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Faulty Zesa meters headache for residents

by Staff reporter
01 Jun 2022 at 06:33hrs | Views
SOME Bulawayo residents are living in houses without electricity due to defective prepaid electricity meters that Zesa installed at their homes.

The power utility is failing to replace the faulty gadgets.

An electricity meter costs between US$110 to US$120 at various outlets in the city and this amount is out of reach for many power consumers.

Residents are forced to replace the defective pre-paid Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) electricity meters despite the fact that the power utility is mandated to replace them.

At the same time, ZETDC could be losing a lot of revenue as some residents have not paid for electricity for more than two years as their power does not run out, due to the faulty meters.

The company started rolling out the prepaid meters in August 2012 to promote energy conservation in the country.

Residents told Chronicle that when they report that their prepaid electricity meters are malfunctioning, they are ordered to buy new ones.

Others have resorted to alternative energy sources like solar, gas or firewood because they cannot recharge electricity using the broken down meters.

Mr Mondliwethu Moyo from Nkulumane suburb said his prepaid meter became defective in January and he could not upload electricity tokens.

"The screen for my electricity prepaid meter became dark although its light is still switching on. When I reported the issue to Zesa, I was told I should buy a replacement one but I didn't have the money. The prepaid meter costs more than US$100.

However, someone from Zesa demanded that I give him cash so that he could load power on my pre-paid meter despite its screen being dark," said Mr Moyo.

He said he made several payments to the Zesa employees but of late he has been able to just punch numbers on the prepaid meter and get the power.

Mr Moyo said what was evident is that the Zesa employee who was demanding payment to load electricity tokens was doing it for many people as he was also referred to him by other clients with similar problems.

However, some electricity consumers with malfunctioning meters have not been so lucky as they have gone for months without electricity.

Another resident Mr Future Ndlovu from Iminyela suburb said he has not paid for electricity for two years after his meter became faulty.

"I reported to Zesa that my prepaid electricity meter had become defective two years ago. The pre-paid meter that was installed at our home stopped functioning but to our advantage following that fault, our electricity has not run out. We reported the matter to the Zesa officials who said they will attend to our case but they never came. The only advantage I have at the moment is that power is not running out but our concern is what if Zesa comes and then demands that we pay for electricity in retrospect when they come to fix it. But as it stands, we are not paying for electricity," said Mr Ndlovu.

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) secretary for administration Mr Thembelani Dube said some residents have gone for months without power as a result of the defective prepaid electricity meters.

"What we have learnt is that when residents report malfunctioning meters to Zesa, it demands that they replace them. They also need to pay connection fees but they also delay in coming to reconnect. At a home that I visited in Pumula South, the occupant was telling me that they had stayed for two months without power and the last time I was speaking to him it was in April," said Mr Dube.

He said residents were expecting the power company to be responsible for replacing faulty meters. Mr Dube said not having power was increasing the cost of living for residents.

"If you don't have electricity you have to use alternative power sources like LP Gas which is expensive if used on a daily basis, you have to buy maybe candles for lighting if you don't have solar. It leads to some daily expenses that households do not incur on a daily basis. We expect that the service provider who brought the prepaid meters to the people is the one who replaces them. But at the moment a lot of consumers are disadvantaged," said Mr Dube.

In response to Chronicle's questions, ZETDC said it was the power utility's responsibility to replace dysfunctional prepaid electricity meters.

"The responsibility of replacement of faulty meters lies with the utility, ZETDC. In the event that a customer buys a replacement meter, ZETDC reimburses the customer," read the statement.

The power utility reimburses the clients by depositing electricity units equivalent to the amount used in buying the replaced pre-paid meters.

ZETDC said prepaid meters have a 10 to 15 years guaranteed lifespan. The power utility, the statement read, has connected 90 percent of power consumers, without an indication about the number that have become defective.

"ZETDC carries out regular assessment of the number of faulty meters within the network. The cost of replacement is based on the average meter price, which is around US$65 for single phase and US$130 for three phase meters. Therefore, total replacement cost is the number of faulty meters multiplied by the average cost per meter type. So far, we have a penetration rate of 90 percent for prepaid meters, which represents 732,546 meters," read the statement.

ZETDC cited foreign currency shortage as one of the challenges affecting the procurement of prepaid meters which led to Government crafting Statutory Instrument 85 of 2018 which compels new home owners to procure their own meters.

"These regulations were introduced to alleviate the impact of shortage of foreign currency needed in the procuring of prepaid meters. The prepayments meters are being sold by agents licensed by Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority," read the statement.

Source - The Chronicle
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