JOHANNESBURG – The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) is about to put out for tender a massive roll-out of smart and “split” meters that should finally put an end to its electricity billing woes.
Details of the City’s smart metering plans were revealed in discussions held yesterday between Moneyweb and the MD of City Power, Sicelo Xulu and member of the mayoral committee (MMC), and environment infrastructure and services, Roslyn Greeff.
In about two weeks the City will put out for tender the roll-out of the new electricity meters which need to be installed in every business and household in the City, it was said.
By allowing the City to monitor consumer’s electricity consumption remotely the meters will eliminate the need for outsourced meter readers and the use of estimates in billing, effectively eliminating much of the scope for inaccuracy in electricity bills.
“It’s all about accuracy,” said Greeff, “we won’t have meter readers which eliminates human error.”
Errors in inputting meter readings and the inability of meter readers to access meters at various stands resulting in the use of estimates in billing “has been one of the major issues around billing inaccuracy”, she said
Eighty percent of the problems experienced by the City’s billing function will be eliminated by the time the roll-out is completed according to Greeff.
The meter roll-out forms part of City Power’s short term “revenue protection and generation” strategy which, in turn, is aligned to mayor Parks Tau’s Joburg 2040 Growth and Development Strategy (GDS).
“For us to be anything better in the future we need to sort out some of the basics,” said Xulu, “the challenges we have currently are related to revenue and centre on billing and metering”.
Although Xulu refused to provide an indication of the budget for the rollout, City Power will be spending close to R2bn over the next two years on infrastructure development, a significant portion of which is understood to be assigned to the metering programme.
Once the meters are in place the City will be in a position to apply to Nersa to have businesses and households consuming above 1000KwH of electricity a month move on to Time of Use (TOU) tariffs as it seeks to achieve ambitions of a “low carbon future” as outlined in the GDS said Xulu.
The “two way” meters will also allow independent power producers to sell electricity back into the grid, making way for envisioned “green tariffs” for electricity produced through the use of renewable technologies.
The roll-out will see “split”, pre-paid electricity meters installed in every household in the city consuming less than 1000 Kilowatt Hours (KwH) of electricity a month while businesses and the higher income households will be provided with so-called “smart” meters, said Xulu.
The smart metering systems will provide consumers with an intelligent interface that will allow them to monitor their electricity consumption patterns and to tailor the usage of their electrical appliances to benefit from lower charges as the City moves to TOU tariffs.
Online accounts will be established for electricity consumers providing them with another means to monitor their consumption in near real-time.
The smart meter will “give power to the customer to say ‘I want to save on my electricity bill’ at the same time as ‘I want to contribute to a reduced carbon environment’” said Xulu.
The meters will also allow the City to immediately detect when a resident has by-passed the meter to illegally tap-in to the electricity grid and draw free power.
This feature, coupled with severe punitive measures including an immediate R4 500 fine for the illegal siphoning of electricity, is hoped to bring the City’s non-technical losses of electricity, which currently sits at around 10% of the power it purchases down to 3%.
This may enable the City to moderate its electricity tariffs, said Xulu.
By providing the City with the ability to immediately detect when a specific area is not being fed electricity response times for power outages are hoped to be significantly improved.
According to Xulu, the tendering process will take approximately two months following which the roll-out of the meters will commence.
The roll-out will be conducted in stages but the City aims to have every household fitted with a new meter in a “conservative” timeframe of two years.