Meters replaced at end of lifespan

When Rosemary Davis read the flyer from Elex Khanyisa and the City of Cape Town offering residents free pre-paid electricity meters, she jumped at the opportunity.

The flyer stated the meter is worth “R1 837, but if you have the pre-paid meter base installed by a private contractor it can cost you as much as R1 000”.

TheRosebankpensioner tried fruitlessly for a month to get Elex Khanyisa, the contractor, to arrange it. There were several email exchanges between Kayleen Hallett, the senior project administrator and City official, project manager Algernon Clayton and Noel Nyoni, an employee of Elex Khanyisa. But nothing much seemed to happen.

One of the questions Ms Hallett asked was: “How do we treat consumers that would like a prepaid meter installed asap, however, after we have asked all the necessary questions the outcome is meter in house (sic).”

If she doesn’t know, who does?

She told Ms Davis that Algernon had not replied to her emails and then sent Mr Nyoni a picture of the kiosk outside the property and Ms Hallett said, “We are also trying to determine if there is a pole box”.

Still Ms Davis waited.

“I have been trying for a month to get the council to replace my electricity meter after getting a flyer that they would install a prepaid meter free. I phoned to make a booking on the day I received the notice. My neighbour in the adjoining semi-detached property has a prepaid meter in her house and everyone I know also has prepaid meters in their electricity boxes inside their houses,” said Ms Davis, who added that she made several phone calls and sent emails “and each time I get a different answer”.

“One day I am told there should be electricity boxes outside, the next day I am told something about an electricity pole. I have one right outside my bedroom window. I really seem to be getting nowhere with the council offer to install a prepaid meter. No one has come to look at my premises,” she said.

“I would rather pay R1.1068 per kWh (on pre-paid) instead of R1.8754 per kWh. I have done my best to co-operate with the council to get a prepaid meter. Is it perhaps that I am a pensioner who lives in an old house which is causing this inaction? Their offer of a free installation does not seem to be worth the paper it is printed on,” she said.

“Please assist.”

I also got one of those flyers and I thought the wording was misleading as it gives the impression that it is compulsory to replace your credit meter with a prepaid electricity meter.

Raelene Arendse, acting may-oral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said the City has launched a new phased upgrade programme that will see about 100 000 meters that are reaching the end of their lifespans being replaced over the next five years at a cost of R165 million.

“It is not compulsory for residents to participate in the programme, however, it is highly recommended that people use this opportunity as once the programme leaves the area the customer will be responsible for the cost of this conversion,” Ms Arendse said.

The upgrade programme is area-based. Visit: http://www.capetown.gov.za/electricitymeters to see the schedule. Residents can also pre-register on the City’s website for when the programme reaches their area.

Residents who don’t want to wait for the programme to reach their area can upgrade immediately, however, the cost of the new meter and installation (R3 100) will be recovered via the prepaid meter. Customers must have a prepaid meter installed (among other things), to qualify for supply via the Lifeline Tariff.

“Once a credit meter reaches the end of its lifespan replacement is compulsory, however. A meter can become unreliable as it gets older, increasing the potential for inaccurate readings or loss of supply.

“Standard practice is to replace the credit meters that reach the end of their lifespan with prepaid meters. This is to prevent the accumulation of bad debts which must be serviced by the rest of the customer base,” Ms Arendse said.

Residents can refuse to participate in the programme.

However, they will have to pay for the conversion once the programme leaves their area.

The new technology prepaid meters consists of a meter control unit (MCU), which is installed on the boundary of the property for maintenance and inspections, and a keypad and display inside the house where residents can see how much electricity they have left and enter their prepaid purchases.

Ms Arendse said the contractor would normally install the MCU in lockable kiosks (electrical street furniture) but where it is not available or there is not enough space, the municipality will install the kiosks free.

However, when the project has moved out of your area, customers will have to build their own enclosure.

Ms Davis will eventually get her free pre-paid meter, however, because her house has a three phase installation, her upgrade will be done as part of a separate project, which is still in the planning stages, the municipality said.

It is scheduled to start in September but a different contractor has been employed.

So how long it will take for Ms Davis to get her pre-paid meter is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, Ms Davis said she was still waiting for the City of Cape Town to contact her about the new date.