Graphic: Saturday Star
Graphic: Saturday Star

Obey your smart meter

By Thabiso Thakali Time of article published Apr 18, 2015

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Johannesburg - If you don’t switch off your microwave, washing machine and kettle for boiling water when told to do so, you will sit in the dark in a gloomy winter evening.

This is what at least 65 000 Joburg residents with smart meters will experience as the City of Joburg wants to remotely switch off those who refuse to change behaviour in their homes.

And those on conventional meters will not only face load shedding but also pay twice as much for electricity in peak periods when the time of use tariff structure approved by energy regulator comes into effect by July 1.

As part of its new load-limiting initiative launched this week, City Power will turn off your lights and unplug your appliances using demand response technology to rein in household demand for electricity.

A pilot project, which involved an initial 84 smart meters was tested in an Aspen Hills estate, south of Joburg, and will be extended to 65 000 smart meters by May 1.

The council is seeking ways to ease high demand for electricity on the grid during the current power crisis to avoid the need for load shedding which is having negative impact on its growth.

But Joburg Mayor Parks Tau admitted that load limiting will not “solve all our (power) problems”.

He said the use of the technology was just one of many other interventions the city was exploring.

Others include a geyser ripple control system and the use of gas/diesel turbines.

“It’s up to you now to understand how much energy your geyser consumes,” he warned.

“Our objective is to ensure that we keep the lights on in Joburg.”

The city now wants all its 300 000 electricity customers to get fitted with smart meters in order to successfully implement the load-limiting technology to remotely monitor the number of kilowatt hours supplied to a household.

The meters will be “load- limited” every time Eskom asks municipalities to load-shed. City Power will be able to do this remotely. Residents will receive an SMS on their cellphones and smart meter devices advising them to reduce their power usage.

If they fail to do so, they will be subjected to a series of 30-second cuts, warning them of a cut-off that could last a few hours, depending on how much Eskom requires.

“If we can all install new smart meters in our homes, load shedding will be history in Joburg,” said City Power managing director Sicelo Xulu. “Each user is different and they will have to test their own appliances and know how much they use to stay within the limit issued for the day.

“At the end of the day, if people use electricity correctly, they will not have to endure load shedding and will also see a big bills reduction.”

During load limiting, basic households appliances such as lights, fridges and television sets can still be plugged in, even if load shedding is in effect in your area.

The City of Joburg will be offering advice to its customers through brochures with guidelines explaining roughly how much power each appliance in your house uses.

Suburbs where smart meters are currently not in place will still face load shedding in May, but those in areas where smart meters are in place will not be affected if they heed the call to unplug “vampire” appliances.

Saturday Star

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