Zimbabwe's energy and power development minister Dzikamai Mavhaire has said there is "no going back" on plans to switch from prepaid meters to smart units in a bid to cut state utility Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority's (ZESA) 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."
ZESA has already installed more than 420,000 prepaid meters supplied by Solahart, ZTE, Finmark and Nyamazela of South Africa but the national utility is continuing to lose more than ZWD$10 million (US$28,000) monthly due to power theft, the minister said.
"We are definitely switching over to smart meters because prepaid meters in place do not tell the centre that they are being circumvented resulting in some consumers using power for free," he said.
"We simply need a system that reports back to the centre any shortfall or meter bypassing taking place."
According to the Zim- Asset prepaid meter target base, ZESA has to install 800 000 meters, 500 000 of which will be prepaid meters, while 300 000 will be smart meters.
In a further step, the government has made it a prerequisite for all newly-built houses to be fitted with smart meters.
Minister Mavhaire said: "We are working on the modalities to put that in place with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing," he said.
"Just like water, electricity has to be a necessity and that is why we want the issue of smart meters to be a prerequisite for construction.
"This means that we will no longer have any back log as we will be dealing with approved houses. The issue will now be for ZESA to work hard and ensure the meters are in place always."
As a stop gap measure, ZESA is now mounting prepaid meters on poles instead of houses to curb tampering and power theft.
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