Temporal analysis of electricity consumption for prepaid metered low- and high-income households in Soweto, South Africa

This study explores the temporal trend in electricity consumption since the introduction of prepaid metres in low-income households of Soweto and compares the findings with high-income households. Monthly electricity consumption data (over 96 months: 2007–2014) for 4427 households in Soweto, for both low- and high-income households, was collected from Eskom. Using a simple linear model to analyse consumption trends in low-income households, we ascertained that electricity consumption has decreased by 48% since the inception of prepaid metres. Nonetheless, it is noted that 60% of household incomes are spent on electricity bills, which is way above the threshold set for energy poverty. Comparatively, high-income households consume less electricity than low-income households do. Overall, the prepaid metre programme is producing expected results for Eskom but remains a challenge for low-income households, which are still entrenched in energy poverty. We call for an energy policy that is tailored for each income groups and the formulation of laws and policies to protect the energy vulnerable households.

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