George Municipality is the first electricity provider in the country to pilot freely licensed software that automates the reading, processing, and billing of electricity smart meter data. The wheeling pilot that was approved by Council and offered limited wheeling as a service is open to everyone who wants to wheel energy.
The first wheeling transaction took place in May 2022 at George Municipality, following the signing of the use-of-system agreements in July 2021. The billing process has for many years been done manually, requiring extensive time for verification and preparation of bills once the data was retrieved from the meters.
“The need for this freely licensed software pilot became evident when we considered the scaling of wheeling and renewable energy on the George Municipality’s electricity grid. The manual billing process was one of the main challenges and resolving this meant reducing reliance and pressure on key human resources, reducing potential errors that could occur in the billing process. Engagement with Open Access Energy on showcasing their software that they license for free, has assisted in addressing the challenge for us and we are now piloting the automation of our metering and billing services.” said Mr Bongani Mandla, the director of electrotechnical services at George Municipality.
Wheeling is the delivery of electricity generated by a private operator in one location to a buyer or off-taker in another location via a third-party network (Utility or Municipality).
According to Gerjo Hoffman, Chief-Executive-Officer and co-founder of Open Access Energy, the software company aims to boost the use of renewable energy by simplifying wheeling. “Our products aim to automate wheeling and serve the needs of anyone that wants to wheel energy. Our initial focus is South Africa, but our future aspiration is to offer solutions in all emerging markets globally,” says Hoffman.
Open Access Energy currently has two products in the market. Access Energy is a freely licensed software solution that reads smart meters, stores the meter data in a meter data sharing system, and exposes that data to municipalities. The software allows the Municipality to create and load their electricity tariffs and then apply them to a bill. The final bill is sent to the municipalities Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which then sends the bill to the end customer.
Open Access Energy’s second product is called EnergyPro. This Software as a Service (SaaS) solution focuses on IPPs and Energy traders and assists wheelers to wheel to multiple customers. “Our clients are renewable energy producers and energy traders who want to sell their energy to customers all over South Africa,” says Hoffman.
“Mr Bongani Mandla highlighted that the current George Municipality wheeling pilot consists of trade between one generator and four off-takers through Enpower Trading (a NERSA licensed Energy Trader) and this entire process has now been automated using Open Access Energy’s software. The Municipality is working on further improvements to its wheeling projects and to incentivise the private sector (both generators and off-takers) to participate in this program. These include creating a platform for customers to view their accounts and access their consumption and billing data in real-time, forming various committees to expedite the process of standardising the use-of-system contracts as well as moving from the 30-minute reconciliation to a Time-of-Use reconciliation.
“It is essential to thank our Engineering Services team under the leadership of Mr Kobus Wilken and Mr Derek Baxter for their determination in driving this process, as well as Open Access Energy leadership for piloting this freely licensed software with George Municipality. We will continuously keep pushing hard to provide the people of George an improved electricity service,” said Mr Bongani Mandla