AIMS Energy, 2014, 2(3): 237-259. doi: 10.3934/energy.2014.3.237

Research article

Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

The Effects of the Introduction of Prepayment Meters on the Energy Usage Behaviour of Different Housing Consumer Groups in Kitwe, Zambia

1 Department of Architecture, School of the Built Environment, Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia;
2 Department of Urban and Regional Studies, School of the Built Environment, Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia;
3 Department of Real Estate Studies, School of the Built Environment, Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia;
4 Department of Real Estate and Construction, Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford OX3 0BP, UK

This paper is based on research conducted in Kitwe, Zambia on the effects of the introduction of prepayment meters on the energy usage behaviour of domestic consumers in the Low, Medium and High Income categories. The research was motivated by the fact that there is very little information that exists on the subject not just in Zambia but world-wide. The paper has identified some key issue vis-a-viz: behavioral change as a result of the introduction of the prepayment meters, debt recovery and reduction of pilferage, disconnection of consumers and alternative energy sources and feedback. The data was collected in Kwacha (Low Income), Ndeke (Medium Income) and Parklands (High Income). This was both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data was collected through structured questionnaires of which 151 were collected in total as follows: 59 (Kwacha); 50 (Ndeke) and 42 (Parklands). The qualitative data was collected through detailed interviews conducted with four households in each of the three household categories.The major findings are that there is general satisfaction from the households on the introduction of the prepayment meters citing control over expenditure and no disputes on bills as the main reasons. Many of the households also reported an improvement in their budgeting for electricity and there seems to have been a drop in the numbers of households with historical debt. Many households in Ndeke and Kwacha reported spending less on electricity after the introduction of the prepayment meters which has been attributed to the fact that they are no longer on flat tariffs and also they are now able to conserve electricity as they are more conscious about expenditure on the same. Many households in Ndeke and Kwacha also reported being disconnected because they run out of credit due to lack of money. Rationing was also reported to be actively being used by households in Ndeke and Kwacha as a way of extending their credit in times when they do not have money to buy credit. Disconnections and rationing were not widely reported in Parklands as households there are not stressed with expenditure on electricity. This is because the people in Ndeke spend twice as much on electricity (as a proportion of their income) as do those in Parklands. The expenditure by households in Kwacha is even more so. Finally, the study has found that 21% of all the households have moved from using electricity for cooking to charcoal. This is likely to have some negative consequences for the environment as it might lead to deforestation. It is strongly recommended that a study be done on this subject to establish the true impact of this switch from electricity to charcoal by households.
  Article Metrics


1. Ward S, Mohammed L (2009) Sustainable Urban Energy Planning: A Handbook for Cities and Towns in Developing Countries. ICLEI e Local Governments for Sustainability, UN-Habitat and UNEP, Nairobi.

2. Ministry of Energy and Water Development, Zambia (2011) Zambia Gender and Energy Mainstreaming Strategy 2011-2013. Lusaka: Government Printers.

3. Chisanga K I (2006). An Evaluation of the Prepayment Meter System- A case of ZESCO Lusaka Division. MBA. Copperbelt University

4. McKenzie M (2013) Prepayment Meters and Energy Efficiency in Indigenous Households. A Report for the Bushlight Centre for Appropriate Technology.

5. Casarin A A, L Nicollier (2009) Prepaid Meters in Electricity: A Cost-Benefit Analysis. IAE Working Paper Series, IAE Business School, Austral University.

6. Kettless P M (2004) Prepayment metering systems for the Low Income group, PRI Ltd, London.

7. Miyogo C.N, Nyanamba S O, Nyangweso G N (2013) An Assessment of the Effect of Prepaid Service Transition in Electricity Bill Payment on KP Customers, a Survey of Kenya Power, West Kenya Kisumu. Am Int J Contemp Res 3.

8. Tewari D D, Shah T (2003) An assessment of South African prepaid electricity experiment, lessons learned, and their policy implications for developing countries. Energ Policy 31: 911-927.    

9. Quayson-Dadzie J (2012) Customer Perception and Acceptability on the Use of Prepaid Metering System in Accra West Region of Electricity Company of Ghana. Msc-Public Administration. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

10. O'Sullivan K C, Viggers H E, Howden-Chapman P L (2014) The influence of electricity prepayment meter use on household energy behaviour. Sust Cities & Soc

11. Dick A (2003) Electricity prepayment meters in the UK. Metering International Magazine Archive 2.

12. Brutscher P (2011) Liquidity Constraints and High Electricity Use. Working Paper EPRG1106. Cambridge, UK: Electricity Policy Working Group, Cambridge University.

13. Brutscher P (2011) Payment Matters? An Exploratory Study into Pre-Payment Electricity Metering. Working Paper EPRG1108. Cambridge, UK: Electricity Policy Working Group, Cambridge University.

14. Winther T (2011) Electricity theft as a relational issue: A comparative look at Zanzibar Tanzania, and the Sunderban Islands, India. Energy Sustain Dev 16: 111-119.

15. O'Sullivan K C, Howden-Chapman P L, Fougere G M, et al. (2013) Empowered? Examining self-disconnection in a postal survey of electricity prepayment meter consumers in New Zealand. Energ Policy 52: 277-287.

16. Malama A, Senkwe B (1999) A consumer assessment survey of water commercial utilities in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia. Report for the World Bank.

17. Darby S (2006) The Effectiveness of Feedback on Energy Consumption. A Review for DEFRA of the Literature on Metering, Billing and direct Displays 486.

18. Darby S J (2012) Metering: EU policy and implications for Fuel Poor households. Energ Policy 49: 98-106.    

19. Fisher C (2008) Feedback on household electricity consumption: a tool for saving energy? Energy Efficiency 1: 79-104.    

20. Pollitt M G, Shaorshadze I (2011) The Role of Behavioural Economics in Energy and Climate Policy. Working Paper EPRG1130. Cambridge, UK: Electricity Policy Working Group, Cambridge University.

Copyright Info: © 2014, Albert Malama, et al., licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Article outline

Show full outline
Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved