Smart meters will minimize load shedding


Jomo Sono,
Owner, Safesky
Africa Technology
Johannesburg, South Africa — (METERING.COM) — February 8, 2008 – South African utility Eskom intends to install smart meters in households in an effort to reduce the number of blackouts that the country has been experiencing in recent weeks. General manager of resources and investment strategies Andrew Etzinger said that final approval for the plan from the board of directors was still awaited, but that the utility hoped to start rolling out the new meters before year end.

The meters will be installed in the two to three million houses that consume 20 percent of the country’s power during peak times. They will allow both Eskom and the homeowner to control domestic appliances. Customers will be able to designate which appliances they regard as more important, and only those of lesser importance will be switched off.

Regular blackouts have affected both residential and commercial/industrial consumers, and the utility hopes that by working with residential customers to conserve power, the supply to its C&I customers can be maintained.

Once approval of the rollout has been obtained Eskom will identify service providers through a tender process.

Indicatively, Eskom would pay between R1 000 and R2 000 each for up to 3 million houses, Etzinger said.

Safesky Africa Technology, owned by former Bafana Bafana coach Jomo Sono, is working on plans to become one of the suppliers, together with an Israel-based company called Computerised Electricity Systems, whose general manager, Lupu Wittner, demonstrated the system yesterday.

But Etzinger would only say about possible suppliers: "Several service providers have approached us with the technology; they (Safesky) could very well be one of those."

Ayal Rossenberg, the chief technical officer at Safesky Africa Technology, said that with just 500 000 households fitted in Gauteng, the province would be spared the power cuts. For the whole country, it would take 2 million houses.

Rossenberg said the system had been implemented in countries such as the US and Spain.

"What this system does is enable Eskom or the municipality to reduce the amount of power you are using in your house, instead of cutting it off completely. With the current system, if Eskom has to shed load, it is either 100 percent or nothing," said Rossenberg.

Eskom and the municipalities would also be able to send an e-mail to customers, telling them if they were using too much electricity, and suggesting what they should switch off to cut the usage by a certain percentage, said Rossenberg.

Another message would drop into the customer’s inbox once the acceptable level had been reached.

Mike Sutcliffe, the eThekwini city manager, said it also had plans to introduce the technology and it had been in discussions with Eskom, but no details had been finalised.

Louis Pieterse, the general manager for supply availability at City Power, confirmed that it would also be taking the smart meter route in Johannesburg’s suburbs.

Cape Town could not be reached for comment.

Benefits: How innovation can help keep power usage down

  • Enables the utility to downscale during peak demand by cutting supply by the required percentage and enforcing less consumption instead of cutting it off completely.
  • Allows consumers to decide which appliances to switch off during load shedding.
  • When excess demand is over, allows disconnected load to be turned on again, either automatically or manually.
  • Protects appliances against lightning. In case of overheating or fire, it automatically cuts off the electricity supply to the faulty circuit, thus preventing additional damage.
  • Produces an alert signal when a significant change occurs in the use of electricity by an appliance or an electricity branch, usually as the result of some failure or malfunction.
  • Provides efficient and economic automatic meter reading via its two-way communication capability. Electricity providers will be able to reduce consumption to a critical minimum on a case-by-case basis.