ZESA Holdings has started installing the much awaited prepaid meters in Harare and Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company managing director Engineer Julian Chinembiri yesterday confirmed the development.
ZETDC has received 18 000 pre-paid meters from a South African company, Landis and Gear. "Finally, the project has kicked off and on Monday we installed the meters in areas such as Budiriro and Glen View," said Eng Chinembiri.
"The same project has been rolled out in Bulawayo. The meters continue to come and on Monday we received the final batch of 8 000 meters from Landis and Gear and we now wait for those that are coming from the four companies that we contracted."
Eng Chinembiri said Zesa was installing the meters on "recorded" houses that have non-functional meters.
"We are not focusing on one area, but we will just install randomly," he said.
"The pilot project will run for the next four weeks and I think we will have reached out to many areas."
The prepaid meter system is expected to establish an efficient billing system.
"It is our hope that with such meters many people will settle their bills. People were refusing to pay saying we are relying on estimates, but now one would pay for the actual power consumed," said Eng Chinembiri.
Zesa's billing system is mostly based on estimates, a situation that has created tension between the power utility and consumers.
A poor billing system has also seen the power utility failing to recoup tens of millions of dollars owed by consumers.
The power utility has 600 000 registered properties in its database nationwide and cannot account for nearly 500 000 others.
Zesa says it should be billing at least one million properties.
Thousands of residential and commercial property owners are reportedly illegally connected, while others bypass electricity meters.
Zesa seems not to have correct records of properties developed by housing co-operatives and residents who are subdividing big stands. When some of these properties are connected to the main power line, investigations have shown that Zesa takes over a year to give the new consumers account numbers for billing purposes.
Domestic and commercial electricity consumers owe Zesa about U.S. $550 million.