Advice and Opinion

New developments need to consider alternative utility management sources

Smart meter

When Eskom announced that rotational power outages are here to stay until at least 2022, many consumers took a hard look at how they could become less reliant on the national grid. For property developers, this has meant a big growth in buyers looking for smarter, greener homes with utility management as one of their priorities.

At the heart of any new smart and less grid-dependent home is the ability to measure and to manage utilities says Michael Franze, MD of Citiq Prepaid. “By putting the occupant in charge of how they consume energy and water, developers are empowering them to make the changes needed for a better, greener future while giving their development the edge in a competitive environment.”

There has been a move towards sustainability – in everything from how we shop to how we dispose of waste. Climate conversations highlighted by people like David Attenborough, Michael Moore and Greta Thunberg are now no longer the purview of science journals. For most people, embracing incremental lifestyle changes to save the planet are welcomed. This trend has found its way into home buying decisions, especially among the younger generations.

But the move towards building green is not just about doing what is right. The Green Building Council of South Africa says Green Star buildings enjoy energy savings of between 25% and 50% compared to the older methods. It also notes that the payback period of energy and water saving practices have dropped, especially as costs of green building technologies are declining and utility costs continue to rise.

For investors, studies from the US and Australia, show that property valuations on green buildings are around 11% to 12% higher, making for an attractive argument. Rentals of green buildings are around 5% higher which makes these dwellings much more attractive for the buy-to-rent investor.

Locally, the move towards grid-dependence is rapidly gaining momentum, especially as some solar companies have pivoted to now offer financing packages for estates looking to offer independent power.

While many banks are willing to offer finance to take homes off grid with solar energy, the cost for individual homeowners can still be prohibitive. However, some local solar companies are now offering their own form of private power purchase agreements (PPAs), which mirror the way Eskom deals with independent power producers (IPPs), only for body corporates,” Franze explains.  

Smart prepaid meters are a significant move forward from the terminals they have replaced. Like the adage, ‘knowledge is power’, smart prepaid meters offer the potential to change the way users look at and consume energy and water, allowing them to be conscious of their usage patterns and change them. 

Smart prepaid meters record accurate and detailed near real time data and facilitate a two-way flow of information. This is a big drawcard for buyers who are looking to benefit from the advances in electronic design. They can help facilitate smart appliances – many of which can adjust operations to change information. This may involve turning off or operating in low or off-peak periods or, opting to use green energy when there is a high supply of it.

Even without smart appliances, the near real time data means users can see exactly how their behaviour is affecting consumption. This heightened awareness has been shown to result in incremental changes that make a difference. Studies done in the UK show that bills are reduced by between five and nine percent which will be welcomed by consumers in tight economies, such as the one we are in.

Just a few years ago, anyone who wanted smart appliances and eco-friendly designed homes would have to be amongst the wealthiest of homeowners. Now, not only has the price of smart technology dropped, but green buildings have become the most sought after of new developments. Enabling this revolution is a smart prepaid meter that is now available off the shelf at a price point that makes it comparable to older meters. For developers who are looking to make their offerings as attractive as possible, ensuring homes are equipped to deal with utilities intelligently must start with the meter they choose,” concludes Franze.