Capeto­ni­ans want pre­paid me­ters

Only around 15% of the Mother City’s elec­tric­ity me­ters re­main credit-based

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY - BONNY FOURIE

PRE­PAID elec­tric­ity and water me­ters are fast be­com­ing non-ne­go­tiables in Cape Town homes with ap­pli­ca­tions pour­ing in from res­i­dents want­ing to con­vert from credit sys­tems.

The City of Cape Town is en­cour­ag­ing this switch and has even made it manda­tory that all new dwellings have pre­paid elec­tric­ity me­ters in­stalled. It also has me­ter re­place­ment pro­grammes in neigh­bour­hoods to swop credit me­ters for pre­paid.

“Even­tu­ally ev­ery­one in the city will be supplied (with elec­tric­ity) via a pre­paid me­ter,” says Xanthea Lim­berg, mayco mem­ber in­for­mal set­tle­ments, water and waste ser­vices, and en­ergy.

Al­though the city does not sup­ply pre­paid water me­ters, Lim­berg says its elec­tric­ity me­ter­ing pol­icy is “pro-pre­paid”.“We are cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an in­crease in ap­pli­ca­tions for con­ver­sion to pre­paid me­ters from prop­erty own­ers in the res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial sec­tors that are still me­tered via credit me­ters, es­pe­cially from those who rent/let or lease out prop­er­ties, those who want to sub-let, or those who sim­ply want to bud­get more ef­fec­tively and not be sur­prised by large ac­counts.”

She says res­i­dents with elec­tric­ity pre­paid sys­tems can save 10% to 15% on their elec­tric­ity bills, which is why most re­quests for in­stal­la­tion of pre­paid sys­tems are made.

Even res­i­dents who don’t want to make the switch will even­tu­ally have to, as per the city’s me­ter re­place­ment pro­gramme. Lim­berg says any credit me­ters that have mal­func­tioned or are at risk of mal­func­tion be­cause of age are be­ing re­placed with pre­paid me­ters at no cost to res­i­dents. A sched­ule has been drawn up to at­tend to each neigh­bour­hood in the city, but res­i­dents can re­quest ear­lier con­ver­sion.

“If your neigh­bour­hood is only sched­uled for the fol­low­ing year, you can re­quest an ear­lier date. How­ever, fees will ap­ply as this will be con­sid­ered an ad hoc re­place­ment. A con­ver­sion fee of R941 will be loaded on to the pre­paid ac­count as debt and the funds will be re­cov­ered as a per­cent­age of the cus­tomer’s elec­tric­ity pur­chases.”

Ap­pli­ca­tion forms and links to the sched­ule and pro­ce­dures can be found on the city’s web­site.

Lim­berg says: “There are cur­rently 523 000 pre­paid me­ters in op­er­a­tion as op­posed to 95 000 credit me­ters. Ar­eas where the credit me­ters are lo­cated are be­ing tar- geted by our me­ter re­place­ment project and the up­take in these ar­eas is high – so much so that we had to cre­ate a spe­cial add-on to the pro­gramme to cater for cus­tomers who did not want to wait for the project to reach their area.”

She says the roll-out of pre­paid me­ters pro­tects the city and other res­i­dents from those who run up ac­counts they can­not pay, and this is why the re­place­ment pro­gramme will be rolled out “as far as pos­si­ble”.

“These un­paid debts must be ser­viced by the rest of the cus­tomer base via in­creased tar­iffs. Credit me­ters cur­rently in op­er­a­tion are reach­ing the end of their use­ful life, and are in need of re­place­ment.”

In ad­di­tion to sav­ing on their elec­tric­ity bills and avoid­ing in­cor­rect billing, Karen Wheller, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Pre­, which sup­plies pre­paid elec­tric­ity and water sys­tems through­out the coun­try, says res­i­dents want pre­paid me­ters to have more con­trol over their use and bud­gets. This is why peo­ple also want pre­paid water me­ters, par­tic­u­larly in Cape Town amid the water cri­sis.

“In Cape Town peo­ple need to be very care­ful with water to avoid penal­ties for high con­sump­tion.”

Prov­inces are, how­ever, at dif­fer­ent stages in the cycle of adop­tion. Wheller says Joburg is known for its de­sire for pre­paid me­ters. But dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties need to fol­low dif­fer­ent pro­cesses for con­ver­sion to pre­paid me­ters as this de­pends on how each is con­nected to the main util­ity sup­plier.


Prop­er­ties with pre­paid me­ters, like this one in Northoaks Es­tate, Hout Bay, are pop­u­lar buys.

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