Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
POWER utility Zesa Holdings will invest nearly $200 million towards the installation of smart meters for medium and heavy consumers of electricity.
This comes after Zesa said it had completed installation of 590 518 prepaid meters, Phase one of the prepaid meter project, which is 6 percent behind the target due to foreign currency payment challenges.
“The total cost for the prepaid metering project was around $100 million and the total cost for smart metering project is estimated at around $190 million including cost of the Meter Data Management System,” Zesa said.
According to Zesa, points targeted for smart meters contribute around 60 percent of ZETDC’s revenue. Smart meters are high precision intelligent prepaid metering systems with bidirectional communication capability.
The power utility is targeting to install 4 000 smart meter units by December this year and a total of 40 000 when the project is completed in 2019. The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company said 25 000 of the awarded tender for 130 000 units have been delivered.
“The full scope of smart metering project is 40 000 meters and the balance will be deployed on a phased approach and the project is expected to be complete by the first quarter of 2019,” Zesa said.
Smart meters will be deployed at points where it is technically not feasible to deploy standard prepaid meters. This will enable ZETDC to convert Medium and Large Power Users to prepayment and assist the group to prevent the accumulation of debt and improve operational efficiency.
After the switch to the prepaid system, Zesa’s legacy debt for customers migrated to prepaid platform, both domestic and business is currently at $247 million.
The debt recovery strategy based on a fixed percentage deduction of 50 percent for every purchase has been very effective as it leaves customers with enough for current electricity consumption. Total debt collected since the commencement of the project is around $123 million.
Zesa said the first phase of the project has lagged behind schedule as suppliers have been struggling to get foreign currency allocation from Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to deliver meters at the expected rate. However, intervention by the Ministry of Energy and Power Development resulted in RBZ moving meters to priority 1 list for forex allocation.
The plan is to install 105 000 meters in 2017 to bring total prepaid base to 719 441. Government’s Zimbabwe Agenda for sustainable Socio economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) covering the period 2014-2018 target is to increase the prepayment customer base to 800 000 by end of 2018.