Concerns about plans for smart meters

Henry

The DA has many questions about Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s plan to have smart meters installed on geysers in homes – and to make it mandatory for all power consumers. The DA says that it also places the management of people’s power consumption hopelessly too much in the government’s hands.

Ramokgopa recently said that the meters are another measure to help deal with load shedding and to reduce the demand for electricity at peak times. According to the minister, the installation of the meters will cost approximately R16 billion, but a “certain financier” will help to launch the project.

Samantha Graham-Maré, the DA’s spokesperson on electricity, says smart meters are not new technology, but so far people have had them installed themselves to manage their power consumption.

“The government’s proposed project will now essentially take away personal choice and replace it with its own,” she says.

“The government will have the prerogative to turn off your geyser, or regulate your power to force you to turn off other appliances that use electricity, such as stoves and refrigerators.”

The DA is also concerned about the scope of the use of the technology, and whether the smart meters will be “invasive” or an “invasion of privacy”.

“By nature, South Africans do not trust the government because of corruption which has caused almost every government department to fail,” says Graham-Maré.

“Because no effort has been made to get the citizens used to the idea of ​​the technology, and because it will cost R16 billion, there is already opposition to its use.”

The DA has meanwhile submitted a request in terms of the Act on the Promotion of Access to Information to Ramokgopa to obtain more information about the proposed project.

Among other things, the DA wants to determine whether there really is a plan for the installation of the smart meters or whether it is just “another communication campaign to create the impression that the government has solutions for the load-shedding crisis”.

“If such a project really exists, we will demand that there is absolute transparency in relation to the suppliers, financiers and installers, as well as the control mechanisms that will be used for the management of the meters,” she says.

“Until the government provides an extensive explanation for the need for smart meters, the effects it will have on households and the benefits it will have for load shedding, South Africans cannot be expected to just give in to the installation of the devices.

“It is not the citizens’ fault that we have a power crisis, but rather that of Eskom which operates under the guidance of the national government. Therefore, citizens should be encouraged to be part of the solution, but they should not be forced to do so.”

Eskom is currently working on a pilot project in Fourways, Johannesburg, to use the smart meters to regulate consumers’ power consumption during peak times. During the pilot project, Eskom is testing the possibility of introducing load reduction as an alternative to load shedding. This load reduction means that power is not completely switched off, but very strictly limited.

There will therefore be enough power to, for example, keep the lights on, but the amperage is limited from the usual 60 to 80 amperes to just 10 amperes. This gives consumers the chance to – when required – reduce their power consumption themselves, or Eskom does it on their behalf if they do not comply.