No going back on smart meters, says Mavhaire

via No going back on smart meters,says Mavhaire | The Herald 1 July 2014 by Felex Share Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT says there is no going back on plans to switch from prepaid meters to smart units as it moves in to curb the circumvention of the electricity billing system by consumers.

Energy and Power Development Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, told The Herald that plans to introduce smart meters were at an advanced stage, while it would soon be a prerequisite for all newly-built houses to have smart units.

This follows media reports that Zesa’s plans to install smart meters were crumbling as some senior and influential Zesa engineers were against the idea, arguing the smart units were expensive.

Minister Mavhaire said Government economy had already taken a position to save the power utility from losing more than $10 million monthly due to power theft.

“They are only finishing installing the prepaid meters, which we hope it will be anytime soon,” said Minister Mavhaire.

“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. 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.”

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.

To date, the power utility has installed more than 420 000, which were being supplied by Solahart, ZTE, Finmark and Nyamazela of South Africa.

Minister Mavhaire said the defects on prepaid meters were costing Zesa and benefiting consumers.

“We simply need a system that reports back to the centre any shortfall or meter bypassing taking place,” he said.

“We will also activate the dormant function on the prepaid meter to enable them to report back to the centre.”

It costs Zesa about $105 to install a prepaid meter and almost $350 for a smart meter.

Minister Mavhaire said every house being constructed would be obliged to have a smart meter.

“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.

Smart metering is common in Europe but a number of African countries such as South Africa, Botswana and Malawi have adopted the same technology.