ZESCO Limited has announced the rolling out of smart meters that will enable the power utility to regulate the usage of electricity by switching off certain appliances in customer’s homes.

And Zesco has announced that load shedding will reduce to level two, which is four to eight hours, in October when the first machine at Kafue Gorge lower is expected to come on board.

During a press briefing, Friday, Zesco managing director Victor Mundende said the smart meters would be rolled out at a cost of US$40 million over a period of five years.

“Yes, from our comfort of our offices and from the comfort of your homes, we will be able to deal with certain appliances in order to just share the little power that we have. As at now, what we did the last two years, we went into a pilot project with meters which were called AM5 meters. We have a partner called El Sewedy, I think you are aware of it in Ndola were Zesco has 40 percent in terms of partnership where we did procurement and we selected them to undertake a pilot project because when you are starting something, it’s always good to check if it will work. So we did pilot across the country for two years and we are satisfied with the finding and therefore, for the next phase we will be starting to roll out smart meters with the phase taking us about five years. The financial implication will be about US$40 million. We are awaiting a no objection from the Zambia Public Procurement Authority before we can start but we will give you more information going forward,” Mundende said.

“Now, as we develop our network, we are going to replace those meters that we have in our various properties, homes and so on and so forth, into smart meters. The smart meters are just like the name suggests, they are smarter than the meters that we have now in they we will be able to deal with the customer response ourselves as Zesco. What we mean is that we will be able to; if we have less power going to an area, we will be able to switch off other appliances that you have like geysers, without the customer intervention. If we go to another level of load shedding, we be able to switch off cookers and so on and so forth because at the end of the day, especially at residential category of customers; I think when there is no light in the house it is, I don’t know how to describe it but it’s a misery. So in short, as we go on to improve our system, we will be replacing those meters that we have to smart meters because now we have rolled out our fibre.”

At the same event, Director strategy and corporate services Patrick Mwila said the new system would be of benefit to both the consumer and the utility.

“The system we are talking about will bring advantages to both the utility and the customer. As you know, the current approach is that we treat all the customers on a particular meter the same way and we try to manage you as such but remember not everybody complies so you may have been off for eight hours and now you are supposed to be in but some of your members are overdoing things and then the power balance cannot match and we may take intervention. At the moment, the inconvenience is to everyone including the ones who have been conserving power but with system, it’s very granular. It will be able to tell, it may even be able to send you a warning to say we have noticed that you are not complying and maybe we give you some minutes to manage yourself after that then something can be done. The end result is that we save more energy instead of load shedding, we basically manage it. We do load shedding and I think as we move on with life, there is limited things we can do, you can’t have a TV, stove, boiler, swimming pool pump, so around those things we can manage ourselves with the little that we have,” said Mwila.

Meanwhile, Mundende said level two of load shedding would continue from October to December.

“Once we have our flagship project, generating power with the first machine, we expect to reduce on load shedding and we will go into level two of load shedding and thereafter, we will be in level two up the end of the year. As we continue during the year, as we go towards the end, we will be given a projected rainfall. The precipitation will be guided by the meteorological department as well as the ZRA, Zambezi River Authority. And that point we will be able to update you going forward how we see us migrating from level two to level one and obviously to level zero. We are determined to ensuring that we have sufficient power for all economic activities going forward. So if you go down you will see that up to April we were at level four of load shedding which was very intense. Then following the announcement which was made, we reduced on load shedding to level three and we are expecting to be at this level up to the end of September, in October, as indicated, we are commissioning our machine if we do it quick, we should be able to have it in that month,” said Mundende.

“This is a projection for the remaining part of the year and we will also, going forward, give projection of next year. We are seeing load shedding to ease up because of the aforementioned reasons in my speech and obviously, because of the fact that we will be commissioning our flagship project, the Kafue Gorge Lower which is bringing on board 750MW of power. As indicated earlier, the Kafue Gorge Lower we are commencing commissioning in October God willing. If all things are equal according to our plan we will start commissioning in October and we will be commissioning one machine after the other. There are five machines one machine rated at 150MW. We are expecting and hoping that we will commission the first machine by end of November, thereafter, every month end we expect to bring in board one machine. If we complete commissioning earlier than that to us it will be a plus. We are trying by all means to work 24/7. Our teams at site are working during the day and night in order to expedite the construction of the plant. As we stand today, the dam is 100 percent complete. The civil works, which is the tunneling and the road works, everything civil, is 100 percent complete.”