Counting To The Last Kilowatt / 14ymedio

An employee of the Electrical Union of Cuba installing new meters in a building in Havana. (14ymedio)
An employee of the Electrical Union of Cuba installing new meters in a building in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 December 2016 — The installation of new electrical meters continues to spark controversy in the Cuban capital. It is not necessary to enter individual homes to read the new meters and, reportedly, they are virtually impossible to manipulate in order to fraudulently pay less for electrical service.

“With these, you can’t cheat. Now, if you have two air conditioners running all day, it’s going to know how much current you used,” a technician installing the new devices in a multifamily building on Belascoain Street near Lealtad told 14ymedio.

Complaints about the cost of electricity have skyrocketed in recent years. Although compared to other countries the costs do not stand out as the most expensive in the region, in relation to the average wages in Cuba the cost of kilowatts is absolutely scandalous.

A family possessing only essential light bulbs, a refrigerator and a television, can pay a bill of around 20 Cuban pesos (CUP) a month (less than one dollar US), less than 5% of the average salary on the island which is around 570 CUP. However, if you cook with electricity and turn on an air conditioner every night to ease the dog days of summer, then the electricity bill can take the entire monthly salary of an engineer.

For years, people have invented all sorts of ways to avoid the high costs, from manipulating the meters to the so-called “clotheslines,” which steal or move electricity from state buildings or nearby homes. With the installation of the new meters to register consumption, many of these tricks appear to be coming to an end.

So the complaints are raining down, lately, on the Electrical Union of Cuba.