Pre-paid meter revolution

HARARE - Allan Makore, 35, never worries about astronomical electricity bills anymore.

This is because he no longer needs to think about meeting a deadline every month to avert power disconnection, thanks to pre-paid meters.

Despite the incessant power cuts currently experienced in Zimbabwe as a result of inadequate power generation capacity, the amount of money Makore now uses for electricity supply is “reasonable” compared to the “estimate bills” he used to pay.

Ever since the pre-paid meter was installed at his Zengeza core house in Chitungwiza where he grew up and later inherited from his late parents, the father-of-two said his power costs have considerably gone down.

“I used to get estimated bills because Zesa personnel could come to my place and not find me there. They would then send me estimated bills, some of which were very high considering the fact that my family uses less because we are few, but prepaid meters have saved me this agony,” a beaming Makore said.

He said he was now in a better position to monitor his household daily electricity consumption.

“I am now able to monitor my daily usage and even check the balance of how many units are left for the month,” he said.

Makore is just one power user among many who are happy with the installation of pre-paid meters.

The prepaid meters are topped up in mostly the same way as prepaid phones, with credit available from pay-point or pay-zone outlets.

It is expected that over the next 12 months this option will become more widely available across Zimbabwe.

Households with arrears are also being fitted with pay-as-you-go electricity meters to avoid racking up massive unpayable bills and being disconnected.

A family renting the whole house fully appreciates the slash in electricity usage unlike tenants who share a single unit.

Most tenants who share a single household unit are disgruntled with the pre-paid system. They say they share power with two or more families and it is difficult to monitor consumption patterns, as well as fairly distributing recharging costs.

The pre-paid meters are “juiced” with 50 kilowatts on installation.

Those who owe the power utility have 20 percent of their payments deducted to pay up for the credit they owe the power utility.

According to Zesa Holdings’ subsidiary Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), the utility has installed more than 300 000 prepaid meters through two local companies  Finmark and Solahart; and also through  South Africa-based Nyamazela and Chinese company ZTE Corporation.

Zimbabwe stands to save up to $115 million annually through efficient power demand side management, officials say.

Apart from being contracted by ZETDC, the companies have also created jobs and this has gone some way in helping ease the unemployment challenges facing the country.

Analysts say prepaid meters enable customers to manage their electricity consumption costs and reduce commercial losses and congestion in the banking halls.

ZETDC acting managing director Howard Choga said prepaid meters reduced electricity costs.

Choga noted that ZETDC, besides installing electricity meters had also swopped over 1 million compact fluorescent lamps in homes resulting in 4 188MW of energy being saved.

“335 000 prepaid meters have also been installed and 65MW have been saved,” he said.

“This translates to 23 percent reduction in energy consumed,” he said.

This comes as the country requires at least 2 200MW against an electricity production of a little over 1 000MW.

Industry experts say the installation of pre-paid meters will need to be complemented by technology to facilitate the purchase of electricity units for recharging.

As things stand, the recharge process involves the customer producing their power card and the cashier crediting the account with the amount paid for.

The customer then receives a recharge code that they have to enter on the cash meter device in their home.

“It would be convenient if one could pay for their bill using many of mobile payments services out there and receive the recharge code via sms, email or any other communication medium the customer prefers,” said an expert who requested anonymity.

Apart from Zimbabwe, other countries in the continent that have embraced prepaid meters include Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana.

Comments (2)

The nice thing is that we no longer have those so-called estimates. ZESA is now thinking people are bypassing those meters, no we are not, you buy 10usd energy, power is only available from 22:30 to 05:30 so the only thing using electricity in my home is the freezer and the one outside energy saver lamp. I use gas to cook and heat my water because there won't be electricity so it can the energy I buy can last me 2 weeks yet before I used to get bills of 100 usd for no electricity.

maita - 10 March 2014

Dear Sir, Good day! We are one of largest manufacturers of metering box in China. Our main products line: Single-phase single table non-metallic metering box; Three-phase single table non-metallic metering box; Single-phase multi-table non-metallic metering box; Three-phase multi-table non-metallic metering box; Low voltage distribution box; Single-phase intelligent metering case; Three-phase intelligent metering case, etc. All metering box could be customized for the overall dimensions, mounting dimension and raw material. Please connect me directly if you need, the best price and service will be sent immediately. Thanks and best regards, Zhao Jian

Zhao Jian - 14 June 2016

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