Eskom’s plan to remotely control household electricity consumption is gaining momentum, with the utility successfully implementing a pilot programme in Fourways and looking to expand the installation of smart meters across the country.
This was revealed in Eskom’s State of the System briefing on Wednesday, where the utility outlined its plans to reduce load-shedding in the coming months.
Aside from improvements to the performance of its generation fleet, Eskom is looking to remotely manage household electricity demand by installing smart meters.
Eskom’s group executive for distribution, Monde Bala, said the rollout of smart meters to residential properties will continue apace in the coming months as part of Eskom’s demand-side management programme.
These smart meters will give Eskom the “ability to remotely manage demand from households”, said Bala.
Using smart meters, Eskom and municipalities can manage and shift load, reducing pressure on the grid during peak time.
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.
Bala said the smart meters enable the utility to reduce the current passing into a household from 60 amps to 10 amps.
This allows the property to keep some basic appliances on, such as lights, a TV, and a WiFi router.
The reduction in current to 10 amps will also ensure that traffic lights in the area remain functional.
However, households will not be able to use energy-intensive appliances such as geysers, microwaves, and kettles.
A pilot programme has been successfully launched in the Johannesburg suburb of Fourways, with residents’ electricity consumption being reduced when required by Eskom’s system operator.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa defended this plan in an interview with eNCA earlier this year.
Households consume roughly 16% of 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 3,500 MW of electricity. They aim to reduce the demand for geysers by a minimum of 1,000 MW.
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.
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.”
He said everyone has to work together to solve load-shedding, with the government taking most responsibility, but not all.