Lesotho Electricity Company has almost all of its Domestic and General Purpose customers on prepayment metering system. This system comprises of meters and a computer system. The Computer system has a master station which is based at the head office and different vending access points, in LEC services centers, sales agents premises, Banks and Cell Phone Companies.
Prepayment meters have a keypad which provides an interface with the customer to insert units in the form of 20 digits token that a customer gets from a vending station when buying electricity. Furthermore they have LCD display for a customer to see electricity credit, and this helps a customer to see his/her consumption rate.
There are different types of prepayment meters that LEC is currently using for its customers, and these are namely Cashpower, Ecolec, Conlog and Plessey. All these meters have been put on the same specification called Standard Transfer Specification (STS). This specification enables interoperability between prepaid meters provided by different manufactures with one vending system, meaning one vending system can sell electricity to different types of meters.
Prepayment meters are installed at the customer’s premises. They work on the principle that electricity is bought at any LEC vending station and the purchase information is transferred into the meter. Before the customer can use electricity they must insert credit into the meter via a token (credit transfer voucher) that is purchased at conveniently located vending station or through cell phone vending. The customer tops up the units as and when it is convenient. When the credit expires the meter automatically disconnects. Reconnection is automatic when the credit is loaded onto the meter.
Advantages of Prepayment to the Customer
• Budget management
• Control of usage of electricity
• Convenience of purchase
• No reconnection fees
Advantages of Prepayment to LEC
• Payment upfront
• No meter reading and billing therefore reduction in costs
• Elimination of bad debts
• Elimination of non-payment disconnection/ reconnection
• Fraud control
• Improved customer service
In contrast to the domestic and general purpose customers who are on prepaid metering, large industrial and commercial customers are on the credit metering system. This is a type of metering whereby customers are given the latitude to utilize the power on credit and then pay after receipt of invoice/bill. LEC applies this type of metering to all its large customers. Large customers contribute a major part of revenue stream at LEC and hence require special attention and service arrangements.
The types of meters used in this category are programmable Enermax, Enermax plus and Elster from different suppliers by thus doing helping LEC to compare the performance of different meters and not relying on one supplier. For the purpose of value added service to our most valued customers, LEC has adopted the application of programmable meters. The facilities offered by these meters include but not limited to; consumption data profiling for future retrieval and analysis, Quality of Supply to ensure that standards are being complied to.
LEC provides access to the profile data to all large customers on request. This data helps customers in analyzing their day-to-day consumption patterns and the size of generators needed for their load during load shedding and power failures. The data also provide adequate tool for customers’ energy management systems. Through this our customers also enjoy the latitude of verifying their electricity bills from the first hand data.
Remote meter reading facility also provides the on-line billing information to our customers. This facility is being explored within LEC and customers will be notified as soon as it has been launched. This facility is aimed at providing service like; automatic meter reading at pre-determined period, generate various reports, customers access to meter and billing data, automatic dispatch of reports to customers etc. In general, the main objective of this system is to offer improved customer service to our most valuable customers.
Hand held units are used for down loading of profile and billing data from the meters. This helps to eliminate the human intervention during meter readings. At present, data from these units is imported into the electronic interface, then into the billing software, hence reducing some human intervention in the billing process, which might lead to erroneous bills. The objective is to achieve zero billing errors.
As a mitigating measure, LEC provides large customers (on request), their average summer and winter consumption(Baselines) in order to contribute in the process of reducing overall peak demand by 10%, so as to avoid regional crisis of power shortfalls. This intervention is commonly known as load management.
In order to quantify the benefit of any intervention, one needs to compare the performance of the system after the intervention to what the performance would have been if nothing was done. The problem is that the “would have been” scenario does not exist anymore? Therefore, one needs some model (baseline) to re-construct this performance.
The following graph depicts the desired outcome of the intervention by the customers.
The savings shown on the graph above denote the expected 10% reduction in both the consumption and the peak demand.