The expansion of the Electricity Distribution Network, regularization in collection and the creation of an infrastructure inventory add up to continuity duties and upgrades in the service’s commercialization
Empresa Energía Honduras (EEH - Honduras Energy Company) operates and provides maintenance to the Electricity Distribution Network in this Central American country; EEH is in charge of the commercial operation and its upgrades, besides reducing and controlling technical and non-technical losses in the power system. EEH is created from the partnership between Eléctricas de Medellín Ingeniería y Servicios, Unión Eléctrica and STENEE, adding more than 40-years experience with operations also in Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico and Panama. After its tender was accepted, operations began in August 2016 for an agreed length of seven years and six months. After its third year of operations, supervising company Manitoba Hydro International (Canada) qualified EEH’s compliance with contractual obligations at 78.66%.
“EEH develops an important project for the country with challenges of its own with high grade complexity in terms of execution, requiring total coordination of authorities and players from the State’s energy sector in order to achieve the best results. We bring operation and maintenance services to the power distribution system without the required expansion for growth in demand and without being in charge of management, operations or maintenance of public lighting, which limits responsibility between what an operator can do and control,” declared Ricardo Roa, CEO for EEH.
A lifetime in the energy industry
Ricardo Roa Barragán is in charge of EEH. The experienced engineer graduated from the National University of Colombia.
“When I turned thirteen, I decided I wanted to work in the energy sector, as I was becoming an electromechanical technician I advanced in these studies during more than six years along with high school in a polytechnic school, The Salesian Don Bosco Center of Bogotá. Afterwards, I opted to become a Mechanical Engineer,” Roa pointed out, his graduate thesis was the design, construction and start up of a low potency (100W) portable wind turbine able to supply power to a home for natives in the La Guajira region of Colombia.
Roa has taken multiple courses and postgraduate studies, like the one on Engineering Management Systems from the Pontifical Xavierian University (Colombia). Before becoming CEO for EEH in April 2019, Roa was president of the La Luna Thermal Power Station (Colombia) between September 2018 and March 2019, he was general manager of the CELCO company (electric controls, in Colombia) from January 2017 to March 2018, he was promoted to president for the Bogota Energy Group after being president of TGI (International Gas Transporter), a position he held for two and a half years. He was also director and energy business manager of the Incauca and Providencia factories (property of the Ardila Lülle organization) for more than three years. Other previous experience in Roa’s long career include the management position at Electrificadora de Santander, ANDESCO (National Association of in-property Public Services) and the Management of Public Services.
Roa is actually taking a Master’s in Political Studies at the Pontifical Xavierian University. Even with his plentiful resumé, Roa has shared his knowledge and has taught the Efficient Use of Energy and Energy Generation subjects at the National University of Colombia, Economic Regulation of Gas and Energy Rates as part of the Energy and Mineral Law specialty at the Externado University of Colombia, as well as Energy Generation and Thermal Cycles at the Antonio Nariño University.
Value increase in a short period
When EEH took over the power Distribution System in Honduras, back in 2016, assets were worth approx. $279.4 million. In less than four years, thanks to the geolocated inventory of the entire system and its updates, these assets inventory value increased in almost 400% to a $886.56 million value. Operation optimization, achieved thanks to the knowledge about the actual Distribution System, has allowed a substantial upgrade in the service’s quality indicators up to 88%; this figure belongs to failure frequency, service interruption average duration and performance time of incidents.
Other improvement -in regard to previous management- which has been a factor in the company’s value increase has been the regularization of more than 80,000 users, obtaining payments for 334.98 GWh in the commercial system, equal to $57 million, after anomalies were detected and normalized.
Investments focus: Upgrades and continuity
After four years in operation, EEH has already invested $120 million of which 65% has been destined to nationwide updating of infrastructure for metering and the remaining 35% to an upgrade of the SCADA (distribution control center) project, taking inventory of the Distribution Network and to deployment of the new InCMS commercial system, replacing the IMB390 system, deemed obsolete. The new, reliable system brings support and velocity to commercial processes, provides a larger data control, as well as helps in delivering a better service to users.
Regarding service regularization, up until July 2020 the current management has installed 645,601 metering units, both for regular and remote data intake, thus answering to the market’s demands and consumers’ conditions.
“EEH has brought relief to the country regarding investments, knowledge transfer and the technology the country requires to control electricity theft, legalization and connection of users making illegal use of the power grid; this project becomes important in the process against theft, which impacts the country’s economy for $510 million yearly, of which $240 million are technical losses from the distribution system and close to $270 million from electricity theft,” the CEO declared.
Partners, purveyors, suppliers
The entire EEH operation deals with more than 1,000 suppliers among materials, metering units, electrical goods, maintenance outsourcing, general services and logistics, to name a few. Dealing with them implies transparency in each process, searching for competitive options about every required item or service, considering quality, price, delivery time and flexible payment methods.
In the same way, EEH’s suppliers must comply with quality standards in their services and deliver certified products.
Non-stop work during the pandemic
Different from other sectors in the economy, a company in charge of the nation’s power supply cannot stop working. EEH not only has been running 24/7, but it also adapted new measures to guarantee service availability as a basic resource during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regarding the workforce, EEH quickly identified vulnerable individuals, proceeding to rearrange their schedules, allowing more than 500 employees to work from home, and successfully deploying every protocol and standard in the book as demanded by the WHO and local authorities (SINAGER - national system for risk management), such as:
• Workplace sanitization
• Enforcing masks, gloves, protective eyewear and use of sanitizing gel
Also, more than 60% of the company’s workforce was tested for COVID-19.
Operation-wise, the power service has been continuously supplied and some measures have been taken, such as interrupting preventive and programmed maintenance works and the non-interruption of the service to consumers with delayed payments, besides opening new channels for consumer attention such as the EEH app, a WhatsApp business line and the 118 call center.
Substantial support for the workforce
Leadership, working environment, compensation, benefits and growth opportunities make EEH a very attractive company to work for, being awarded a 2nd place in this category in Honduras from Central American recruiting company Tecoloco.
Many EEH employees receive monthly bonuses, and their children also receive bonuses at the end of the school year for good grade average. Every employee in EEH enjoys 75% medical insurance, funeral services (applies for the employee, parents, spouse and children), extra vacation days for each year of service and accident insurance. Employees focused in continuing education also receive support from the company in determined percentages for enrollment and tuition fees in diploma courses and other specialized programs at institutions such as UNITEC (Central American Technological University), CEUTEC (Centre for Technological Development), UTH (Technological University of Honduras) and FUNIBER (Iberoamerican University Foundation).
Training programs at EEH cover from technical and practical subjects to soft skills. And every worker’s safety is supported by the multidisciplinary Workplace Health and Safety team, formed by a thirteen-member staff.
Links with the community
EEH leaves a footprint in every community it’s engaged in, be it an urban setting, the countryside or in the rain forests.
Regarding the environment, the company is constantly organizing reforestation programs, besides taking part in socio-environmental themed events.
Also, EEH coordinates programs aimed at vulnerable communities and children by making donations and managing other activities, thus establishing bonds able to share wellness and education, enabling access to the community regarding knowledge about the electrical power supply service.
Along these four years, Corporate Social Responsibility activities by EEH have benefitted more than 230,000 inhabitants.
Establishing and keeping order, this administration’s trademark
“Having high complexities in the social, economic and cultural aspects of Honduras, EEH’s presence -as an important link in the supply chain of delivering electricity power- has tended toward order, legality, respect to institutions and total support to State Energy ENEE. This has not been an easy task among obsolete technology in the electrical grid, among lack in investment, but mostly among a culture in which fraud is deeply rooted; nevertheless, today’s power grid relies on true, trustworthy data about almost two million consumers being served through a strong, safe, solid commercial platform which, for the first time, is a property in domain of the electrical sector in Honduras. Imposing order as a guarantee of the duties and rights of consumers and the minimal conditions for operators -no matter where they come from- demands important efforts and resources, but it specially demands having real conscience of having these responsibility institutionalized into this quandary of power failures; if this situation is not properly controlled, society is facing the unwanted scenario of having a rationed power supply. Continuity of these areas is foreseen to add to the strategy and control of the service delivery honoring a commitment to investment pacted since our contract began running, with a main focus in recovery of non-technical losses in the system, regularizing users in energy-theft condition and reporting until completion of corresponding penal and judicial procedures, a labor which can hardly be carried exclusively by EEH without the support and powers of incumbent authorities.
“We still believe in this project; our workforce knows it, experiences it, feels it. Besides the vast criticism we receive permanently, we are this system’s operator and, unfortunately, we are not in capacity to create or assign any subsidy or exempt consumers which are recipients of the service we deliver and meter. These challenges become more relevant in the necessity of spreading an understanding of this market’s complexity and difficulties among society and state agencies, as we require them to take part to process and penalize users on fraud and electricity theft situations, changing the culture about fraud,” CEO Ricardo Roa finalized.