Smart metering ‘won’t cost you’

2010-01-06 00:00

MSUNDUZI residents will not be lumped with extra charges if the Msunduzi Municipality opts to install new electronic water and electricity meters in local homes and businesses.

The municipality has launched a pilot project in which a new “smart metering” system is being installed in 300 homes in the city. If this proves workable then the meters will be installed in homes, factories and businesses throughout the city.

Since the announcement of the pilot project, residents already burdened with high electricity and water costs have had one over-riding concern and that is whether individual households will have to pay for the new smart meters.

“No!” insists Msunduzi’s chief financial officer and leader of the smart meter project, Roy Bridgemohan. He said the entire cost of the new smart meters (electricity) and new water meters and their installation will be borne by the municipality within the R240 million tender contract.

A complaint among ratepayers is that there is not enough information forthcoming from the municipality about what smart meters are, and what their benefits are to the city.

Doing its own research, The Witness found a document on the Internet published by Unique Mbane, which was awarded the contract by Msunduzi Municipality to install the meters.

In the document Unique Mbane describe themselves as “smart metering innovators.” The system is said to be a total metering system that allows the municipality to control access to the meters remotely.

In other words, there will no longer be a need for meter readers to go door to door, as individual meters can be read by a smart meter central control computer located within the municipality.

Other features of the new system are:

• A central computer that will allow the municipality to soften the effects of load shedding by controlling consumption of electricity from this central point.

• Disconnections and reconnections can be done from the control centre, doing away with the cost of having to hire contractors to carry out these functions.

• Geysers can be switched on and off at designated times

• It will be easier to uncover tampering of meters and illegal electricity connections.

• Individual consumption can be controlled. In other words, the smart meters regulate the usage of electricity and in effect also replace the function of the MCBs (mini circuit breakers).

Bridgemohan was asked whether this will mean that the municipality will take the step to suspend the current MCB charges. He replied that the MCB still has a role to play in that it serves as a protection device for the incoming council cable to the customer. “Should there be a fault on the consumer side the MCB will trip, thereby not affecting the supply mains and interrupting the electricity supply to other customers.

The CFO went on to say that the MCB charge is not a payment for the device, but is rather related to an ampere or demand charge. The demand charge covers such areas as the cost associated with the distribution of electricity. Bridgemohan added that the demand charge is also designed to contribute to the capital costs of providing the council’s electricity network.

“Should the MCB charge be removed, it would be replaced by some other method of charging, for example by including a higher unit rate, to enable the council to recover the cost of supplying electricity to customers,” Bridgemohan said.




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