ZETDC installs its first smart meter at Harare Poly. But what is a smart meter anyway?

Edwin Chabuka Avatar

ZETDC has started setting up smart meters and Harare Polytechnic College was their first site to use it. We got to check out its highlight features like network connectivity and remote monitoring and control. These smart meters are pretty important if we are to dive into the age of smart grids that ZETDC is working on.

The rollout of these smart meters is starting in Harare and the target is 2500 clients. ZETDC Commercial Director Eng. Katsande stated that the rollout will be starting with high-priority clients that have a negative balance. These are medium to large businesses with a minimum power demand of 200KVA. So smart meters will not be issued to domestic users for the time being.

Domestic users also will be getting second-generation prepaid meters. These will not be smart but will come with Bluetooth functionality so that you can use your phone as the Customer Interface Unit (CIU). This requires you to have the ZETDC app installed on your smartphone which you will use to view your token balance, recharge your tokens and monitor your energy usage. It’s a data-free app that connects your phone to the meter via Bluetooth. So you will not be able to monitor it remotely. You’ll need to be at most 30m away from the meter itself.

How does a smart meter work?

The basic function of a meter is to give out a reading of whatever it is that is going through it. In the case of ZETDC, their meters are measuring how much electricity you are consuming. From there the meters then use a set tariff to deduct units equivalent to the amount of electricity you have used.

A smart meter can do this task and a couple more. Built inside it are features for remote monitoring and control and a broader selection of connectivity options to help with this feature. ZETDC is making use of internet-based connections on their smart meters riding on mobile networks using 3G or 4G, ethernet connection, or even a direct fiber optic cable connection.

The meter will be recording power consumption at particular points in time (Instantaneous Power) as well as maintain a history of all events on the meter including power consumption, current draw, power cuts, and voltage readings. And it can locally store this data on the meter for up to a year. This can certainly be extended by logging the data onto an off-site server which ZETDC implemented.

Smart meter benefits

ZETDC stands to benefit a lot from these. A smart meter is an extension of ZETDC’s power monitoring and control system. All aspects of power being consumed at a customer’s site are visible to ZETDC. This data is then used to manage the grid more precisely.

Tamper & bypass detection

ZETDC claims it is owed over ZW$42 billion through a combination of unpaid bills and illegal power connections that bypass the meter. Smart meters have a real-time connection to the server for aspects of monitoring and control and also meter tampering alerts. So if it detects any form of tempering, it sends an alarm to the central control in real-time.

More precise grid control

Smart meters are also very helpful to a power utility in managing the distribution of electricity on the grid. At present, ZETDC can only control its network up to the substation/feeder level. So in the event of load shedding, they will be switching off a blanket area when they could have maybe switched off a few individuals. With the meters on the customer premises being smart, it can allow ZETDC to execute load shedding for specific loads. So ZETDC can remotely switch off loads like air conditioning and geysers for a premise remotely and still provide power for more business-critical operations.

Smarter power grids

Managing the grid is also made easier. Currently, ZETDC can manage the grid to the feeder level which is not really an efficient way to do so. With smart meters, the grid will get to a point where it can manage itself based on the load characteristics of the grid at any point in time. The objective is to maintain a high level of uptime which is what smart grids enable. Beyond just the consumer side of the grid, smart grids enable multiple sources of power to be efficiently plugged into the grid. That is if a solar farm exists, it will be utilized by the grid during the day and supplemented by thermal power stations. On overcast days, the grid will rely more on thermal and hydropower sources and it does this via software.

Cheaper electricity bill

Domestic power consumers are charged in consumption bands. The lower the consumption band you are in, the cheaper the power will be per unit. This is different for commercial power consumers. They enjoy a standard rate, off-peak rate, and on-peak rate. So depending on the time of day, electricity can be cheap or expensive. With a smart meter, a business can manage its power consumption to take advantage of this and use the majority of its electricity when it’s at its cheapest. A smart meter will have these tariffs and times loaded onto it and will adjust the tariffs according to the rate for that particular time of day.

Enables net metering

Smart meters are also essential for net metering. Net metering is a process where a power consumer is producing excess energy which they can feed back into the grid. This excess energy can come from solar or wind. Regular meters are designed to measure the flow of electricity in one direction which is normally into the premises of the consumer. Smart meters can measure flow of electricity in both directions which then makes net metering possible. So this excess power you generate is recorded by the meter and credited to your account. Just make sure your solar inverter is a grid-tied inverter if you wish to dive into net metering.

Meter rollout plan

The project will cost US$35 million and will be done in phases. Smart meters are the second phase of the project with a planned 12 770 meters to be installed with Harare getting around 2 500 of them. As stated the minimum capacity of these meters will be 200kVA which limits access to medium and large institutions.

The region will also witness installation of 2500 smart meters to high priority customers and those companies with negative debt history.

ZETDC Commercial Director Eng. Katsande

There are 2 meter brands being used. Iskraemeko and Secure meters with the former being the one installed at the Harare Polytechnic College.

The rollout plan is set to have been completed by June 2023 with remote disconnection hardware installation being completed by July 2023.

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What’s your take?

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  1. TkAyZ

    I really wonder why they are focusing on this whilst the source of electricity is struggling

    Can anyone testify in hear who had a problem with the meters they gave out on their first roll out

    As for me the problem is their unscheduled load-shedding and those meters are still functioning properly on top of that everything you mentioned about consumption on Bluetooth those Inhemeter can show you with the use of a code even bypass it showed the technical guys even the last load-shedding and duration

    So for domestic meters i think that investment is still retaining its value zvekutoti maBluetooth iwaya inogona kutova loss ngavambo focuser nezvinhu zvine basa

    1. Anonymous

      Most prepaid meters that were introduced after elimination of the old post paid meters have reached their usefull life that is 10 years.
      So it maybe bttr to replace with bttr metering technology

  2. D.K.

    Those meters are what is presently available off the shelf internationally. The only thing ZETDC will do is to have their logo and ownership statement printed. I hope leaders of politically immature countries will not abuse some of the functions of the meters against opponents by targeting them and switching them off.

  3. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    The only benefit is net metering. That 35 million would better be used establishing a solar power station.

    Users with negative balances should just be disconnected from the grid, why wait for a smart meter. Will a smart meter force then to pay? No.

    Most of the reporting features will not be used knowing ZESA. It’ll always be talked about as a future integration plan.

    The only winner is the the guy with the tender.

    1. D.K.

      If the electricity and water utilities worked according to what’s written on the statements they send to consumers, there would be noone with a negative balance enjoying electricity or water. With people on top who consider the political field where they are to be more important than the economy, political decisions have been used to override the power of the utilities to refuse giving a utility without payment. At one crucial time of the political season, local authorities were ordered to cancel all outstanding debt the consumers owed, the electrical utility resisted. The narrative is now, if one can get a service without paying and the threat for non payment is not effected, and, if politics can save the day, why at all pay? That is the very reason why council and zesa consumers’ debt increases towards an election with consumers praying for a debt write off.

  4. The Last Don

    Smart meters have been around at ZESA since the early 2000s. The only difference with the ones they are installing is network connectivity. I used to be a meter reader so I came across one in the field which could be fed data about peak & off-peak charging. There was a lot of data that these meters could show you. The other thing I can commend is the selective switching off of high power consuming appliances like geysers. Smith’s ESC ( Electricity Supply Authority) was doing that (demand management) in old suburbs like Belvedere and Hatfield by switching off geysers remotely. I think geysers had special lines.

  5. Anonymous

    First? i was attached at ZETDC Metering back in 2019 and they were installing smart meters back then

  6. Anonymous

    1. The word is TAMPERING not tempering!
    2. Just another way to get screwed by an incompetent zesa! What a waste of money that should be used to improve grid reliability and fix old equipment. Technology should be used to money WHERE CABLES ARE BEING STOLEN AND REACT QUICKLY

    1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      Substations and transformers, worth tens of thousands, do not have smart alarms or monitoring systems. Neither does the cable network have smart line monitoring, to quickly detect theft or broken cables.😩

      1. Anonymous

        This one ndoyatakatogadzirawo. Just that hatisi hama yaBoss.

      2. Kimt

        We have done this one a few years ago. But hatisi hama yaBoss chete. 😓

  7. Disgruntled resident

    Magetsi acho anenge amboriko here kuti chiwone consumption. Focusing nezvinhu zvisina basa! Izvezvi pana boss or hama ya boss ine tender yeku supplier ma meter aya. Zim so , I give up.

    1. 10hr power cut

      Exactly, prioritizing zvisina basa, tikuda magetsi isu kwete zvese izvi. Just install an ordinary meter kwese. Build ma power station kwete kuita zvisina basa izvo

    2. Anonymous

      Most of these customers with smart meters are given high priority when it comes to power supply. Most if not majority are fed on dedicated lines, 33kv lines.

  8. Dr Y

    One advantage of smart electrical meters is different prices for electricity according to peak and off-peak demands. Households can save money by doing things like defrosting and laundry during off-peak hours. Industries might be incentivized to work 24 hours or schedule processes requiring heavy usage of electricity during the nights. Consumers would be deterred from heavy usage of electricity during the morning and afternoon peak periods. This will result in more effective use of available electrical infrastructure.,

  9. Ma Gets

    This is likely Tendernomics at work. After all, what’s the point of a metre that can tell you you just had a 20hr power cut directly on your flat phone. They should focus on supply, production and transmission issues and bring in smart functionality when up-time is at least 70% or so for the majority, that way the data driven features will make sense.

  10. Mabhena

    This sounds like a very pointless expenditure for a developing country. Reminds me of all the smart city b.s. Someone will be making a lot of money from the tender.

  11. Anonymous

    ZESA is majoring on the minor. We need a constant supply of electricity not those smart meters.

  12. Tatenda P


  13. Anonymous

    Technically this is not the frst time for smart meters. ZESA rolled them into use 3 if not 4 years ago. Zesa is jus trying to secure and maximize their revenue inflow wc is wy they are doing business.

  14. Freeman Marko

    It’s not necessary. We need uninterrupted power supply not this.

  15. Freeman Marko

    It’s not necessary. We need uninterrupted power supply not this. We need a positive and long term solution to our problem of power cuts

  16. 3man

    This is a most welcome development by the enterprise. Most commentators have shown disgruntlement by reason of lack of constant power supply. If we are to consider the differences in energy demands between residential and commercial users we see that it is these commercial users who have large energy demands and are mostly post paid. They burden the utility company with debts. So it is prudent to have these smart meters installed and nip in the bud. Real-time monitoring can reduce illegal connections and disconnections.

  17. Taurai Mirimi

    “Give Africans tech toys so they give us materials and labor we want”

  18. Anonymous

    Gadzirai ma power station, itai kuti Hwange colliery Ishande to full production, the install ur smart wat wats

  19. N3ptuñ3z

    this is all tech wash from zetdc..and this is old tech wash for that matter..
    why can’t they improve power generation. with the proliferation of rooftop solar zesa is going to be as obsolete as Telone within 5 years.mark my words. Guys, have you notice how cheap solar equipment is on Alibaba.

  20. Sungirl


  21. Stardy bvopfo

    Itawo kutii muvadzire zvenyu mega zvino ta tiende mber