The Ministry of Energy and Power Development successfully launched the prepaid metering technology that is replacing the conventional billing system that had been posing challenges to the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), a subsidiary of ZESA Holdings.
The following frequently asked answer consumer queries and concerns:
Q1. Is conversion from post paid to prepaid optional or compulsory?
- It is compulsory, ZETDC has made a decision to change metering technology and all
meters in the domestic and small institutions will be converted to prepaid.
Q2. What are customers expected to do with the outstanding bills for electricity consumed
during the time they were on post-paid metering after conversion to prepaid metering
- There are two options, either they clear the outstanding bill before conversion or their debt is transferred to the prepayment account.
The other option is that the previous debt will be transferred to the prepayment meter. The arrears collection facility in the system allows the customer to settle his/her debt. Each time the customer purchases power, 20% of their purchase account is automatically deducted until the debt is cleared.
Q3. Where can credit for prepaid meters be purchased?
- Currently credit vending points are in selected ZETDC offices in Harare and Bulawayo. Plans are underway to appoint third party vending platforms. When the system is eventually rolled out throughout the country, customers will be able to purchase electricity tokens from supermarkets, petrol service stations, banks etc in the same manner they buy their cellular phone airtime.
Q4. Is conversion to prepaid a solution to the problem of long queues that we normally encounter when paying bills?
- Yes, the introduction of multiple distribution channels (third party vending) will definitely resolve the problem of long queues. Customers will have the freedom to purchase their electricity tokens from other approved third party vendors, thereby decongesting ZETDC banking halls.
Q5. Currently some of the meters are installed outside the house. Are there plans to move theses meters inside houses or customers will be expected to go out to load credit or check balance in the meter?
- The meters being installed are split PLC meters with a Customer Interface Unit (CIU), which the customers will use to load credit and check credit balances. The CIU is plugged on a socket outlet inside the house.
Q6. Is there any easy guide for prepaid meters to assist customers understand the prepaid meter?
- Yes, every customer will get an easy guide after installation of a prepayment meter. The easy guide is simplified but if there are challenges, customers are advised to contact their nearest ZETDC Customer Service Center.
Q7. What are the advantages of prepayment meters over post paid meters?
Prepaid metering is the best option since you pay for the units you need. You don’t have to worry about re-connection fees like in the case of the post paid meters. You just need to top up and you are done. Customers do not also have to worry about the issue of bills and meter reading every month and above all, they will have freedom to manage their consumption and amount spent every month. With post paid systems, customers do experience cash-flow problems, especially where the use of payment cycle of billed systems was averaging more than 30 days. Prepayment manages the customer’s consumption as it provides automatic credit control.
Q8. Are prepayments meters going to be installed throughout the country, if that is the case where do customers in areas where there are no ZETDC offices such as rural areas and farms purchase credit?
The pre-payment metering project is nationwide in scope and very soon it will cover the breadth of the entire country. Currently, the system is being deployed in Harare and Bulawayo. Other areas that will soon be coming on stream are Chitungwiza ,Gweru, Marondera, Kwekwe, Mutare, Masvingo, Chinhoyi, Bindura and Kadoma due to their proximity to compatible communication systems. When the system is fully operational, third party vending platforms will be deployed to rural businesses and growth points for the benefit of rural customers
Q9. . Is there any set limit for purchase of electricity credit for prepaid meters?
- The minimum denominations for purchase of tokens have been set at $5 but customers can purchase as many tokens as they want.
Q10. . Is there any set limit on the amount of credit the meter can accept?
There is no upper limit on the amount of electricity one can purchase
Q11. How can I get a prepayment meter?
- ZETDC is currently in the process of installing prepaid meters to all domestic and small business enetities. The project is scheduled to be completed within 10months. ZETDC will also be distributing notifications fliers to customers to announce the imminence of the project within customers’ neighourhood.
Q12. What happens if the price of power from ZETDC changes?
- The cost of a unit (kWh) of electricity will be purchased at the prevailing rate but
tokens already purchased will not be affected by the change in tariffs.
Q13. Can I get my money back out of my meter account?
- No, It is the customers’ responsibility to manage the balance in the meter. If customers know they will be moving out soon, they should buy enough credit to last them until the expiry of their change of tenancy.
Q14. What should I do if I lose the credit token before entering credit into meter?
- Report to your nearest ZETDC Customer Service Centre and get a duplicate token. There will be a nominal fee for the production of a duplicate token.
Q15. Who is responsible for the replacement of damaged Customer Interface Unit (CIU)?
- A. Replacement of CIU is the customer’s responsibility. The CIU would be replaced at nominal cost of $60.
Q16. How accurate are the prepaid meters compared to post-paid meters?
- The prepaid meters are very accurate and in any case, it is mandatory that all meters are tested before installation.
Q17. Will I still be getting a bill when I have a prepayment meter?
- The moment we install prepaid meters, customers will receive a final bill and thereafter no bills will be sent to the customer.
Q18. Should I change my lease agreement if I put in a pre-paid meter?
- We suggest that you do and recommend that you put in the relevant clauses pertaining to the supply and consumption of electricity (Consult ZETDC for advice).
Q19. In the case of a shared meter with more than one family sharing the same meter, what is the recommended practice when converted to pre-paid metering.
- If the wiring is separable, it is recommended that customers apply for separation of meters from ZETDC. In such cases where wiring is inseparable, customers have to agree on the best way to administer expenses incurred through prepayment metering system.
Q20. What happens if I go away and I run out of credit?
- We suggest that if you are going away, you should make sure that you have recharged your meter with enough credit to last that duration of the time you are going away. For longer periods, it is essential that you turn off and unplug appliances, thus minimizing any usage. You will still need to ensure that you have sufficient credit to keep your meter going for anything that you can’t turn off, for example alarm, gate, and pool.
Q21. Will we continue to be load shed after conversion to prepayment metering?
- Load shedding is done when demand exceeds supply and if the supply situation has not improved, customers will continue to experience load shedding even after conversion to prepaid. However, prepayment metering will reduce the frequency of load shedding due to the following reasons:
– With prepaid meters, customers will manage their demand and consumption closely thereby reducing the total demand imposed on the ZETDC system.
– Prepaid metering will improve cash flow for ZETDC and enable it to pay for power purchases
– With prepaid meters all customers will consume what they have paid for
Are we aware of the problem of electricity shortage facing Zimbabwe?
Most people are becoming more aware of the electricity shortage because of frequent
What is the nature of the problem?
The demand for electricity outstrips available supply during the morning and evening periods.
Why in the morning and evening?
This is mainly due to the increase in the domestic load during these periods due to meal preparation, water heating, lighting and the switching on of appliances such as TVs, radios, computers, fans, heaters, etc. When demand exceeds supply, some customers have to be switched off or shed to balance supply and demand.
Zimbabwe is one of those countries whose supply of electricity is insufficient to meet demand. 35% of the national power requirement is imported from neighbouring countries.
Why do we have the Power Shortage?
- Capital investment in the energy sector has not been keeping pace with the growth in demand over the years because of lack of funds.
- Existing electricity generating plants are not being used to full capacity because of the following reasons:
2.1 Breakdowns – equipment is ageing and lacks adequate maintenance. Foreign currency shortages and low tariff charges have made maintenance very difficult.
2.2 Shortage of coal.
2.3 Droughts – the low water levels at Kariba dam mean less output from the hydro-power station.
Where would we want to be?
A situation where there is a reliable and secure electricity supply at the right price.
What are the Possible solutions to the power shortage problem?
(a) Medium to Long Term Solutions
New capital investments in the Energy Sector are required in order to increase
generation capacity. These are as follows:-
|Project Title||Estimated Cost (US$)||Implementation Time Frame|
|i) Hwange Stage 3: 2 x 300MW||600 million||3 – 4 years|
|ii) Kariba South Extension 2x150MW||300 million||4 – 5 years|
|iii) Gokwe North 2 x 350 MW||1 400 million||5 – 6 years|
|iv) Batoka Gorge 4 x 200 MW||1 350 million||5 – 6 years|
|v) Lupane Gas 2 x 150 MW||300 million||2 – 3 years|
(b) Short Term Solutions
- This entails the improvement of the output of thermal power stations, which are currently operating well below their design capacities due to lack of maintenance and lack of coal. This would require approximately US$35 million and takes up to 18 months to complete the machine overhauls.
- Reducing demand without compromising on production and quality. This can be achieved through energy efficiency (EE) improvement and demand side
management (DSM) programmes.
· Energy Efficiency Improvement
This entails a sustained decrease in the amount of energy consumed per unit of industrial production without compromising the quantity and quality. Besides conserving energy efficiency improvement results in cost competitiveness of our products and services.
· Demand Side Management
Demand side management is a process whereby an electricity supplier influences the way electricity is used by customers resulting in customer bill reduction and release of additional capacity for to meet requirements of all customers.
The actions which customers can take include:-
- Prepare meals early before the evening peak period, which starts at about 5pm.
- The major energy consuming appliances in the home are the geyser and the electric stove.
- Match pots and pans with the stove plates and ensure that they are covered.
- Switch off the stove at least five minutes before the food is cooked.
- Never use the stove or grill to warm the house.
- Ensure the geyser thermostat is set below 550C. Switch off the geyser when going away.
- Reduce the amount of water in the bathtub or shower.
- Defrost food at room temperature instead of the oven.
- Do not open the fridge doors unnecessary.
- When using an electric kettle to boil water, it is advisable to boil only what is needed provided the element is covered. It is quicker and cheaper to boil water in an electric kettle than in a pot on the stove.
- For those who can afford them, pressure cookers and microwave ovens reduce the period of cooking considerably and hence reduce the consumption of electricity.
- Use low energy lamps. They cost more but use 80% less energy and last more than 6 times longer than ordinary filament lamps.
- Turn off lights when you leave a room.If you are going away consider buying timers to turn your lights on instead of leaving them on 24 hours a day.
- Over 70% of the cost of washing a load is in heating the water so use cold water as often as possible.
- Filtering is a major expense of owning a swimming pool. An average pool requires about 4-6 hours of filtering per day in summer and 3-4 hours in winter so do not filter more than you have to.
What has the Utility done to date?
- Medium to Long Term Projects:
MOU’s and feasibility studies are now in place. However, the development of the project
hinges on the raising of the requisite foreign currency down payments and the
implementation of Cost Reflective Tariffs in order to attract investment.
- Short to Medium Term Projects
- a) Financing for the rehabilitation of Hwange Power Station has been secured.
- b) The resuscitation of the small thermal power stations is underway.
- c) Imports for 2007 have been secured though some of them are non-firm. This will continue until there is adequate capacity.
- d) DSM & Energy Efficiency
A Demand Side Management and Energy Efficiency Campaign in the public media and at various shows and exhibitions is ongoing since its launch at all Stakeholder DSM and Energy Efficiency Symposium of November 2005. some symposium recommendations include:-
- Creation of a DSM fund.
- Design of a school course curricula for DSM & EE.
- Award for the Best Performing Company in Energy Efficiency.
- Scrapping of import duty on Energy Efficiency equipment and products.
- National Status for DSM & Energy Efficiency projects.
- Incentives to local manufacturers of DSM and EE products.
The implementation of the recommendations is being pursued.
Further action taken by the Utility is as follows:-
- DSM & Energy Efficiency supporting tariff was designed and presented to the regulator ZERC.
- Water Heating
Water heating accounts for about 39% of domestic load. Ripple Control
Systems to control domestic water heaters were installed in Harare and
Bulawayo to switch off the geysers during the evening peak.
This system does not affect the normal use of hot water in households. The system is thus a virtual power station during the evening peak. The system has a potential of shedding 270 MW if extended to new houses and other towns. This extension requires about US$13 million.
- Interruptible Customers
The Company has entered into contracts with large power users who are called upon to reduce their power demand during periods of power shortfalls.
- Management of Technical and Non-technical losses.
Statistical Metering has been installed at borders between transmission and distribution system in order to monitor losses and take corrective measures.
Expected Outputs of Implementing Short Term Measures:
- Easing of load shedding.
- Sustained decrease in industrial energy intensity of production.
- Reduction of power import bill.
- Flattening of demand curve.
- A higher level of responsibility all stakeholders.
The Way Forward
The Company will continue to pursue Demand Side Management & Energy Efficiency projects in water heating, lighting and cooling among other measures as follows:
- The ripple Control System will be extended to other major cities &and towns.
- All new houses with geysers will be put on the ripple control system.
- The installation of solar water heaters will be promoted.
There is an estimated 5,670,000 incandescent lamps installed in the country amounting to an installed capacity of 340MW. The national lighting load can be reduced to 62 MW through the use of energy saving lights. These energy savers use only 20% of the conventional lamp energy for the same light output and last up to six times longer. The savings would translate to about US2million per month on the import bill. The project cost is estimated at US$15 million.
- The ripple Control System will be extended to air conditioning plant.
“ELECTRICITY SAVED IS MONEY SAVED”
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