Mr Stanley Gaba, Acting Manager: Communications of the Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM), writes in response to Vaalweekblad’s article: “Emfuleni Smart Meter Project: Should the Guptas take capturing lessons from the Chinese?” dated June 21 – 23, 2017:
Emfuleni Local Municipality entered into a public private partnership with Beijing Fuxing Xiaocheng electronic stock company in rolling out the R1 billion project to run for 10 years. The deal was signed in December 2013. The economies of scale is 60% for BXC – 40% ELM, and grows towards ELM’s favour as the project progresses, meaning after 10 years, the municipality would have taken complete control of the project and infrastructure.
The project was motivated by the municipality after having incurred serious material revenue losses in its provision of both water and electricity services due to poor revenue recovery and sub-optimal loss management. The Smart Meter System will reduce water and electricity revenue losses substantially, by providing direct access to metering data, detecting meter tampering, providing a prepayment and or credit mode functionality, providing information on system outages and facilitate reduction of load.
Emfuleni Local Municipality has not provided funding for the procurement of the Smart Meter System as BXC was required to finance the project. The Smart Meter System is a project that will be paid for, based on its performance. It must demonstrate that it is effective through optimising the financial performance of both the water and electricity operational cycles, resulting in optimised User Payment collections and a reduction in the bulk purchase costs of both electricity and water.
The deal so far has seen approximately 5 750 electricity meters successfully installed, mostly in the Vanderbijlpark areas such as:
* SE7, SE3, SE6;
* Three Rivers East;
* Falcon Ridge;
* Waldrift (approx 40% of the area);
* Mimi Fourie Hof, Sonhof, Hertzhof;
* Sebokeng Hostels;
* CE6, CE1, CE2, CE3;
* CW1; and
* Boipatong and Bophelong
* A number of flats in various locations.
Although there has been some dissatisfaction amongst consumers with the installation of these new meters, the project was done in compliance with the municipal By-laws which state that the municipality has to maintain its metering equipment to ensure fair measurement of electricity and water consumed. The municipality is in process of appointing an independent assessor to verify these facts around the project.
With regard to water meters, they have been tested and approved to comply with the relevant specifications. The testing of the close-off valve, which will be used to regulate the flow of water to “flat-rate” consumers and to close off the supply when the water credit limit has been reached, has not been tested yet. These tests are presently being done in Beijing, China and the official roll out of water meters can therefore only commence when the final tests have been done and signed off by the NRCS.
As the accuracy of the meters has, however, been proven to be acceptable it is recommended that the installation of 50 or 60 water meters be done without delay to enable BXC SA and the municipality to do an in situ-evaluation of the functionality.
Consumers will again be made aware of this pilot project and their existing water meters will be left intact so as not to inconvenience anyone.
The smart meter offers the following benefits:
Instant updates, meaning a response appears to take place instantaneously or in real time. All the updates made by the municipality will appear instantly on the CPU for the customer to take appropriate action. Accurate, the display and municipal account will always be reflective of the accurate consumption. In contrast with the current challenges of estimates in the billing system, the smart meter will give accurate information and meter readings. This is smart technology that puts you in control! Through this technology the consumer can always determine when to purchase power whenever, and wherever the consumer may be. It no longer requires the consumer to go and punch in the number on the CPU to have electricity back, but it can be done instantly when purchasing it.