Eskom’s R16 billion answer to load shedding taking shape

 ·8 Dec 2023

The Department of Public Enterprises has revealed that 31,000 homes have been fitted with smart electricity meters at a cost of R96 million – which is not even one percentage point of the expected budget.

These numbers were outlined in a recent parliamentary Q&A, in which the Minister of Public Enterprises was asked for the number of households that agreed to install the smart meters, how many were installed, and the relevant details of the costs associated with installations.

Eskom has been promoting demand-side management (DSM) through smart meters to limit electricity use during peak times. Former Eskom chairman Mpho Makwana explained that demand side management will help to limit load-shedding in the short term.

Smart meters seek to manage the demand during periods when an emergency is declared, such as when the system is constrained (during load shedding Stages 1 to 4), while at the same time ensuring that customers experience a reduced impact during load shedding (customers have enough power for lights and electronic appliances during load shedding).

Eskom’s group executive of distribution, Monde Bala, said deploying smart meters is a key enabler to demand side management. Using smart meters, Eskom and municipalities can do load management and load-shifting, reducing pressure on the grid during peak time.

According to the minister’s response to the parliamentary Q&A, the total number of houses identified for the smart meter installation programme in Gauteng was more than 35,000 – mainly in Sandton, Midrand and Soweto.

Of those targeted, 30,597 customers in Gauteng agreed to install smart meters, and in Fourways, approximately 10,000 meters were installed as part of the smart meter programme.

Furthermore, approximately 8,000 houses have also agreed to the load-limiting pilot, but the minister said meters are yet to be installed.

The minister added that the current smart meters in operation were installed by Landis+Gyr, which was the successful bidder following an open tender procurement process, with the installation costing approximately R96 million.

Ramokgopa said the government want to install a smart meter in every South African household, which is set to cost R16 billion and take four years.

He added that a “major financier” will partner with the government to facilitate the rollout of the smart meters and provide financing for poorer households. However, the identity of the funder is shrouded in secrecy.

The Democratic Alliance (DA’s) Samantha Graham-Maré noted that the party had submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request to the office of the Minister of Electricity about the rollout.

She said the documents needed to reflect the pricing of this strategy, the preferred service provider, and the name of the “secret” funder.

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