A smart meter in every house: Inside Eskom's R16bn plan to help end load-shedding
As South Africa fights a crippling power crisis, Eskom is hedging its bets on smart meters to help put an end to load-shedding.
Stage 4 and 6 load-shedding is now being implemented after the failure of seven generation units. “Breakdowns are now at 17,955MW of generating capacity while the generating capacity out of service for planned maintenance is 5,042MW,” the power utility said.
Among the solutions being pushed by Eskom is to put a smart meter in every home within the next four years.
According to Business Report, the programme will cost at least R16bn and the utility hopes to recover more than 7,000MW into the grid.
It will use a demand management system which Eskom says will allow one to decide when to use electricity based on how much it will cost. On smart prepaid meters the amount used is taken from a prepaid balance.
“It’s a pricing signal, but what it does is you, as a customer, decide if it’s too expensive at this time, I can reduce my load; or when it’s cheaper I can cook. What we are saying is that if you consume electricity at a certain time, it becomes expensive and if you consume at a standard time it becomes cheaper,” said Eskom chief engineer Edison Makwarela.
Smart meters will also manage “load-limiting” as an alternative to load-shedding.
“Normally, electricity suppliers install geyser controls in consumers’ houses, but instead of doing that we would rather say to you this is 60kWh you are supposed to get, I am load-limiting you to 10Mk/Wh ... I’m supposed to load-shed you but I will not. Instead, switch off [appliances] because if you don’t switch off your geyser, for example, it’s going to cut you off anyway.
“If the excess load is not removed by a customer during the load-limiting stage, the meter will disconnect the customer for a period determined by the utility — anything between 30 minutes to two hours”.
Hilton Trollip, a fellow at the Global Risk Governance Programme at UCT and an independent consultant in energy research, told Business Day in March there may be a smart grid in the next 20 to 30 years.
This grid will enable the sharing of moments of peak demand or low demand from customers and peak and low supply from variable power sources across a large area and among many people.
It will be managed by artificial intelligence that will automatically balance supply and demand and could automatically switch off power supply to appliances such as geysers and freezers when there is excess demand and switch them on again when there is excess supply.
MD for revenue consulting at Ntiyiso, Trevor Mupeti, told TimesLIVE smart metering was a good idea but often flawed in execution.
“On closer inspection, it has been revealed that the introduction of prepaid metering not only refrained from assisting municipalities improve their revenue status but also, more often than not, accelerated the revenue erosion prevalent in most municipalities. A surprising but true fact within many municipalities.”
He said the reason for this was in loopholes that were being taken advantage of.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.