Eskom said on Tuesday it has already seen a R39m improvement in revenue collection in Soweto over a year-long period after it installed and converted customers to split prepaid meters.
The figure is cumulative from the 2014/15 financial year up to 30 June 2016.
The culture of non-payment in Soweto has been a huge challenge for Eskom.
Soweto owes Eskom an estimated R4bn in debt, while illegal connections cost Eskom about R2bn a year in lost revenue.
The power utility said in May in a written reply in Parliament by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) that it will waive Soweto residents’ debt repayments as an incentive to convert to prepaid meters.
The DPE said Eskom “has an incentive programme in place where customers converted to prepaid meters are monitored over a period of three years to establish if the behaviour of buying electricity becomes entrenched”.
“Writing off the historical debt is considered if good behaviour is sustained during the monitoring period. Each customer is dealt with on an individual basis,” it said.
Eskom said in a statement on Tuesday the revenue collection levels for customers in Soweto – including Large Power Users (LPU), Prepaid Power Users (PPU) and Small Power Users (SPU) and excluding bulk suppliers – are currently at 48%.
According to Eskom Soweto has approximately 181 000 customers, 65% of whom are customers who are on the conventionally-billed metering system and the remainder are on the conventional prepaid metering system.
“We have installed over 41 628 split meters and converted 24 746 to prepaid and are planning to accelerate the roll out of prepaid meters in Soweto.”
Eskom said the conversions of the meters have also resulted in a gradual increase in sales.
The power utility is currently installing prepaid meters in Sandton, Midrand, Soweto, Kagiso and other areas around Gauteng to enable revenue collection and address Eskom’s debt collection challenges.
“In Sandton and Midrand alone, we connected close to 14 700 meters from March 2016 to date. We aim to complete the installation of 32 000 prepaid meters in Sandton and Midrand by end of March 2017.”