Uganda Electricity Distribution Company - UMEME starts pre-paid power billing
Sunday, 17th April, 2011
BERNARD Ssemwangu is a lucky electricity consumer. He is the first client in the 15,000km national distribution network to have his premises installed with pre-paid meters.
His five new meters use smart cards to hold information on units consumed or equivalent money value. When the card is inserted, the meter reads it, connects the supply to the consumer loads, and debits the value.
The meters are equipped with light emitting diodes to inform consumers when 75% of the credit energy has been consumed. The consumer then recharges the card from a sales terminal or distribution point.
During this process, any changes in the tariff can also be loaded in the smart card. “I am excited about this development because it will help me pay for what I consume,” Ssemwangu said.
“I will also be able to manage my finances since I will know how much I have to consumed” The same development will happen to 10,000 domestic power consumers in Kitintale, which UMEME, the power distributor, selected as the pilot area for pre-payment project.
Charles Chapman, the UMEME managing director, said at the launch of the project last week that the meters allow consumers to pay upfront for the power they consume.
He said the pre-paid meters will cut the cost of meter reading, and eliminate administrative hassles associated with disconnection and reconnection.
Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) had always insisted that UMEME installs pre-paid meters.
ERA argued that since prepayment was up-front, it reduces the financial risks by improving the cash flows and necessitates an improved revenue management system.
The regulator explained that the system eliminates billing delays, removes cost in disconnection/reconnection, enables controlled use of energy, and helps customers to save money through better energy management.
This is not the first pre-paid project. Ferdsult, a local firm distributing power in Kanungu, Kibale and Rukungiri introduced the system three years ago. Consumers there have enjoyed electricity without trouble.
“We are starting to build confidence in our regulator because they are telling industry players to understand consumers plight,” Anthony Zondo, a power consumer said.
“A strong regulator is what we need to solve the woes in the power distribution network. It is a good step forward.”
By Ibrahim Kasita: The New Vision Newspaper