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Smart meters in developing nations [international]

posted Sep 14, 2010, 9:48 PM by ema-1 ema-1   [ updated Oct 19, 2010, 4:45 PM ]
[No local news this week]

Developing nations face many challenges in the provision of electrical utility. South Africa has an interesting history with smart meters starting way back in the early 90's:

"In the run-up to the transfer of power to the African National Congress, Eskom started developing low-cost digital pre-payment meters as a way to enable service provision to rural populations (who lacked basic infrastructure such as house addresses and postal services, let alone credit ratings) and also as a response to politically-motivated withholding of utility payments in the townships. It was quickly realised that prepayment meters could be much cheaper than billed meters: the total costs of billed meters were in the range of 20–30% of turnover, thanks to the labour costs of meter reading and bill collection, and the writeoffs when poor people got into debt, while a prepayment system can be operated for 5–10% of turnover."

"By the time Nelson Mandela took power in 1994, South Africa had 850,000 prepayment meters, and the prepayment system helped him make good on his campaign promise to electrify a further 2 million homes by the end of his term in 1999. The economics worked as follows. A customer could have his home electrified for a one-time payment of US$15, while the rest of the US$1000 electrification cost was recovered through the tariff over 15 years. The target was to keep collection costs to 5% of the turnover; local shopkeepers sold prepayment tokens for a 2% commission. Some early systems used magnetic tickets as tokens; the technology that won out uses a 20-digit number to take an encrypted command from the vend station to the meter. Its critical advantage was that tokens could also be purchased from ATMs."

From: On the security economics of electricity metering. Ross Anderson and Shailendra Fuloria Cambridge University Computer Laboratory

Older News:

Gender and Prepayment Electricity in Merlo, Argentina

Wendy Annecke, Marialba Endelli

Table of contents: 
  • Access to Electricity in Very Low Income Urban Areas
  • The Prepayment Approach Used in Merlo, Argentina
  • How Women Teach Themselves about Consumption
  • Energy Efficiency and Energy Deprivation
"One of the challenges for developing countries is the rapid rate of urbanisation and the pressure this puts on local authorities to provide basic services. Most have fallen woefully short of adequate provision of water, sanitation and energy delivery - and many have given up trying to address the problem altogether. The results are visible in the vast shack settlements in cities throughout the developing world: millions of households are not legally recognised and endure squalid living conditions with few if any basic services"

"Some experimented by unplugging all their appliances and then plugging them in and turning them on one by one, watching the meter to see how quickly the units ‘got used up’. In this regard, the meter inside the house was more useful than the old fashioned ‘clock’ outside, and the women were able to quickly see and correlate consumption and cost"

"Prior to prepayment metering, 28% of respondents reported trying to save electricity at home. After installation, 90% of women respondents and 60% of men reported trying to save electricity"

Energia - International network on gender and sustainable energy