DA submits PAIA application on smart meters to Minister of Electricity

Issued by Samantha Graham-Maré MP – DA Shadow Minister of Electricity
23 Jul 2023 in News
  • The ANC government has failed to stop load-shedding.
  • To make up for this failure the Minister of Electricity proposed a new programme to install smart meters, which will pave the way for the government to control electricity usage.
  • The DA has submitted a PAIA request to ascertain if such a programme does exist, and if so who the suppliers, funders and installers are as well as the control mechanisms that will be utilised in managing the meters.

Recently, Minister of Electricity, Dr Ramokgopa announced that mandatory installation of smart meters on geysers in homes in South Africa will be instituted as a measure to mitigate load-shedding and reduce demand at peak hours.

According to the Minister, the programme will cost in the region of R16 billion at a unit price of around R3000 per meter. He further stated that a mysterious financier would be assisting with the roll-out of this project.

Smart meter technology is not a new technology, but until now, it has been implemented by individuals who are seeking to control their own electricity usage. The proposed programme by government is now effectively removing personal choice and replacing it with government control. Government will have the prerogative to switch off your geyser, or alternatively, throttle your power in order to force you to turn off other appliances that are drawing electricity, like stoves and fridges.

There are also concerns as to the extent to which the technology will be used as well as whether or not this technology is intrusive and an invasion of privacy. South Africans are innately distrustful of the government and rightly so given the grotesque levels of corruption that have resulted in a failure of practically every department in government. And because there has been no attempt to sensitise the country to the use of such technology and because it involves R16 billion, there is going to be a great deal of resistance.

The Democratic Alliance believes that some of the questions that need answering before the implementation of this decision are:

  • Is this the best use of such a substantial amount of money to address load-shedding?
  • Are there less invasive solutions that could have been mooted?
  • Why are we not being given a choice but being mandated by force to accept a technology that can be controlled externally?
  • Will we be forced to pay for these meters or will they be fully subsidized?
  • To what extent will Eskom or others have control over when someone has hot water or what appliances they use? How much control will individuals have?

That is why I have submitted a Promotion of Access to Information request to Minister Ramokgopa to ascertain whether or not there is an actual programme for the installation of smart meters and what it entails, or whether this is yet another piece of public relations designed to create the idea that the government has solutions to the load-shedding crisis. Furthermore, if such a programme does exist, we will require absolute transparency with respect to the suppliers, funders and installers as well as the control mechanisms that will be utilised in managing the meters.

Until the government has provided a comprehensive explanation of the need for the smart meters, the impact they will have on households and their benefits in addressing load-shedding, they cannot expect ordinary South Africans to just acquiesce to the installation of such devices. It is not the citizens of this country that are at fault for the crisis we face, it is Eskom under the ANC government. And as such, residents need to be urged and encouraged to be part of the solution, not mandated by force.