In Southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s smart meter acquisition is descending into chaos amid forced resignations and corruption allegations.
Following the announcement earlier this month that state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) had started selling tender papers to interested suppliers for the supply of smart metering equipment, rumours of kick backs are emerging from the process.
More than 227 companies have already bought documents for the tender, which closes next month.
Local media report that some bidding companies had paid kickbacks to energy and power development minister Dzikamai Mavhaire and his deputy Engineer Munacho Mutezo, who were last week fired from government for mismanagement.
Mr Mayhaire announced in July this year a plan to switch from prepaid meters to smart units in a bid to cut state utility and holding company Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority’s (ZESA) revenue losses.
Mayhaire is now being implicated in a corruption scandal.
More smart meters than needed
He allegedly pushed ZESA to tender for 300,000 smart meters when there are only 80,000 potential sites in the country where a smart meter could be installed suggesting he and Mr Mutezo were hoping to benefit financially from the deal.
Management at ZESA are now considering reducing the volume of units or cancelling the US$120 million tender all together.
Julian Chinembiri, company managing director at ZETDC, yesterday said the 300 000 smart meters did not tally with the points on the ground.
Mr Chinembiri said: “There are no such points in the country and we were only targeting about 57,000 smart meter installations. The rest would be pre-paid meters.
He said ZETDC, a subsidiary of ZESA, would prefer to install smart meters at points where it would make business case to install such gadgets.
“These are points with significant load around 1 000kWh/month, with potential to shift load without affecting basic life of consumers (load management) and customers with excess renewable energy generation capacity. You derive more benefits in industries not households.”
Chinembiri said ZETDC was were having a “re-look” at the project.
The power utility would consult with the newly appointed Minister Samuel Undenge to see if it was still viable to continue with the tender.
Pilot project squashed
The ZETDC board had approved that the power utility first have a pilot project for 10 000 smart meters but the resolution was quashed by the two former ministers, who claimed the it was a “waste of resources”, local media report.
ZESA had already installed more than 420,000 prepaid meters supplied by Solahart, Finmark and Nyamazela of South Africa.
Ousted minister Mayhaire had said the national utility was continuing to lose more than ZWD$10 million (US$28,000) monthly due to power theft. He said: “We simply need a system that reports back to the centre any shortfall or meter bypassing taking place.”
Local media had reported that it was administrative bungling at Zesa and its subsidiaries such as ZETDC, which caused the prepayment rollout to fail.