Ecobank offers to fund Zesa smart meters

Ecobank offers to fund Zesa smart meters
Technicians install a prepaid meter at a Belmont Industrial stand in Bulawayo recently, the power utility has cited massive leaks of prepaid meter units
Published: 18 May 2014
Ecobank has expressed willingness to fund a national rollout of smart meters for the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) through a local independent energy solutions company.

In a document seen by our Harare Bureau, the pan-African bank said it was willing to render funding for the importation, installation and national roll-out of smart meters for the ZETDC by Connect the World, a Harare-based independent energy solutions company.

"We look forward to fruitful co-operation on this project of national importance and significance, hence our desire to support it financially," the bank said, confirming its readiness to fund the project.

The pledge by the bank was coming at a time when Zesa Holdings had announced plans to spend more than $100 million to install 300,000 smart units to curb huge losses it was making as a result of the glaring weakness of the two-year prepaid metering system.

Consumers are reeling as a result of an inefficient electricity billing system on one hand and on the other Zesa has cited massive leaks of prepaid meter units which have seen more than 4,000 properties in Harare using electricity for free via by-passing the meters or tampering with them.

Energy experts say Zimbabwe stands to save more than $120 million worth of energy a year if it speeds up the installation of smart meters, which have the capacity to reduce transmission and distribution losses.

Connect the World managing director and independent energy solutions expert Ben Mavedzenge, said if Zesa accelerated the installation of smart meters, it could realise huge savings as customers better manage and reduce their energy consumption and costs.

"The smart programme is an essential one and funding support from Ecobank provides ZETDC some financial relief," he said.

"Now that we finally have clear guidance of the technology platform that is to be used, we need funding for the flexible deployment of this model that allows for current and future technologies to keep costs down."

He said the $120 million funding opportunity was enough to roll out close to 500,000 smart meters.

"Repayment will be tailored to suit cashflows of the utility. The bank realises the impact this project could have on the economy.

"Smart meters could have a domino effect on the economy and open so many opportunities for the country," Mavedzenge said.

A smart meter has the capacity to automatically take electricity usage readings and transmit the information back to the supplier.

Energy solutions expert say consumers should eventually save money because they will be able to see their usage in real-time encouraging them to use less energy. Meter reading and billing costs should also fall.

Smart metering systems, which were now in use in parts of South Africa, Angola and Nigeria, are now regarded as a strategy of achieving energy efficiency, promotion of renewable energy alternatives and revenue protection.

Smart metering, lets customers know how much power they are using and in what ways, communicate usage data remotely and choose among competing suppliers without having to replace the meter.

From the power utility’s standpoint, smart metering improves network operation, speeds up troubleshooting and enables remote implementation of contract changes such as new connections, cancellations, new tariff options and more.

The Ecobank facility if implemented, Mavedzenge said, will enhance the country’s efficiency and sufficiency. "It will boost the economy as envisaged by ZimAsset," he said.

Ecobank is a continental banking giant, in which financial services conglomerate, Old Mutual Plc, is a significant shareholder.

Founded in 1985, Ecobank operates in France and 35 African countries and has representative offices in Beijing, Dubai and London.

The bank had $21,5 billion in assets as of September last year.
- BH24
Tags: Ecobank, Zesa,


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