The electricity distribution company, Umeme has announced that it intends to extend the coverage of the prepaid metering system in Uganda by installing 15,000 more meters this financial year.
Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka initially mentioned the plan in her Budget Speech last month that the electricity distributor had been asked to install 15,000 pre-paid meters in order to ensure increased efficiency in electricity use and also reduce distribution system losses.
On Monday, Sarah Najjuma, the Prepaid Electricity Project Marketing Manager, confirmed to Uganda Radio Network that the company plans to expand its present prepayment client base of 27,000 to over 40,000 this year. She explained that Umeme successfully piloted the prepayment system in 2011 and subsequently rolled out to areas of Natete, a Kampala suburb in 2012.
Joseph Atuhurra, the Project Manager says that they plan to have all the domestic and small commercial customers converted to the prepaid system within a period of six years. He however added that industrial customers would continue using the existing billing system.
Atuhurra explained that clients bear no additional cost during the conversion from the post paid billing system to the prepaid meters. He however said the cost of converting the new 15,000 customers would depend on the status of the network of the chosen areas. He explained that Umeme spent 3.4 billion dollars on Pilot Prepayment Project to conduct network restoration, data cleanup and customer sensitization.
Meanwhile, as the new clients wait to experience the new system where one manages one’s own electricity consumption, residents of Kitintale where the project was piloted are expressing excitement at the new system. Many say they have been relieved of irregular bills that were characterised by the post paid billing system.
Ponsiano Ngondwe, a resident of Kitintale, a Kampala suburb, told Uganda Radio Network that he is able to closely monitor his consumption to suit the amount of money he has without the risk of being disconnected.
Ngondwe said most of his neighbours who are not yet on the system are anxious to abandon the post paid billing system that they are currently using.
Christine Nakayenze, another resident of the area was also excited by the electricity prepaid metering. She explained that the prepaid units voucher available in the denominations of 5,000 shillings makes it affordable for her family to use power. Nakayenze however said Umeme needs to make the vouchers widely available in all shops to improve accessibility.