Residents with smart meters might face a cold winter

Smart meters that were destroyed in December last year by a group of upset Emfuleni residents

 
Craig Kotze

Thousands of Emfuleni residences and businesses with electricity smart meters face a possible power resupply cut-off in the middle of winter as the local municipality considers terminating its already-advanced R1,1 billion programme, informed sources told Ster/Vaalweekblad last week.

Uncertainty around municipality intentions on smart meter policy and future intentions has lead to a demand by the local Chamber of Commerce for immediate policy clarification and community communication.

“Policy uncertainty must be ended immediately and ELM intentions need to be communicated to the community as soon as possible on this matter,” said Klippies Kritzinger, CEO of the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce.

Termination of the existing smart meter contract could saddle the embattled Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM) with an extra massive payout of up to R700 million to contract holder BXCSA, in addition to the more than R1 billion owed to Eskom and Rand Water and many other service providers.

Additionally, the smart meter and IT infrastructure built and maintained since 2015 is understood to belong to BXCSA – and can reportedly be switched off remotely – and cannot simply be taken over by another service provider without the cooperation of BXCSA.

Ster/Vaalweekblad has been informed by reliable sources that a decision to terminate the smart meter contract had already been made by ELM and had been shared with councillors, but no official confirmation or clarification has been forthcoming.

Extensive job losses have already resulted at BXCSA due to ELM uncertainty and lack of communication on its smart meter programme intentions.

ELM could also face a massive legal challenge should it decide to terminate the contract on any grounds whatsoever and not meet its contractual obligations, experts said.

The possible R700 million BXCSA payout also does not include an additional amount of close to R30 million owed by ELM to BXCSA, which has invested close to R400 million in infrastructure, IT development and jobs since 2013 without yet receiving any payback from ELM.

BXCSA refused to comment, confirm or deny whether ELM was planning to terminate its contract. Mayoral spokesperson Lebo Mofokeng refused to comment on whether the contract was under review, saying this week only “the contract has not been cancelled or terminated” without any reference to ELM future intentions.

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