Capetonians want prepaid meters
Only around 15% of the Mother City’s electricity meters remain credit-based
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 PrepaidMeters.co.za, 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.