Aubrey Mochela, General Manager ICT and Load Limiting Project Manager at City Power, South Africa will address the African Utility Week metering track on “Smart Metering Value Proposition for the Utility Industry”.
City Power has identified an increase in the energy loss trends experienced in recent years, can you give more details about these trends and the reasons?
Globally, it is estimated that electric utilities lose approximately $85 billion annually owing to theft of energy related services. Fuelled by poor economies and an increase in technical-savvy crimes, such as meter tampering and meter bypassing are becoming easy to commit, lucrative in nature and hard to detect.
In South Africa, the revenue losses attributed to the theft of energy services is estimated to be approximately R8 billion annually and is on an upward trajectory. The municipalities that are tasked with the critical task of energy distribution to fuel the growth in the economy are faced with the dilemma of managing their revenue.
City Power supplies electricity to the greater Johannesburg Metropole and is faced with an increasing challenge in the realisation of the revenue owed for the energy supplied to its customer base. This is also evident in the increasing energy losses trend that has been experienced by the municipality in the recent financial years. Losses are comprised of two components, namely technical and non-technical losses. Technical losses naturally occur when electrical energy is transferred from the source to the load due to the resistance of the conductor. Non-technical losses are caused by actions external to the network and primarily consist of energy theft, errors in the billing and metering system, non-issuance of bills and unknown electrical connections.
As can be deduced from the graph, the increasing trend of non-technical losses is immense as it can threaten the survival of any utility organisation. Hence, it required a systematic shift in approach and drastic change in direction to set the organisation back on the path of financial sustainability. In light of this situation, the executive management at City Power opted to launch the Revenue Recovery Programme (RRP) with the strategic objectives of improving the revenue realisation potential, arresting the increase in the losses trend, improving meter reading performance and enhancing the overall customer service experience in the process.
City Power has launched the smart metering programme aimed at arresting these trends. How does the programme work and how are you hoping it will reverse the trends?
City Power Johannesburg has pioneered the large-scale implementation of smart metering infrastructure in South Africa. The existing customer base exceeds 420,000 active customers across the different customer categories and jointly generates over R12 billion in annual revenues. City Power’s challenges included meter reading, revenue recovery, accurate billing, and reduction of non-technical losses.
In order to tackle these issues, the adoption of innovative technology with the utilisation of smart metering technology played a pivotal role. City Power appointed the Itron / EPG consortium to manage the implementation of smart metering infrastructure within the municipality. The smart meter roll-out programme aims to install over 250,000 smart meters, including approximately 12,000 demand meters in a 3-year programme, aiming for completion by the end of 2015. In order to ensure that the back-end is managed effectively, the Meter Data Management System (MDMS) has also been implemented to integrate with the vast amounts of data received from the smart meters. This further links up to the other monitoring and billing systems within the Retail Services department. This integrated system makes provision for the large consumers to monitor and manage their consumption statistics in real-time on a dedicated web portal.
The Revenue Recovery Programme has been strategically launched by City Power with the primary aim to ensure improved revenue recovery, meter reading performance, and a reduction in the energy losses trend. The RRP aims to leverage existing smart metering implementation programmes within City Power and combine the efforts in a bid to better to address these challenges.
How will smart meters change the lives of Johannesburg’s electricity consumers?
The diagram below illustrates the benefits of smart meters to the consumers. The automation of the bill reduces the home visits for the manual collection of meter reads. This has a direct impact in reducing crime related to fraudsters that claim to be meter readers. But, it also reduces the incorrect bill due to man error or manual intervention.
The customer will be able to control the use of electricity in order to benefit them financially by accessing the Time-of-Use tariff and using electricity when the cost is low.
The customer can also have access to the usage profile by accessing the customer portal and analysing the usage trend similar to what the large power users (LPUs) are doing. This empowers the customers to schedule his power usage accordingly.
With the Load Limiting capability, the customer can also be excluded from load shedding whereby the minimum load can assist with running selected appliances as opposed to having no load at all.
Communication with Domestic customers will also be enabled via SMS to notify them of power interruptions, consumption reduction requests, and provision of billing related information.
In your view, are municipalities cooperating enough to share best practice?
Uraía is one of the international forums that stimulate cooperation between municipalities in dealing with SMART CITY initiatives. SALGA and City of Johannesburg are active participants in this forum. The idea behind Uraía rises from the fact that cities increasingly make use of SMART and mobile technologies in the daily management of public services, but many have difficulties in keeping up with adapting public management to this changing environment. The platform brings together local governments, service and technology providers, and supports innovation in local public management by introducing the use of SMART technologies in three main areas: municipal finances, management of public services and infrastructure, and transparency and accountability.
What surprises you about your work?
I always get into unchartered territories and get surprised by the level of skills of our people and yet how much of it is not used to benefit society at large. I also see a number of people who are given the public platform but with no depth and no substance but rather charisma and popularity. There are also a number of South African based solutions that are not marketed worldwide and yet we use oversees technologies to resolve South African problems while neglecting the fit for purpose solution developed locally. I was also surprised by the manner in which the international forums respect our opinion and the way we have advanced as an African city and yet this is not publicised locally. There are vast opportunities to develop the City and advance the citizens and residence of Johannesburg using local content.
What will be your message at African Utility Week this year?
Smart Meters are the internet of the future. The high speed development that is taking place in this area and the business opportunities presented, require an innovative mind that is visionary. Initially it would not make sense to the common public when you come up with creative ideas around Smart Meters as the technology of the future, but this will eventually be the internet of the day.
I see metering been everywhere and the business of the future will use an integrated soft, smart meter with probes imbedded in all areas of use:
- Food as a service (use and eat or drink and we will meter usage)
- Digital media as a service (TV, Internet, Communications etc.)
- Travel as a service (use and we will meter usage)
- And many more services that will be metered using different types of probes but single soft metering platform with automated bill at user level as opposed to system level
SMART METERING is the next unavoidable thing after death and taxes.
More about Aubrey and his role at City Power:
Aubrey is a visionary and goal orientated ICT Senior Executive with more than 20 years of demonstrated experience in planning, designing, implementing and supporting best of breed and cutting edge solutions to address business process optimization and growth. Whenever there are opportunities for change, he has proven to be the preferred driver to make things happen focusing on what must be achieved. Strong record of success in rollout of new specialised technologies in government and private sector. Diploma in IT, Diploma in Business Management and Honours in Leadership with multiple accreditations in ICT related certification. Aubrey understands both technology and business.