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Smart meters for municipalities

Advanced smart meters continue to change the dynamics of electricity metering across many municipalities in South Africa. They are a critical component in the fight to save electricity and in heeding the call for a greener environment through clever usage of electricity.

Benefits of smart meters include prevention of rolling blackouts, protection of distribution equipment and prevention of consumer supply interruption by the utility, as the consumer connects and disconnects himself / herself to / from the electricity grid. Such meters enable consumers to do better energy planning, rid the country of unnecessary carbon emissions due to reduced and efficient energy usage by the country and reduce the user’s, utility’s and country’s carbon footprint. They contribute to the deferment of expenditure on electricity and other energy generation.

One of the first municipalities to have smart meters installed by Grinpal was Thabazimbi Municipality located in the west of the Limpopo Province. By the end of 2002, Grinpal had 749 smart meters installed. Apart from helping end users control their electricity usage and bills, smart meters also help the principal customer (e.g. municipality) collect revenue in an efficient and timesaving manner, thereby providing advantages to both the customer and the consumers of electricity.

“Smart metering has been a very good investment for the municipality. The technology has not only improved revenue collection, but has also positively impacted on maintenance and operational costs,” director of Infrastructure for the municipality, Cornelius Booysen, says.

“For example, after the meters were fully installed, in an area where we used to collect about R45,000 over three months, we are now able to collect R350,000 within the same period.”

According to Booysen, the technology has also positively impacted on maintenance and operational costs. “Previously one would have to physically monitor sites and now monitoring can be done at a click of a button from your desk, saving you a lot of time and money. You are also able to switch off customers without going to their homes, which also assists in regulating earnings.”

Another municipality that is reaping the benefits of smart metering is Maluti-a-Phofung. Commenting on the benefits of the smart meter technology from Grinpal, Mzangwa Thabo Mofotsanyana, mayor of the district to which Maluti belongs, says, “The meters have enhanced revenue collection and meter tampering has decreased substantially since their installation.

“Meter tampering was a big problem for us which resulted in the municipality being unable to collect revenue at the rate we wanted. But since the meters were installed, this had been addressed. The meters are efficient and I would recommend them to anyone who plans to use the technology,” Mzangwa says.

To date Grinpal has installed about 9,000 smart meters in Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality. In recognition of the benefits that the Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality has reaped through the technology, an order of more than 20,000 smart meters has been placed with Grinpal.

“Grinpal is working with all the nine provinces to ensure a steady supply to municipalities, metros and property developers,” Gert Gous, senior vice president, technology at Grinpal says. “We are also rolling out the meters in other countries. We are conducting pilot studies in India and are finalising the first two contracts for installations in Nigeria.”


Click here to view further articles from ESI Africa Magazine, edition 3/2011