Zesa Holdings continues to stall on the adoption of smart meters despite receiving support and funding from several Government units, local industries and banks, it has emerged.
In 2012, the power utility together with Connect the World (CTW), a local private company, successfully pilot-tested the technology but is yet to fully adopt the system three years down the line.
The technology has the ability to save about 300 megawatts (MW) which is currently being lost due to technical leakages and poor energy management.
Zesa is reported to be losing $10 million worth of revenue every month due to technical flaws of the 543 000 prepaid meters it installed for domestic and industrial electricity consumers about three years ago and experts say this can be avoided if the power utility adopts smart meters.
The prepaid smart metering solution is a technology which is tamper-free and provides various energy management solutions.
“This is a system which will add 300MW to our grid without even constructing a power plant because it will plug all the leakages and improve energy management,” said a source who declined to be named.
“It can also reduce load-shedding significantly because instead of switching off the entire home, it will only cut heavy appliances and leave lights and other smaller appliances.
“Unfortunately, Zesa is delaying the adoption of the system despite receiving support from banks and industry. We do not know the reason why they have decided to stall on the matter,” said the insider on the multi-million-dollar deal.
According to documents seen by The Sunday Mail Extra, the smart metering solution has written support of Ecobank, BancABC, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera), Confederations of Zimbabwe Industries and Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC).
While banks have pledged financial support, industry and some Government arms have endorsed the project as good for energy efficiency.
In a letter written to CTW in 2014 by Ecobank’s head of corporate banking Moses Kurenjekwa, the financial institution indicated its desire to participate in the project.
“The letter serves to confirm the bank’s willingness to render funding support for the importation and national roll-out of smart meters for the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company by Connect the World,” reads the letter.
“The financing requirement is currently estimated at US$120 million and remains subject to our normal bank credit processes and possible syndication within the Ecobank network.
“We look forward to fruitful co-operation on this project of national importance and significance, hence our desire to support it financially.”
In a separate letter, BancABC made a similar pledge in 2011.
“This serves to confirm our interest in being financial partners with CTW in raising finance targeted in implementing the project above, should their bid be successful,” said BancABC’s Silven Chikengezha.
“Upon successful bidding for this project, BancABC will evaluate a range of financing options which can be used to fund this project to achieve the desired successful completion.”
Energy regulator, Zera, also indicated its support to the initiative and pledged to give guidance to CTW in the implementation of the project.
In 2012, ZETDC managing director, Julian Chinembiri wrote to CTW also offering guidance to the energy solutions company.
“We are aware of your company’s efforts to enable measurable demand side management through the energy management solutions you offer to various commercial energy users, utilising proven technologies,” said Julian Chinembiri.
“We consider your private sector efforts to be complimentary to the ZETDC’s own efforts to manage the nation’s energy resources through its various demand side management.
“We are available to give you vision of improving the provision of energy in the nation through your demand side energy management solutions.”
Zesa Holdings spokesperson Fullard Gwasira said, “Smart metering is an integral part of our short-term strategy and is in the critical path of the business model. A lot of progress has been made over the issue and we are targeting to install the first batch of 4 000 meters by the first quarter of 2016.”
How it works
The open smart meters have four standard embedded relay switches that can be centrally opened and closed for targeted customers (a single household, suburb, company premise) or for the entire nation, at the flick of a single button, in accordance with the national supply priorities at the time.
Electricity is then directed where it is nationally critical for it to be available without destabilising national societal equity. In essence, what this means is that once an open smart meter is installed at a household, ZETDC will have no need whatsoever to switch off the entire household. The system will centrally switch off the targeted heavy loads only.
If implemented, this will enable the Ministry of Energy and Power Development to immediately save 300MW from the 300 000 installed electric geysers through the flick of a single button at the national control centre, fast-tracking the envisaged results of the Solar Water Heater Programme of 2015. The physical retrofitting of electric geysers with solar geysers can then go on in the background over the planned five-year solar geyser roll-out period while the nation enjoys the benefit of an additional 300MW that will be directed towards more important strategic national uses.
According to experts, the 300MW may increase to 450-600MW as the same open smart meter installed at a household will also enable Zesa to remotely remove all electric stoves and other heavy loads such as swimming pool pumps and air conditioners whenever necessary.
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