Zimbabwe: we Need Electricity Price Hike, Minister Tells Parliament
Energy minister Samuel Undenge has complained to parliamentarians that the country is facing power shortages because government refused to allow an increase in electricity tariffs.
Undenge, presenting oral evidence before the mines portfolio committee on Monday, said failure to review upwards electricity tariffs was among serval reasons why ZESA was failing to meet its import bill and expand local power generation.
"The revenue which ZESA is receiving is below the cost of its operations and there is that constraint. I think you remember at one time I called for a tariff increase and at that time it was not taken," said Undenge.
He added, "For the past five to six years ZESA has not known a tariff increase. When you compare to other countries like South Africa the tariffs are increased on an annual basis but we don't have that in our pricing system so we need to address that."
The legislative committee urged the minister to devise alternative plans saying the public cannot afford an increase under the difficult economic environment.
Apart for the pricing regime, the minister also cited low generation at Kariba Power Station. At its peak, Kariba produced 750 megawatts, but this at one time plummeted to 280 megawatts.
Presently, according to the minister, generation is at 385 megawatts, forcing the country to supplement through imports.
However, the major external supplier Eskom has threatened to disconnect Zimbabwe for failure to honour an $80 million debt. Government quickly moved in to guarantee the debt before the deadline.
"We are trying to honour our debts. We have come to an agreement with Eskom where we pay them. So, far we have paid over the past one month $10 million," said Undenge, adding, "So the country will not be cut off."
"We are doing our best pay. You know there are also shortages of foreign currency but we will not be plunged into darkness."
The minister said the sustainability of supply could only be guaranteed if the public also paid for electricity used, particularly heavy consumers.
He said at least 600,000 users are on pre-paid meters against a target of 800,000. The meters have helped with collection of debt through deductions upon purchase.
"Among those not yet connected are the large consumers who need smart meters where the bulk of revenue is supposed to come from," he said.
"Household consumption has gone down as people now say you can't cook beans or mazondo on electricity."
The ministry has been waiting for funds to procure the remaining meters. Zimbabweans has been load shedding free for nearly 20 months.