Pre-paid meters launched

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THE nationwide roll-out programme of about 600 000 free smart/prepaid electricity meters to empower customers to manage their own consumption as well as cut down on operational expenses on the part of the power utility, among other win-win benefits, has been launched.

Report compiled by Fullard Gwasira
Addressing guests at colourful ceremonies in Harare’s high density suburbs of Highfield and Kuwadzana, Elton Mangoma, the Minister of Energy and Power Development said: “The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings is directing its efforts towards the installation of 600 000 prepaid meters countrywide to replace the conventional billing system that has been posing challenges to both the power utility and consumers.

 
“Zimbabwe has been experiencing power shortfall since 1997 as a result of lack of additional generation capacity, against a background of increased load growth across all sectors of the economy. The last new generation capacity was in the early 1980s at Hwange. The power shortfall was worsened by the loss of dependable capacity at Hwange Power Station as a result of maintenance during the period to early 2009.”

 
Mangoma said the dependable capacity fell from 780MW in the late 1990s to an average of 300MW during the period 2007 to early 2009. He however said that dependable capacity has since improved to an average of 500MW.

 
Zimbabwe has over the last three years been making strides towards the restoration of basic services like the provision of electricity in consumers’ homes.

 
The minister said the smart/prepaid metering will result in consumers changing their usage behavior to efficient use, with the meters bringing benefits that encompass consumers monitoring their own electricity usage and complete control of their budgets, no need for meter readers to get into their (consumers’) homes, no hefty and frightening bills. The accumulated debt will be spread over a longer period and the paying for electricity will be made easier as electricity can be purchased from more outlets such as supermarkets and shops.

 
“The short-term demand side measures involve the efficient use of electricity. Studies conducted in an independent study have established that up to 20% of electricity consumed can be saved if used efficiently. The change in usage habits will result in up to 20% savings or a national saving of about 120MW at peak,” said Mangoma.

 
He said that against a suppressed maximum demand of about 2000MW, an average power supply of 1 300MW is resulting in a 35% power deficit, resulting in load shedding in order to balance the supply and demand.

 
He said load shedding, which is unavoidable, is inconveniencing customers and frustrating efforts to turn around the economy. The implementation of the Medium-Term Plan, among other initiatives to revive the economy requires adequate power supply to ensure that industrial capacity utilisation increases.

 
The ministry said that they were implementing short, medium and long-term interventions to address the power shortage.

 
“In the short-term, the technology at the three small thermal power stations at Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo will be changed in order for them to produce at full capacity of 285MW. Efforts are underway to revive the dependable capacity of Hwange Power Station through major maintenance works at a cost of US$40 million. The dependable capacity is expected to reach 700MW within the next twelve months,” said Mangoma.

 
He said that negotiations were underway for the installation of a 100MW solar plant, targeted for commissioning next year. A tender for the quantification of coal bed methane in Lupane will be floated soon to enable temporary generation to commence next year.

 
The medium-term strategies to mitigate against power supply challenges include the expansion of Hwange and Kariba Power Stations by expanding them with two additional units at each station, thereby creating an additional capacity of 900MW.

 
Tenders floated are being adjudicated and awards will be made in the near future, with commissioning being expected to be within the next four years.
The construction of a 30MW hydro plant at Gaerezi is also expected soon and the ground breaking ceremony will be done at the end of the month.

 
SUMMARY

  • ZETDC to install about 600 000 prepaid meters countrywide
  • Prepaid meters, a cure to billing challenges
  • The power utility significantly reduces power import arrears
  • The Ministry of Energy and Power Development also acknowledged the customer debt of US$600 million, saying that all debt incurred during the Zimbabwe dollar era was written off.

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