Eskom tender for smart prepaid meters
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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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Some months ago I read an article in which Mr Xulu indicated that Time Of Use (TOU) was the solution to the energy crisis in South Africa. This statement as well as the latest drive to load limit are both positive steps towards actually managing the energy crisis.

    It’s a no brainer that Load Shedding is counterproductive. Outside of the increasing levels of frustration amongst consumers the loss of revenue to municipalities for a TOTAL blackout is senseless.

    Up to now the solution to decreasing the load on the National Grid was to pop up a message on national television indicating the extent of the load. This mechanism as well as the concept of using prepaid metering to reduce revenue loss have both proven to be, to say the least, pretty ineffective.

    Load limiting is without a doubt the most effective mechanism to reduce, if not completely remove, the need for Load Shedding.

    HOWEVER.

    Firstly a little anecdote; Some years ago I arrived at my mother’s home to find a plumber installing a new geyser. She had been without hot water for 3 weeks during a cold Gauteng winter. The reason for the three week delay was to receive her salary, which virtually to the cent, was the cost of this “replacement”. The long and the short of it is that there was nothing wrong with the geyser. The issue in fact was, that the Ripple Relay system used by council, had not switched the geyser back on, for THREE WEEKS. Technology gone wrong…

    Out of the rubble to save our nation, and in fact humanity, has risen – the Smart Meter.

    The misnomer however, that an Electricity (or Water meter) is “Smart” due to the fact that it has a keypad which allows one to enter a prepaid token is exactly that, a misnomer.

    Prepaid meters are NOT Smart Meters AT ALL.
    Meters that perform Load Limiting are NOT Smart Meters AT ALL.
    Meters that do not store TOU tables within the meter and require server side TOU are NOT Smart Meters AT ALL.
    And to add insult to injury; Being able to send a few bytes of data across FSK PLC not maketh a Smart Meter either.

    A truly Smart Meter is ammeter that can performed the above functions RELIABLY, EFFECTIVELY and EFFICIENTLY. If this is not the case we will simply be back in my mother’s home, where an unassuming consumer is taken for a ride by an equally unassuming service provider. Load Limits will have been applied but due to the use of ineffective technology the new limits will not be communicated causing meters to beep and trip out. This unassuming consumer will be more than happy to have a few lights and perhaps watch TV, trying to boil a kettle or heat the geyser will however not be possible. The same can be said for TOU. If the updated yearly tariff tables are not loaded into the meter accurately and audited effectively, municipalities will simply continue to lose revenue.

    So what does maketh a Smart Meter?

    When choosing a Smart Meter, at a minimum the following questions need to be addressed:
    1. Does the meter perform ALL functionality internally and NOT server side. I.e. Prepaid, TOU, Currency, Load Profiling, etc. MUST be done within the meter.
    2. Is the technology for communication FSK PLC based? All independent tests performed have shown this technology to be inefficient for both fast, reliable data communication AND immunity to noise on the power grid causing huge loss of data and thus revenue.
    3. All meters MUST be separated from the grid. I.e. Any internal communication within the property must NOT pass through the meter onto the power grid. (And vice versa)
    4. Smart Meters CANNOT use RF to communicate data due to its inefficiencies and pitfalls.