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Some 70 000 old electricity meters have been replaced

The City of Cape Town’s R196 million programme to install new prepaid meters has been ongoing for approximately eight years and is nearing completion with 70 000 old credit meters (non-pre-paid meters) having been replaced thus far free of charge. This programme for the compulsory upgrade of meters, some older than 30 years, is in its final phases. The use of prepaid meters allows residents to manage consumption better and avoid billing surprises. Electricity is not more expensive via a pre-paid meter. A University of Cape Town study showed an average saving of approximately 12% to 15% after switching to prepaid metering.

The upgrade programme is area-based, with every city suburb benefitting. The replacement of credit meters with prepaid meters is free of charge when the upgrade programme is in the scheduled area and residents can pre-register on the City’s website for when the programme reaches their area. Residents who don’t want to wait for the programme to reach their area can upgrade immediately, however the customer will then have to arrange with his own contractor to do the work inside the home and pay the City (R2 665,60) for the final change-over.

‘Some of the old credit meters are 30 years old and it is vital that we continue to invest in our electricity infrastructure. Prepaid meters also allow residents to better manage their consumption and avoid being shocked by high bills at the end of the month. This is especially important now that we can see how expensive electricity is following another round of high Eskom-driven increases. Our data shows that residents supplied via prepaid meters use about 12% to 15 % less electricity due to the increased oversight provided by prepaid meters. This means a decrease in the monthly cost of electricity because of the reduced usage. Electricity is also not more expensive via a pre-paid meter. This is an urban legend. We thank our customers for their support and cooperation throughout the successful roll out of this programme,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy and Climate Change, Councillor Phindile Maxiti.

The new prepaid meter is located outside on the street, with an in-house display provided inside the customer’s property. Locating the meter outside the premises allows the City to more easily access the meter and also to check whether there has been any tampering.

How it works

  • Check the schedule on the City’s website:,%20guidelines%20and%20regulations/Common%20Base%20to%20split%20meter%20replacements%20schedule.pdf
  • Once in an area, a contractor appointed by the City will do a mail-drop at each targeted customer’s address requesting that they make contact to set up an appointment at a time that is convenient to them. Once the appointment has been made, a reference number will be generated. If residents have not received a mail-drop or are in any doubt as to whether this is a legitimate City project, they can contact the City’s call centre (0860 103 089).
  • City staff and contractors will always set up an appointment for scheduled work. Municipal workers and contractors must carry a work order number specific to that dwelling and a City-issued identification card. Residents should please ask to check the official identification card before allowing anyone onto their property. The identification card must display the City logo, the name and surname of the staff member or mandated contractor, and must contain an embedded photo of the staff member or mandated contractor.

Once the meter is installed, residents will benefit in the following ways:

  • No more meter reading estimates
  • No more bill surprises
  • Better oversight on consumption with an in-home display, making budgeting easier
  • Reduced risk of meter failure and supply loss
  • No more electricity cuts due to unpaid bills. To avoid debt deductions off purchases, customers must approach the City and set up a payment plan
  • Ideal for communal renting or leasing, with no more bill disputes with tenants
  • The customer will remain on the same tariff after switch-over to prepayment meter

Common myths busted and how buying units in the right way can reduce costs:

You should buy units on the 1st of the month if you want to get the full free units, otherwise the amount you get drops throughout the month. You don’t have to buy on the 1st of the month to get free units. Free units or free basic electricity is only applicable to customers on the Lifeline Tariff. Two free allocations are applied depending on the average level of consumption: an allocation of 60 units if you use less than 250 kWh per month on average OR 25 units if you use between 250 kWh and 450 kWh per month. Free units are granted on your first purchase of every calendar month, irrespective of when that is.
You should buy units on the 1st of the month because the rate per unit increases as the month goes on. It isn’t cheaper to buy on the 1st of the month. The City has an inclining block tariff which is refreshed every month, so if you only purchase in the first block, you pay the same amount; the higher cost of the second block kicks in once you reach the threshold of the first block.
You should buy as many units as you can in one go as they are cheaper in bulk. Buying in bulk is not cheaper! Only buy what you need! You should only buy what you need in a given month – this will keep your costs down. When buying in bulk, you move onto the second block for units above the monthly usage threshold, which is more expensive. So, buying in bulk can be considerably more expensive.
You should rather make many small purchases in the month so that you stay within the cheapest block rate with each purchase. Many small purchases could cost you more! The rate applied on each purchase is dependent on previous purchases in the month (i.e. it accumulates). Once the first block is bought up, you automatically move to the second block irrespective of the number of times you made a purchase.
Monthly totals are based on how much you use, not on how many units you buy at a time. It is about how many units you buy. Prepaid meters are not intelligent meters. The meter merely accepts tokens and then reduces as the units are consumed. When buying electricity at a vending station, our computer server determines what has been bought previously in the month and what block rate to apply to the purchase of electricity for the given amount.
You pay more per unit when you use electricity in winter months or during peak hours in the evening. Residential tariffs are the same, no matter the time or season.
Residential tariffs do not differ according to the time of the day or the year when electricity is consumed. The cost of electricity to the City is however, based on the time of use according Eskom’s tariffs.
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