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Eskom invests in new smart metering technology

Thursday, 28 January 2016: No load shedding is anticipated today. Eskom is progressing well with the maintenance of its power generating plant whilst supplying the country’s electricity needs. Except for 2 hours and 20 minutes, load shedding has not been implemented in over five-and-a-half months now.
Eskom’s strategy is to transform the business towards a future of reliable and secure electricity supply in South Africa. Part of this plan includes coming up with responses to non-technical losses that put pressure on the grid impacting reliability of supply while also dealing with issues of debt. However, we remain mindful of the need to implement technologies that will be effective and efficient.
To this end, the Eskom Research, Testing & Development Department (RT&D) has conducted extensive research to identify suitable interoperability test tools and is in the process of building a smart meter interoperability test platform at its James Watt Metering Laboratory which is housed at Eskom’s Research and Innovation Centre (ERIC) in Rosherville.
This test platform will allow Eskom to independently evaluate interoperability between smart metering products from different manufacturers and ultimately, support Eskom’s goal to accelerate the deployment of cost-effective, reliable and future-proof smart metering technology.
Eskom’s intention to deploy smart metering technology is well documented particularly in the Eskom Metering Strategy, and the recently published Eskom Integrated Report 2015. Eskom is currently rolling out its smart prepayment programme in Sandton, Midrand and Soweto as well as in surrounding areas, with a number of customers already benefitting from the roll-out. The thrust towards this technology is the need to curb increasing residential customer debt, improve revenue collection and enable effective demand side management.
Owing to this clear intent a Standard for Adopted Open Protocols for Eskom Advanced Meters (240-85106861) has been published. This standard mandates the adoption of open communication protocols in all Eskom smart meter specifications to ensure interoperability between smart meters from different manufacturers and thus, avoiding single vendor lock-in, duplication of effort and fostering competition and innovation between smart meter vendors.
The adoption of open communication protocols, however, only partly ensures the achievement of interoperability. To ensure all smart meters provided by the various manufacturers are interoperable it is necessary to perform interoperability testing. The work being done by Eskom’s research team is therefore important in supporting the medium to long term strategy of the company to achieve technical and financial sustainability.
We will continue to provide regular updates on the state of the power system through various media platforms.