Pretoria, South Africa --- (METERING.COM) --- February 14, 2008 – A product that uses bi-directional power line communications technology for the ‘last mile’ network to communicate with residential load control devices that enable electricity suppliers to implement intelligent load management strategies has been launched by Ergon NetWorx. Known as Net-PODS, the new product comes at a time when South African utility Eskom faces severe criticism from both industry and residential consumers for the extensive rolling blackouts brought on by an increasingly constrained energy generation capacity.

Net-PODS was developed by a consortium including Northwest University and Tshwane University of Technology. It has taken four years to develop and test the system, due mainly to the complexity and high degree of intelligence built into it. Net-PODS has been SABS tested and approved for use in the residential environment, and has been fully field tested to ensure reliability and performance under stringent South African conditions. The products are manufactured to ISO9000 standards to ensure quality.

Net-PODS is a distributed network system that optimizes load control in a residential environment and focuses on hot water systems and up to three additional loads such as under-floor heating and air conditioning. Using locally developed intelligent algorithms, the system maximizes the amount of load that can be removed from the residential peak. This allows better utilization of generation capacity, since residential maximum demand contributes up to 35% of total maximum demand. Full-scale implementation of Net-PODS technology in South Africa would allow a reduction of 1.25 GW from the residential electricity peak, equivalent to the output from a medium-sized power station.

Further possibilities include the ability of electricity suppliers to perform automated meter reading on the same network. This means that with a single PLC-based network in place, suppliers will be in a position to offer residential consumers a choice of billing or prepaid electricity supply using existing payment channels and a time-of-use tariff structure. Net-PODS technology has reduced the cost of offering TOU tariffs to residential customers to an affordable level, allowing electric suppliers to offer variable rates to all their customers.