Big changes for prepaid electricity in South Africa

 ·24 Jan 2023

The cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane are launching drives to update prepaid electricity meters in the metros this year.

The current prepaid electricity voucher system used in the country will run out of voucher sequences for the unique tokens produced specifically for each meter by the 24th of November 2024.

The current Standard Transfer Specification (STS) system has been in place since 1993 and will stop dispensing voucher sequences at this date.

The STS provides the facility of generating tokens which can only be used by the intended meter, and in the case of credit tokens, can only be used once in that meter.

When the time comes, the prepaid meters will stop accepting new credit tokens and will then stop dispensing electricity after the existing credits are used up.

Any tokens generated after this date and utilizing the 24-digit number will be rejected by the meters as being old tokens

The token identifier system used by the meters is a security measure that ensures that a token can only be used once and for the meter number it was purchased.

City Power in Johannesburg and the City of Tshwane will be launching programmes to upgrade smart meters or replace old ones – while Tshwane is going a step further by moving all customers, residential and commercial, to a prepaid system as part of a multi-year project.

Tshwane will also be using the upgrade programme to identify meters that have been tampered with, and take action against those involved in any criminality.


According to the City of Joburg, the limitation on prepaid metres is system-linked and was not unexpected – but it has noted panic from customers following reports that the country was behind schedule in doing the upgrades.

“We certainly do not want to scramble at the last minute and want to ensure that prepaid electricity customers continue to receive services when the new system kicks in towards the end of 2024,” the city said.

The city urged residents to cooperate with officials when they come around to update or upgrade the systems – but cautioned that they should always check to see proof of appointment to identify an official.

City Power official staff cards will have the following information:

  • Name of the official
  • The ID number of the official
  • The department where the official is from
  • And an expiry date written on a colour-coded strip: –
    • Blue – permanent employees
    • Green – Meter readers
    • Purple – Contractors
    • Red – Cut off teams
    • Black – Interns/ temporary staff

“On the back of the card, there is a hologram of City Power’s Firefly logo and the contact numbers for the Risk Team should you want to verify the staff member’s ID number,” the city said.


The City of Tshwane said it is preparing to upgrade its current prepaid metering software systems, both PCMA and Suprima, to be compliant with the required updates to continue functioning past 2024.

“This upgrade is required due to a limitation on the old software that was a function of its security measures,” it said.

Updating the ICT servers will cost R5.2 million. Once the city’s servers are updated, it will begin updating customers’ meters as part of a year-long project.

“We anticipate completing this process by the end of 2023, which will ensure that our project is complete before the upgrade is needed, allowing customers to smoothly transition with no challenges,” it said.

“We will also use this opportunity to revisit our prepaid metering fleet as part of a revenue protection operation to check the functioning of all meters. Where meters are damaged or have been tampered with, we will take the appropriate action.”

The city said the move to prepaid metering is in line with a national directive to move all municipal electricity metering to prepaid, as well as with the city’s own by-laws which were enacted in 2017 in alignment with that direction.

“All customers are being moved to prepaid, whether residential or commercial, as part of a multi-year project. We will continue to update and improve our metering solutions, and ensure that it works for our residents and the city,” it said.

Read: Fresh load shedding crisis hits Joburg

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