The electricity coming into your house is going to be a big part of your happiness or misery while living in Bali. When everything is working as it should then you will be able to power your fans and AC to keep you comfortable as well as your computer, internet, TV and other devices for your entertainment purposes. If you have shoddy electrical wiring or you don’t have the appropriate electrical capacity then you will spend most days cursing the powers that be for your troubles. There is nothing worse than having to make sure you shut off certain appliances just so you can use others without your power going out. Unfortunately some houses are built and set up with insufficient capacities. A hot topic has been the prepaid meters and whether they are a good idea or not. Having just moved into a house with one, I want to document my experience with them.

The prepaid meters that work with pulsa like on your phone were not initially well-received. Many people complained that they would run out of credit on Saturday and not be able to get electricity again until Monday when the PLN (electric company) office opened. Whether that was really the case or just a lack of knowledge on some people’s parts I can’t say for sure as my experience using this system just started recently. Either way, things are very efficient now.

When I moved into the new house the landlord loaded us up with rp 100,000 of credit which actually worked out to be rp 115,000 of electricity. Now after about 10 days the credit is almost gone and the meter started beeping to alert us. I took the card out to the ATM and entered the number and chose the amount I would like to fill it with. The name of the owner of my house showed up right on the screen of the ATM so I knew I had things right. After the amount was taken from my account it printed out a slip with a code to enter onto my meter. After entering the code, my meter instantly reflected the new amount.

There are other ways to fill the account as well if you don’t have a local account. You can fill at the PLN office or by phone too. I have heard of couple of other methods but can’t say for sure. If it is the weekend and you can’t speak Indonesian to handle it over the phone then using a friend’s bank account and just handing them the cash will work just fine.

For me, overall it has been a very positive experience and I now prefer this method for the following reasons:

  • You can see your usage right away in rupiah –Unlike post-paid meters where it counts things up in KWh (Kilowatt hours) for you to then multiply by your allowance (which some landlords may lie to you about to increase their profits) this system counts down in rupiah. It is very easy to calculate how much you are actually using in a day, week or month.
  • It can help you to be more energy efficient – Instead of waiting until the end of the month to tally up your electricity bill and wondering what ate up so much electricity, you can look at things on a daily or even hourly basis. If you are noticing too much money being spent then you can take a look at what appliances are on in real-time and what is affecting your power consumption.
  • It can be easier on your wallet depending on how you use it – I have noticed it may be slightly cheaper although there are different things being used now at my new place and the AC is on less often. That being said, if you are coming to the end of the month and money is low you can easily fill your meter with just rp 50,000 or rp 100,000 rather than having to spend a whole month’s worth at once. You can also fill the meter with up to rp 1,000,000 and not have to worry about it again for several months depending on your power consumption.
  • Automated means simple for the most part – When it comes to getting things done in Bali, the more people involved means the more potential for things to go wrong. This way can be as simple as going to the ATM and buying the credit and entering the code into your meter. You are the only person involved, making the process simpler. If you happen to lose the code before making it back to your meter, PLN will help you to recover the code.

So to wrap things up, even though I was a bit apprehensive to move into a house with a prepaid meter despite the house being an amazing deal and value, I’m glad that I did. At this point I far prefer the new system for the reasons listed above and would never recommend that people avoid it. Now if we could just do something about the still frequent power outages which have nothing to do with the meter itself, things would be really great.


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