Thousands of residents in Gauteng, South Africa’s smallest but most populous province, which includes the financial and administrative capitals of Johannesburg and Pretoria, are set to receive smart prepaid electricity meters soon as part of power utility Eskom’s plan to improve cash flow and address its debt collection challenges.
Even as it rolls out prepaid meters in Sandton, Midrand and Soweto areas of Johannesburg, Eskom said here over the weekend that still wanted to recoup the billions of Rands owed to it, especially by its Soweto customers.
Eskom said it would be installing an estimated 32,000 smart prepaid meters in the Sandton and Midrand areas by the end of March 2017. More than 30,000 split meters have already been installed in Soweto.
Eskom Spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said the rollout programme in Soweto would continue until the utility had covered all of its 150,000 customers in the township. The move, he added, would enable Eskom to contain bad debt, which had been consistently ballooning over the years.
In the past financial year, Eskom’s debt reached 5.0 billion Rand (about 334 million US dollars).
He said Eskom would not cancel the debt. Instead it had entered into a structured arrangement with the users to pay their debts over time.
Soweto has, for years, been a bad debt hotspot for Eskom. In 2003, Eskom wrote off 1.6 billion Rand of debt in townships around Johannesburg and Phasiwe said there would be no repeat of that.
The installation of prepaid meters formed part of Eskom’s strategy to migrate its customers from conventional or post-paid metering to prepaid metering. The changeover will happen at no extra cost to the customers, Eskom said.
Phasiwe said the benefits of using prepaid metering included enabling customers to monitor their consumption by checking the easy to read monitor and adjusting their consumption accordingly.
He said this would help Eskom’s energy efficiency drive. The migration will also eliminate meter reading estimations.