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

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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.
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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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

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