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Joburg rolls out more smart meters


The rollout of smart meters by City Power – the City of Johannesburg’s electricity utility – to mitigate load-shedding, improve consumption efficiency, achieve meter-reading accuracy, reduce meter-reading costs and regulate consumption, is gathering speed.

More than 60 000 smart meters, also known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) units, have already been installed in areas where domestic customers consume 1 000 KWH and above a month. The target is to install 70 000 smart meters by the beginning of June this year and 150 000 by the end of September at no cost to customers.

Areas in which smart meters have already been installed include Ruimsig, Hyde Park, Randburg, Radiokop, Grobblerpark, Greenstone, Bryanston, Robertsham, Eagle Canyon, Westcliff, Parkhurst, Parkmore and Parkwood.

Recently, Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau announced at the height of intermittent power outages the introduction of an innovative system that would use smart meters to mitigate the impact of load shedding and help keep the lights on. Explaining at the time how the “load limiting” system would work, Mayor Tau said residents in households where smart meters had been installed would receive an SMS on their smartphones advising them to reduce power consumption at a particular time.

“It will be up to you to switch off those electrical appliances that you don’t need. If you ignore the signal, your power will trip for 30 seconds and will switch on again. If you continue ignoring the warning signal, the power will switch off completely,” he said.

The power will remain switched off until the load shedding period has lapsed.

It is estimated that the City could save us much as 775MW if all the 335 000 households with smart meters were to apply the system. On Friday Member of the Mayoral Committee for Infrastructure and Environment Services Councillor Matshidiso Mfikoe said besides helping to keep the lights on during load shedding, smart metering infrastructure would eliminate the need to send out meter-readers to obtain meter readings.

“Instead, meters will be read remotely using a telecommunications network and a back office system that collects, stores and analyses meter-reading accuracy. This will improve meter-reading accuracy and reduce meter-reading costs and the inconvenience caused to customers when access to their properties would be required for meter-reading purposes,” the MMC says.

MMC Mfikoe said both the City and customers would be able to get accurate electricity consumption and billing data from the smart meter. This, she said, would allow for quicker resolution of queries based on accurate and factual records.

“The customers will be able to view and monitor their house electricity consumption and usage. This will allow them to have an idea of what their bill at the end of the month would be.

“The customer can switch certain loads on and off and see in real time how these affect electricity consumption,” she said.

MMC Mfikoe said accurate reading would result in accurate electricity billing.

This, she added, would have a positive impact on the City’s revenue as there would be reduced billing queries and non-payment because customers would receive accurate and verifiable consumption information. The smart meter, she said, could also be used to send bulk messages asking customers to, for instance, to reduce demand or remind them to pay an outstanding bill.

The MMC added that customers could also use their smart meters and infrastructure to choose to either be on a prepaid or credit platform.