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While the use of advanced metering technologies is steadily on the rise, utilities still need to harness the full digital potential of technologies such as smart metering. Abraham Ortega, Senior Executive Consultant at Hexing says that smart meters have already improved the operation of many utilities, contributing to increased grid stability. However, smart metering is just the tip of the iceberg, he believes. When incorporated into an advanced, fully integrated system, utilities will be able to significantly change the way that they operate.

Utilities need to harness digital technology“The continuing challenges faced by utilities can only be overcome by introducing more robust technologies that bring in more revenue for utilities, while offering competitive pricing for the consumers on the continent,” Ortega says.

“There are still challenges that these utilities need to overcome. Among our clients, we have seen a greater need for standardising the software systems that service their smart metering systems. A utility often uses smart meters supplied by a range of different manufacturers, and these meters have to be able to integrate with one central system if they are to make the utility more efficient.”

Thembekile Zwakala, Acting Chief Information Officer at City Power notes that this is a particular challenge in South Africa. “We make use of multiple technology providers and for us, it is really important not to become dependent on a single manufacturer for all of our technology. The problem is that each of these manufacturers have their own back-end systems, and reconciling the data that we receive from the field is often time-consuming and prone to generating errors.”

He says that the utility is looking to service providers like Hexing to help develop a single back-end operation and control system for its smart meters that can reconcile all of the different brands and generations of smart meters, thereby ensuring accuracy and saving time. Hexing provides an intelligent operation and maintenance management system (IOMMS) capable of overcoming infrastructural challenges, interpreting information from the field and immediately taking the right course of action with minimal human involvement.

“With meter to cash solutions (smart meters) being rolled out in many African countries, utilities and their private sector partners have been able to improve the accuracy of their billing and tracking of electricity consumption. Speaking from Hexing’s own experience, we have seen clients significantly reduce their losses and nearly double their revenue collection to fund further expansion and stabilisation of their grids,” Ortega says.

Mafise Ledwaba, Database Developer at Centlec, one of Hexing’s clients, explains that the solution has been able to effectively reduce losses related to maintenance issues as well as theft, while making client billing more accurate. “This has enabled us to increase revenue collection from R30 million to between R70 million and R90 million per month within the span of four years. It has helped our company to further drive expansion into the Free State where Centlec currently operates,” he says.

Image credit: https://twitter.com/epicmslgroup

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