In southern Africa, a subsidiary of state-owned utility Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority or ZESA Holdings is taking action to reverse revenue losses of 17 per cent a year, according to local media reports.

Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC) is investigating causes of low revenue collection due to technical and non-technical causes.

ZETDC managing director Julian Chinembiri said under normal circumstances, 11 per cent losses is an acceptable benchmark for utilities. “A project is underway to accurately determine the loss. We want to measure accurately our losses and then come up with measures to arrest those losses,” he said.

Chinembiri said technical losses were largely due to the wrong equipment being installed while non-technical problems came from customers bypassing the meter.

A survey conducted by the power utility in the capital Harare found 264 tampered meters out of 5, 851 suspected properties.

Prepaid and smart meters

The announcement comes as Zimbabwe moves to a mix of metering solutions.

In early July, energy and power development minister Dzikamai Mavhaire said there is “no going back” on plans to switch from prepaid meters to smart units in a bid to cut state utility ZESA’s revenue losses.

Mr Mavhaire confirmed that plans to introduce smart meters were at an advanced stage and ”after clearing the prepaid meters, we are going to tender and companies will be selected through the normal process, that is, through the State Procurement Board”.

According to the Zim-Asset prepaid meter target base, ZESA will install 800, 000 meters, 500, 000 of which will be prepaid meters, while 300, 000 will be smart meters.

Chinembiri said ZETDC had sent nine people to Eskom South Africa to under study how prepaid meters work.

Utility service delivery

The study comes at a time ZETDC has invested US$15 million in information technology solutions to improve its business performance and service delivery.

The power utility’s customer service centres across the country are now online using VSAT and other technologies and plans are underway to install further systems that will improve business operations and customer experience.

Revenue collections by the transmission and distribution company rose from US$200 million in 2009 to US$800 million in 2012. It declined to US$780 million in 2013 as customers stopping paying bills in pre-election anticipation of wholesale debt relief.

Zimbabwe generates an estimated 1400MW daily against a demand of more than 2000MW.