Consumers to buy prepaid meters

HARARE - Government has issued a statutory instrument requiring high-end electricity consumers to purchase their own prepaid meters.

Elton Mangoma, Energy minister, said the policy aims to speed up the implementation of the prepaid metering programme.

He said power utility Zesa Holdings (Zesa) has installed 150 000 prepaid meters in both domestic and commercial premises countrywide since August 2012 out of a targeted 600 000 customers by year end.

“The statutory instrument compels all electricity consumers to purchase and install meters with the exception of high density customers, rural customers and light load agricultural customers,” Mangoma said Friday.

He said the legal instrument will also deal with outstanding bills on the date on which the prepaid meter is installed as these will be transferred to the property at which the prepaid meter is installed.

Zesa, which has been battling massive bills default and an acute power shortage since 2007, has turned to prepaid meters to help manage debt and electricity demand.

The prepaid meters replace the conventional billing system that had posed challenges to the power utility and the consumers.

Energy experts assert that the prepayment metering is a valuable short term strategy which seeks to improve revenue collection by the power utility and influence behaviour change on how consumers use electricity.

Mangoma said the system will also assist Zesa’s subsidiary Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC) to recover accrued debts by deducting 20 percent on every electricity purchase going towards servicing the debt, among other benefits.

Some observers believe Zesa — which is owed over $750 million by domestic and commercial users, farmers, parastatals and government — current pricing model has contributed partly to the dilapidation of electricity infrastructure in the country.

Zesa’s limited financial capacity has resulted in the power utility failing to institute significant levels of infrastructure refurbishment and up grades at its power stations.

The Energy minister noted that ZETDC, which is currently overhauling its system to allow it to accommodate those using prepaid meters and the soon-to-be-introduced smart cards, has migrated to a new vending platform.

“In order to ensure efficiency, ZETDC this week commissioned a new vending platform supplied Itron of South Africa. The new platform can accommodate both smart and prepaid meters,” he said.

Julian Chinembiri, ZETDC managing director, recently said smart cards are an advanced technological system that allows consumers to monitor their power usage.

“One is able to tell which gadget is accounting for higher power usage. For example you can tell that your geyser is consuming more of your energy and switch it off, if you want. You can also tell which time is expensive per unit particularly those peak hours and decide not to use electricity at that time,” he said. - Business Writer

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