New meters to transform SA power
Feb 11 2010 06:52 Francois Williams
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Cape Town - The introduction of smart electricity meters will create a revolution in the South African power market, says consultancy Frost & Sullivan.
Frost & Sullivan's energy analyst Ross Bruton says the market is being driven by the energy crisis that obliges Eskom and companies to reduce the electricity demand.
Smart electricity meters make it possible to charge tariffs according to the time of day the electricity is used - that is to say, electricity used during peak consumption periods will cost more.
This also makes it possible to switch off household equipment or geysers remotely, and establishes two-way communication between consumers and the power company.
Bruton says it is expected to help lower the demand for power during peak periods, and will lighten pressure on Eskom's reserve capacity.
Analyses by Frost & Sullivan show that the South African market for smart meters amounted to more than $14.7m (R112m) in 2008. By 2014 this could grow to $50.5m thanks to the replacement and conversion of existing meter technology, such as prepaid meters.
Bruton points out that the Electricity Regulations Act of 2006 specifies that all end users using 1 000kWh or more a month must participate in the smart metering system by January 2012.
Although the act is currently being reviewed, the final version is expected to contain such a stipulation. Eskom and municipalities are thus legally obliged to start installing smart electricity meters.
Municipalities are concerned that they do not have sufficient funds for these much more expensive meters and the supporting communication infrastructure necessary to operate a smart grid.
Bruton says specifications for national standards for the meters are also not yet available.
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