South Africa’s Eskom to trial prepaid smart meters to cut municipal debt

Eskom to trial smart meters in municipalities
Eskom plans to trial smart prepaid meters in 12 municipalities in a bid to improve revenue collection to cut the utility’s arrears debt

In South Africa, the acting CEO of parastatal utility Eskom Brian Molefe has said that installing prepaid smart meters in the service areas of municipalities could help the company recover from unpaid bulk bills.

Eskom is faced with arrears debts of US$381 million (ZAR4.6 billion) from municipalities that distribute electricity on the utility’s behalf.

Earlier this month, Eskom set a deadline for the top 20 defaulting municipalities to settle their accounts by 5 June 2015 or be disconnected from bulk electricity supply.

Despite half of the top 20 defaulting municipalities reaching agreements with the state utility, Mr Molefe is keen to trial smart meter pilots in 12 municipalities to improve revenue collection as many municipalities do not have a plan or controls for collecting payment for water and electricity, according to the Department of Cooperative Governance.

Load-limiting smart meters

Meanwhile, last month Johannesburg electricity utility City Power is piloting a load-limiting programme for residents with smart meters in an attempt to ensure households maintain power supply amid rolling national blackouts.

The load-limiting model – the first of its kind in South Africa – is being piloted in 83 houses before it is expanded to all smart meters in City Power’s service area later this year, reports local media BDLive.

City Power plans to use the demand-response functionality of smart meters to warn residents of imminent controlled outages, known locally as load shedding, requesting them to limit their electricity consumption.

The meters are also designed to automatically trip power if consumption exceeds the limit imposed to offset load shedding.

Sicelo Xulu, managing director of City Power, who this week visited the pilot site in the Aspen Hills Nature Reserve complex, near Booysens, said if all 65,000 households with smart meters in its service area implemented load limiting, the city could make a saving of 153MW. This is enough to power more than 20,000 households.