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Prepayment of electricity is usual and in the future similar water meters will also be standard

Pre-paid electricity and water meters are fast becoming a necessity in today’s homes, not only for landlords and tenants, but also homeowners.

Some municipalities are also actively encouraging the adoption of prepaid metering. The City of Cape Town is rolling out a free electricity meter replacement programme across the metro and has been doing so for the past five years, says councillor Phindile Maxiti, the City’s mayoral committee member for energy and climate change.

Currently 557000 customers are using prepaid meters versus 100000 using credit meters. He says for residents, the benefits of using prepaid electricity meters include total control over electricity consumption, no more estimated readings and convenient and stress-free purchasing of electricity.

For the city, it takes away the need to read the meters. “Having a prepaid meter enables residents to have direct control over their usage, leading to fewer unpaid municipal accounts.

In addition, the prepaid meter is one of the debt recovery tools used by the city. “Any amounts deducted from the prepaid electricity purchases are credited against the relevant account to reduce the debt outstanding.”

In the private (sub-metering) pre-payment market the adoption rate is high in the electricity sector, says Karen Wheller, chief operating officer at Enbaya Prepaid Meters.

However, the technology has been around for a long time and is now considered old. In the water sector, prepaid metering is newer but the adoption of such metering has increased by 100% in the past three years.

“People want more prepaid water meters than electricity meters, probably because electricity meters are older and already installed in a lot of locations. Water meters, being newer, are attracting more interest.”

Taking into account that electricity prepayment has been around for 20 years, water not even half that time, Wheller says the demand for water meters will also level out in the next five to 10 years.

Wheller says each municipality would have a different adoption rate regarding their general plans around conversions to municipal metering. “There are more than 200 municipalities in South Africa and each offers prepayment at different rates for different areas.”

In terms of the City of Cape Town’s water meter upgrade programme, it says it appointed a contractor to replace older electricity credit meters with new prepaid meters in selected suburbs across the city.

The cost of the new meters is covered by the City in suburbs where the programme is active. If a resident’s neighbourhood is scheduled only for the following year, they may request an earlier date. However, fees will apply as this will be considered an ad-hoc replacement.

“A conversion fee will be loaded on to the prepaid account as debt and the funds will be recovered as a percentage of the resident’s electricity purchases.

“If a customer chooses not to make use of this offer, they will be required to pay for the conversion should they want a prepaid meter at a later stage,” he says.

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