17 April 2013 – City Power, the entity responsible for distributing electricity within Johannesburg, is to implement a R1.2 billion project to roll out smart meters. Part of the reason for the initiative is to eliminate billing problems related to electricity usage in the city. At the moment the city’s conventional electricity meters are read in person by meter readers, though it does have its 12,000 industrial users of electricity with automated metering, and some 250,000 customers using prepaid meters.
An auditor-general’s report on the city of Johannesburg’s financials found differences between source data and billing data on the sale of electricity. The report says that estimates were done for an extended period of time and the city could not provide sufficient audit evidence for disregarding actual meter readings. The city has also lost R1.3 billion worth of electricity in its distribution network, this related to ageing infrastructure and electricity theft.
The smart meters will transmit daily readings to a central hub. The consumption readings will be incorporated into city of Johannesburg bills through an automated process. The two-way communication network will pinpoint outages when and where they occur, enabling workers to be efficiently deployed to correct the problem. Each meter has its own alarm system, to warn against tampering, but City Power assures that the smart meters will not be used to control consumption, only to measure it.
City Power awarded the R1.2 billion tender to Itron and Edison Power Group. The initial phase of the project will see customers who use more than 1,000 kW receive the meters. It does pave the way for Time of Use tariffing in the city of Johannesburg, though such a move would require approval of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa.