Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has reiterated the government’s plan to install smart meters to remotely control South Africans’ geysers to reduce demand and end load-shedding.
Ramokgopa defended this plan in an interview with eNCA this week after he gave an update on the government’s implementation of the Energy Action Plan (EAP).
Households consume roughly 16% of all Eskom’s installed capacity, and during peak times, this rises to 35%.
Half of this consumption is from geysers. Thus, as part of the solution to end load-shedding, the government wants to ensure that geysers are turned off when not in use.
Ramokgopa clarified that this does not mean South Africans will not have hot water when needed. Instead, they will only have hot water when they need it.
According to the government’s estimates, turning off geysers can save 3,500MW of electricity. They aim to reduce the demand from geysers by a minimum of 1,000MW.
South Africans turning off geysers “contributes to the resolution of the energy crisis” and will also result in significant savings for consumers.
The smart meter installation is estimated to cost R3,000, which Ramokgopa said will be recouped in savings from lower electricity consumption within five months.
A “major financier” will also partner with the government to facilitate the rollout of the smart meters and provide financing for poorer households.
These meters will enable household geysers to be remotely controlled from a smartphone. The government will set recommended times for South Africans to switch off their geysers.
If they forget to turn them off, the government will send a push notification as a reminder and potentially turn off your geyser remotely.
Eskom and municipalities can manage and shift load, reducing pressure on the grid during peak time.
Eskom chief engineer Edison Makwarela expanded on the smart meter plans, including load-limiting to reduce usage.
He said the rollout of new meters that can be controlled remotely presents many opportunities in the country.
They want to install a smart meter in every South African household. It is set to cost R16 billion and take four years.
These smart meters support two-way communication, which empowers Eskom to limit the power supply to a home.
Because the power supply is limited, users will be forced to switch off appliances that draw a lot of electricity, like geysers or stoves.
Ramokgopa said South Africans should do this out of “genuine commitment to resolving the problem of load-shedding”.
eNCA’s presenter, Heidi Giokos, pushed back by saying that South Africans did not put themselves in this crisis and, thus, should not be forced to switch off their appliances.
The minister replied, “You can make that argument and remain in the dark”. Everyone has to work together to solve load-shedding, with the government taking most responsibility, but not all.