Five-year-old Jovan thinks his father Jerome Choong, an SP Group Principal Engineer, is a cross between an electrician and a magician.
“He thinks that when people have no electricity, they call me, and I make it appear,” laughs the 35-year-old, who takes care of the electricity distribution network in the north zone, which spans the area stretching from Boon Lay to Punggol.
“Jovan used to get annoyed when I left abruptly during family gatherings. Now, he is proud of what I do,” says Jerome who also has a two-year-old son.
Jerome has been with SP for seven years and leads a unit of 30. He is one of the first on site when an outage happens. His priority is to work with his unit to quickly and safely get supply back up.
While prevention is key and every effort is made to keep trouble at bay, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. It helps the team spring into action without delay should something happen.
His car boot is testimony to his commitment – half holds a stroller for his two-year-old, and the other half, the tools he needs, from cable insulation testing equipment to multi-meters. His iPad stores documents, schematic drawings and operations manuals. His network of fellow engineers is a Whatsapp message away.
Always on the alert, Jerome forms his recovery plan as he drives to the site where an incident has occurred, helped by information on the location, number of customers affected, and the substations and breakers he should zoom in on. This is provided by the Electricity Service Centre and Distribution Control Centre, which he works closely with.
For every incident, he and his colleagues investigate what went down, isolate and test the equipment, and start on repairs or replacements. “We explore every what-if scenario,” Jerome says, “and have back-ups to the back-up plans.”
While the control centre can remotely resolve some issues, manual intervention by Jerome’s team is sometimes required, and checks are always done before supply sources are switched to ensure safety. Replacement parts are also tested before being connected and energised. Only then is the power transferred back on to customers.
Work does not end when an issue is resolved, and even a late-night activation often sees him back on duty the next morning. In the day, Jerome oversees the maintenance of the switchgears and transformers of the high-voltage network. He also regularly engages commercial and industrial customers with higher electricity consumption requirements.
The job keeps him on his toes, he says, as does the need to evolve with his role. The rise of renewables, for one, has meant having to integrate non-traditional sources of electricity onto the grid.
“I love solving problems, and we seldom encounter two situations that are exactly the same. We’re constantly learning, and re-learning. That’s what keeps the job interesting.”