ECG, private company to introduce ‘flexible’ prepaid system

The day is coming, when members of the public would be able to buy units from vendors for their electricity meters as they currently do for their mobile phones.

Consumers of electricity would also be able to purchase electricity online if they are far away from home, or buy from handheld devices operated by accredited agents at public places.

Not only that, electricity consumers would also be able to recharge their power at home or establishment through an SMS Server, by way of text messages from their phones wherever there is a telecommunication service.

Power could also be bought without a card, provided a consumer is able to mention accurately his unique meter number and would be able to use his or her name if there are no similar ones in the system that would make it difficult to get the right meter on which to load credit.

Disclosing this yesterday at a meeting with selected media in Accra, Mr Duke Nelson, Head, IT and Projects, Ghana Electrometer Company, said all these would become possible after the successful completion of a pre-pilot project involving a newly introduced electricity prepaid meter known as the SMART-G Prepayment System. Pre-pilot project

The pre-pilot project currently ongoing at Danyame, a suburb in Kumasi, in partnership with the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), began in October 4, 2013 and is expected to move to the actual pilot stage in April, this year.

Explaining that the ‘G’ in SMART-G stood for green, Mr Nelson said the new prepaid meter was unique, because it did not only come in two components – outdoor and indoor units – but had other features that made its use convenient to the user and very beneficial to the service provider.

According to him, the indoor or Customer Interface Unit (CIU) allows consumers to track their consumption, while simultaneously reducing the risk of tampering with the meter and can be used with dry cell batteries when there is no power. 

“Consumers are provided with flexible and secure means of transferring credit to their meters, through the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) communication technology, as well as the user friendly keypad interface,” he added. 

He said the SMART-G metering system could be used for single phase, three phase and transformers, and operated using a database server, SMS server, GPRS server, Fire Wall, which is the actual operating system, and vending system, among others. Guarantee against theft

Another unique feature of the meter, Mr Nelson said, was its anti-tampering facility which informed the utility provider of an open cover, open terminal, high magnetic fields, reverse current and fault energy. 

It also has an accuracy class of one.
He cautioned that as distribution transformers from the utility provider were also going to have meters attached, it was going to be difficult to bypass the household and institutional meters to illegally tap electricity, as had been done in the past.

Answering a question on proper billing of customers, Mr Nelson said the new metering system automatically generated receipts when power was bought but urged customers to always check their receipts.

“In actual fact the customer would have been given the net, having had some deductions made such as an outstanding bill,” he said.

Describing the new meter as a “living meter”, Mr Obed Solomon, Operations and Internal Relations Manager, Ghana Electrometer Company, said the company currently operated electronic cash meters in the Volta, Eastern, Western, Central and Greater Accra regions. He said the company, which is the only one in Ghana manufacturing meters, had its products in use at Tema, Adenta and Dodowa, among other places  in the Greater Accra Region, with none of them being on electricity poles.

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