City Power customers with smart meters no longer have total control over their electricity consumption. The electricity provider has now rolled out ‘load limiting’, a technology that allows it to disconnect households that do not comply with requests to reduce consumption.
This is according to City Power MD Sicelo Xulu, who says that repetitive disconnections at five-minute intervals will be carried out on households. This will happen over a period of 30 seconds, and serves as a warning to the consumer to reduce consumption.
The electricity provider is echoing a call repeated by utility Eskom, urging customers to conserve electricity. Households are advised to adopt the habit of switching off non-essential items, such as geysers, pool pumps and stoves.
Xulu adds that failure to comply will lead to disconnection.
City Power has highlighted in a statement released on Sunday that load limiting is aimed at saving its customers from ongoing load shedding by reducing pressure on the grid. He says load limiting will slash average household consumption by half.
Load limiting during peak times
Xulu further says load limiting, which began on Monday, is now only being implemented during peak hours when the grid is generally under pressure.
He explains that in the first two weeks, household usage will be limited to 21Amps between 19:00 and 22:00pm.
Thereafter it will run concurrently with the load shedding schedule, which will be published on the City Power website.
Not a solution to electricity crisis
Energy expert Chris Yelland, on the other hand, has described this as an attempt by government to shove technology down the throats of citizens. He says smart meters or load limiting is not going to solve South Africa’s short supply of electricity.
He has also questioned government’s ability to see such a project through.
Yelland says the failed Tshwane Municipality’s multi-billion rand contract for smart meters with service provider PEU is an example. The City suspended the contract in May claiming it’s no longer financially and economically sustainable. This after PEU installed more than 10 000 smart meters.
Meter rollout planned despite controversy
The issue of smart meters also caused turmoil in Soweto earlier this year. Orlando West residents protested violently, demanding that the pre-paid electricity meters be removed from their homes.
They argued that the system is unaffordable and that they were not consulted about the roll out of these smart meters.
Meanwhile, Xulu has indicated City Power’s plans to continue installing smart meters in Johannesburg, which will allow them to carry out load limiting on a wider scale.
He says so far about 92 000 smart meters are active in Johannesburg and adds that City Power aims to install around 30 000 devices by the end of July.