CEZ TOOK US BACK TO ICE AGE
The three-month electricity accountings, wrong invoices, frequent electricity breaks in a number of Sofia's residential areas and so many other jumbles that CEZ's subscribes have faced over the last two years appeared to be just the tip of the ice-berg.
When this year's first snowfall came on November 20, part of Sofia found itself literally in the Ice Age with the electricity to nearly 50 000 residents being broken. The most seriously affected areas were the elite Dragalevtsi, Simeonovo, Gorna Banya and Knyajevo which are located beyond the southern segment of Sofia's circular. Manastirski Livadi district's residents also had no electricity available at their homes for more than 12 hours. BANKER editor's office received complaints also from downtown-headquartered companies which still had no electricity even two days after the first snowfall had passed over.
CEZ officials justified themselves on November 25, 2008 that a huge number of interferences in CEZ's electricity distribution network arouse between November 22 and 23 because of the snowfall and stormy wind in the country's western part. The wind velocity reached 100 km per hour in the region of Cherni vrah peak and in other parts of Western Bulgaria as well. The power failures stem from the strong wind, driven snow, broken tree branches and fallen street trees.
Arid statistics shows that a total 246 power failures of medium-voltage distribution lines were registered in Western Bulgaria, of which 98 remained out of service for more than 30 minutes. A total 96 built-up areas were affected and 416 000 subscribers had no electricity provided. Out of them, 126 000 stayed in dark for more than half an hour.
But the figures are of no big importance here. CEZ again drove its clients' confidence to ruin and made big part of them sighing for the good old times when the power supply used to be a matter of state. And there are reasons for the present situation which are familiar to the Czech's company management and are not related with the winter season only. Willing to maximum narrow its expenditures and streamline revenues, CEZ cut more than 220 blue-collar jobs still in 2007. Still then BANKER warned that the company has no enough break-down gangs at hand and that just three of its spare parts warehouses have remained unclosed. Thus, the elimination of a serious failure consumes too much time and the gangs run about the whole city. It is worth asking why no similar situations occurred in Southeastern Bulgaria where the electricity network is operated by EVN? Well, the Austrian company carried out preventive maintenance of its equipment and trimmed the tree branches so as to avoid their contact with the lines. A move which the blown-up-with-pride CEZ did not consider necessary to do.
By the way, the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC) is always at hand when monopolists show obviously neglectful attitude towards their subscribers. The same commission which allowed that distribution companies may keep with impunity their clients without electricity provided within 24 hours. A condition which was not present even during the toughest power supply-restrictions of the later 1990s. And now the strategic investor which is said to be an old hand (it is not clear at what exactly) will again pass unnoticed. Probably because of this, Sofia Mayor Boyko Borisov demanded from the Economy Minister Peter Dimitrov to empower him to carry out check-ups and assist in eliminating the obstacles related to the capital's power supply. But the mayor's intention would hardly come into being as we take into account his strained relations with Minister Dimitrov.
And the only measure that CEZ will undertake is to open until the end of 2008 a new emergency centre. The centre will take all complaints regarding electricity failures which so far God only knows why have been directed to...Pleven. The question is that the centre can process a limited number of calls. What happened during the last several days affected more than 49 000 of our subscribers. Imagine that only 10% out of them decide to look for an information. It would not be so easy to receive and normal to await, Bojidar Gatev, head of CEZ's Sofia operations, kept on rendering flimsy reasons. Gatev most likely does not know that even the smallest CEZ's power supply unit in the Czech Republic runs a round-the-clock call centre with a total 45 persons being on the pay-roll and a further 12 students who respond to cases of emergency. The centre has its own code which oblige employees to respond to 95% of the customer calls within 30 seconds.
However, it is obvious that another method of work could be applied in Bulgaria.