GIS - September 07, 2012: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed yesterday in Port Louis for the implementation of prepaid electricity meters in favour of underprivileged families with a monthly income of less than Rs 6 200 who have difficulties to settle their electricity bills.
The signatories were: the Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment, the Ministry of Energy and Public Utilities, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in partnership with Mauritius Telecom (MT) and the Central Electricity Board (CEB).
Funded to the tune of around Rs 12 million from the Corporate Social Responsibility funds of MT Foundation, the project will be implemented on a pilot basis and initially will benefit some 200 vulnerable eligible households in two regions identified as pockets of poverty by the National Empowerment Foundation (NEF), namely La Valette in Bambous and Gros Cailloux in Petite Rivière.
Upon satisfactory response, this project will be extended to some 400 needy families and to customers benefiting from social-aid tariffs. The target is to provide prepaid electricity service to an ultimate number of 2 000 underprivileged households across the country so as to enable them to exercise better control on their electricity consumption and expenses.
The Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Xavier-Luc Duval, who was present at the signing ceremony, pointed out that this project is in line with the Government’s vision to provide assistance to the vulnerable segment of the society. It will prevent underprivileged families from being deprived of electricity supply as a result of disconnection for non-payment of bills, he said. According to Mr Duval, the project will also help address several problems associated with the disconnection of electricity meters which causes a lot of hardship and inconveniences to those vulnerable households.
For his part, the Minister of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment, Mr. Surendra Dayal, recalled that his Ministry is very much concerned for those needy families who are facing difficulties to settle their electricity bills. The unavailability of electricity supply also contributes to the perpetuation of poverty, he said. Vulnerable household can get rid of those factors impacting negatively on the family by avoiding consuming electricity beyond their means.
The Prepaid Meters for Electricity Project
The project provides for the installation of a special digital electricity meter at the customer’s premises. The meter is fitted with a SIM card (similar to those used in mobile phones) and the customer can recharge his prepaid electricity account by specific amounts through a system similar to the e-voucher system for airtime on mobiles. Recharge can be made at Orange Shops of Mauritius Telecom, at CEB counters and other commercial outlets throughout the country. The customer can check his electricity consumption credit available through SMS. When the credit is nearing exhaustion an SMS and a visual signal is generated.
The electricity supply is connected or disconnected through a mechanism in the customer’s meter. If the supply is disconnected due to unavailability of funds on the customer’s account, the reconnection is done automatically upon recharge of credit.
To ensure a better coordination and proper implementation of the project, the NEF through the Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment will act as coordinator while MT Foundation will provide the necessary funding to MT and CEB. Mauritius Telecom will set up the prepay back-end platform and distribution system for prepaid electricity. The CEB, on its part, will be responsible for the implementation of the Multi-drive system for managing the Smart Prepay meters using wireless technology and integrate it with the MT platform.