Zesa to approve vendors to sell pre-paid power meters

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s electricity distributor Zesa Holdings (Zesa) is looking for third party vendors to sell pre-paid electricity meters in a move that could boost the earnings of micro-entrepreneurs countrywide.

Zesa has transferred just over 570 000 of electricity consumers to the pre-paid meters and the number is set to grow to 800 000 by the end of the year.

Prepaid electricity meters were first introduced in 2013 by Zesa as a way of improving revenue collection.

Just like the prepaid mobile phone system, the prepaid electricity meter will switch off power immediately if a consumer has exhausted his credit and on reloading will automatically reconnect.

Finance and Economic Planning minister Patrick Chinamasa said the sales of smartmeters will now be sub-contracted to other suppliers and retailers.

“The roll-out of the prepaid metering system will receive a major boost through the Customer Supplied Meter Scheme, where customers procure prepaid meters from approved local agents.

“This should ensure we achieve the target of 800 000 prepaid meters for domestic consumers, thereby guaranteeing cash flow for the energy sector,” Chinamasa said in the 2017 National Budget.

It is also not clear whether the power firm would follow the model of mobile phone providers where dealers get products — top-up cards and handsets — at a discount and sell them at the fixed retail price, or by purchasing starter packs at the retail price and then receiving a connection commission once an initial top-up is made by a new subscriber.

But given that the revenues generated from the pre-paid system run into millions of dollars, the independent vendors’ deal is expected to generate a high stake battle for the business as retailers look for the handsome pay-offs.

Zesa spokesperson Fullard Gwasira said owing to the success of the smart metering system through improved revenue collection, they had moved to rural areas.

“We were getting requests from people who wanted to manage their own costs and it also comes at their own convenience,” Gwasira said.

The “smart meters” were also introduced as a debt recovery measure as customers would have a percentage of their prepaid electricity purchase deducted to service their debt with the power company.

Since 2013 when the prepaid meter system started, Zesa had installed 575 667 meters in households and businesses across the country by 2015.