Metering systems and electric loss levels are two major challenges that the majority of utilities in Africa face, says William Hutton-Mensah, Managing Director, Electricity Company of Ghana, at the African Utility Week.
“All meters must be smart”
In 2011, Ghana reported a loss level of 27.2%. Electricity Company of Ghana plans to reduce this to 23% in two years through the use of smart metering technology. The biggest losses occur in the commercial and industrial sectors so the utility will be deploying smart meters there first. The utility has opted for the automated smart meter reading system.
The utility has 1600 large industrial customers which contributes 33% to the utility’s total revenue. All of these customers are on the smart meter system. “We have seen a huge improvement in revenue from this sector,” says Mr Hutton-Mensah. Load consumption from these customers are 100KV and above but the utility now plans to install smart meters with those who consume between 50-100KV. “This will ensure that we receive revenue from most of our large power users.”
Currently, 2.9 million customers in Ghana have some form of metering system in place. About 38% have prepaid meters and the rest have post-paid systems. The utility is aiming to get 50% of their customers on prepaid smart meters within the next few years.
“We have a policy in place now which states that all meters must be smart. This will help us monitor the customer end more effectively, thereby improving revenue collection,” explains Mr Hutton-Mensah.
To ensure that the new meters are used effectively, the utility has training programs in place. “This ensures that technicians and engineers are fully equipped so that they manage the systems effectively.”
Mr Hutton-Mensah believes that most African utilities have similar challenges-these include power deficits and power theft.
“In order to resolve this problem, all utilities must collaborate and network so that we can share ideas on how to address these issues.” He suggests that this networking should be formalised and done on a regular basis so that these and other issues can be ironed out.
He says that only a high level of energy efficiency will attract investors. “To attract investors, we need to prove that we have a low level of electricity wastage. They want to see that they will get a good return on their investment.”
Mr Hutton-Mensah believes that the time is right for Africa to adopt smart metering technology in high consumption sectors first. He explains, “The return on investment from these sectors is quick. The idea is to make a return on investment in the shortest possible time.”