needsmust Power Plant conference room, chairman of the SKELEC board, Austin Belle said that overall “the power generation department has improved its performance and services to customers through increased dedication of its operations and maintenance people and their supervisors and managers.”
“SKELEC’S commitment to people development coupled with technical improvement in providing a safer place has produced noticeable results in both customer service and pride of its employees,” he added.
Mr. Belle, who was flanked by the management team of SKELEC, said that after two years the government reviewed its contract with the Caribbean Utilities and Operation Management Services (COMS) and that by a mutual agreement the contract short of completing its three years was terminated and a new arrangement entered into between COMS and the government.
Under the old agreement COMS provided technical and managerial support to SKELEC with the provision of a chief executive officer, a chief technical officer and a plant general manager. Under the new arrangement COMS will play a supporting and consulting role and will provide a chief technical officer for one year and a plant generation manager for 6 months.
Mr. Belle said that SKELEC was now at a place where it could almost deal with its own management. He said that this has come about through training of SKELEC’s human resource although he pointed out that “our customer service was faced with the major challenge of transitioning our employees from the public service mentality, if you will, which they possessed, into a private sector approach.”
Belle said that there was a renewed focus on customer service because “the customer is always right” and that therefore “it is incumbent on all employees to go the extra-mile in order to satisfy a customer.”
“Among the things which the customer services department has been able to introduce is making sure that there is a single contact point for which enquiries can be made and from which complaints can be dealt with expeditiously to demonstrate to our customers that they are the lifeline of the company and how much we appreciate their business,” Belle said.
He also drew attention to challenges faced by the customer services department in terms of meter reading which he said has always been “problematic” and that they set out to correct its “method and approach”.
Also, the billing department had its challenges due to an “obsolete” billing system that was inherited, he said. “We had to move on during the past two years doing the best we can with a not very efficient system.”
He said that to address the problem “a new billing system will be rolled out in the next few days and which as we see it is something we will implement in full for the start of the third year.”
Belle underscored that there was significant improvement in SKELEC’s transmission and distribution systems and that they were able to send senior staff away to conferences and supervisory staff for training.
He said that SKELEC fully supported the renewable energy policies of the government and has appointed a senior engineer to be directly responsible for renewable energy.
SKELEC is in negotiations with international companies for the installation of a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system and also the installation of a smart reader system “which will all redound to the improvement of our service and the reduction of our losses.”
However, according to Belle the most noteworthy improvement has been power generation.
“In the first three months of the SKELEC operation back in 2011, there were as many as 24 power outages attributed to power plant failure while during the last three months (May-July of 2013) there were only two,” Belle said.
He claimed that this has come about mainly because of investments made in staff training.
“Operationally, we have encouraged feedback from our operators and the maintaining of spare capacity. Our power plant efficiency has been complementing the improvement made in the reliability and so we have been taking a number of initiatives to producing the cost of electricity,” Belle said.
“Our power plant maintenance major generator overhauls are no longer carried out by expatriate contractors and since January of 2012 our generator overhauls are completely undertaken by SKELEC’s own workforce. That has resulted in significant reduction in time for the operation and of course significant reduction in the cost of that operation.
“In addition to that, we have now been able to source our regional equipment manufacturer rather than have to obtain them through agents and distributors and this has resulted in up to 40 percent savings to the company,” he said.