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The City of Cape Town’s programme to install new prepaid meters will make it easier to replace approximately 100 000 ageing credit meters over the next five years. The use of prepaid meters allows residents to manage consumption better and avoid billing surprises. Read more below:

Although the City of Cape Town has been replacing credit meters with new prepaid meters since 2014/15, the City is now launching a new phased upgrade programme that will see approximately 100 000 meters that are reaching the end of their lifespans being replaced over the next five years at a cost of R165 million.

The upgrade programme will be area-based, with every suburb in the city being scheduled to benefit. The order in which areas benefit is determined based on the number of electricity meters in need of replacement. The schedule showing when the programme will reach each area is available on the City’s website here: http://www.capetown.gov.za/electricitymeters

The replacement of credit meters with prepaid meters is free when the upgrade programme is in the scheduled area and residents can pre-register on the City’s website for when the programme reaches their area. Residents who don’t want to wait for the programme to reach their area can upgrade immediately, howver the cost of the new meter and installation (R3 100) will be recovered via the prepaid meter (available from 1 July 2017).

Approximately 37 500 of the new prepaid meters have already been rolled out in areas such as Wetton, Sun Valley, Muizenberg, Montana, Edgemead and Parow (among others). Residents in these areas who did not have their meters replaced will have a final once-off opportunity for their free replacement. Before the end of March 2017, the programme is scheduled to roll out in Maitland, Diep River, Thornton, La Rochelle, Surrey Estate, Penlyn Estate, Andas Estate, Die Bos, Lochnerhof, Strand central, Van Reyneveld, Macassar Heritage Park, Durmont, Uitzicht, Durbanville Meadows, and Bloemhof. The rest of the city will be targeted in the future phases.

Once in an area, a contractor appointed by the City will do a mail-drop at each targeted customer’s address requesting that they make contact to set up an appointment at a time that is convenient to them. Once the appointment has been made, a reference number will be generated. If residents have not received a mail-drop or are in any doubt as to whether this is a legitimate City project, they can contact the City’s call centre (0860 103 089).

Once the meter is installed, residents will benefit in the following ways:
· No more meter reading estimates
· No more bill surprises
· Better oversight on consumption with an in-home display, making budgeting easier
· Reduced risk of meter failure and supply loss
· No more electricity cuts due to unpaid bills
· Ideal for communal renting or leasing, with no more bill disputes with tenants

Residents should also please note that electricity is no more expensive via a prepaid meter than via a credit meter. In fact, installation of a prepaid meter is a prerequisite for access to the City’s subsidised Lifeline Tariff and could allow residents access to this financial assistance and free units should they meet the other qualifying criteria.

‘Eventually every customer in the city will be supplied via a prepaid meter, which will protect the service against bad debts. Because the operation and maintenance of the electricity service is funded through the electricity tariffs, if residents run up large bills that they are unable to pay, it means that there is a shortfall in the resources necessary to keep the service up and running. Non-payment of electricity accounts was seen as one of the contributing factors to load-shedding in recent years,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, Councillor Xanthea Limberg.

The new prepaid meter is located outside on the street, with an in-house display provided inside the customer’s property. Locating the meter outside the premises allows the City to more easily access the meter and also to check whether there has been any tampering.

‘Not only does the roll-out of prepaid meters ensure that cash is available for the City to perform maintenance and upgrade programmes, but it also allows residents to better manage their consumption and avoid being shocked by high bills at the end of the month. Our analysis shows that residents supplied via prepaid meters use an average of 10 – 15% less electricity due to the increased oversight provided by prepaid meters,’ said Councillor Limberg.

Residents with prepaid meters are reminded that once they purchase more than a certain number of units in a calendar month (350 units for Lifeline customers and 600 units for Domestic customers), the price of units goes up until the first of the next month when the tariff resets and residents can buy at the cheaper rate again. For this reason, residents should aim to buy only the number of units they need for the month, supplementing with small purchases if necessary. For a full explanation of the City’s residential electricity tariffs, residents can visit: http://resource.capetown.gov.za/documentcentre/Documents/Procedures,%20guidelines%20and%20regulations/1617%20Understanding%20Residential%20Tariffs.pdf

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