LEC sends 14.2% tariffs hike proposal to LEWA

NKOATE THAMAE

The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) submitted a tariffs’ increase application of 14.2% on Energy and Maximum Demand charges to the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) for all categories of customers in January 2019, Ts’epang Ledia, LEC’s acting public relations manager told Metro last week.

According to Ledia, LEC filed an application for a review of electricity service tariffs for the financial year 2019/20 due to high costs for electricity bulk purchase, depreciation, operating expenditure, repair and maintenance logistics. Ledia also disclosed that LEC is also procuring generators that will be used in remote places like Semonkong to generate electricity.

Ledia further explained that LEC is incurring a lot of expenses for electricity bulky purchase from Mozambique and South Africa as the two countries’ electricity rates are relatively more expensive compared to the electricity they buy locally from ‘Muela’s hydropower station.

’Muela hydropower plant only supplies Lesotho with 50% (maximum nominal generating capacity of 72 megawatts) of the electricity required hence they had to buy additional electricity from foreign countries.

Ledia was quick to indicate that LEC’s infrastructure wiring network is very old and it needs to be refurbished to high standards which involves high costs hence the power utility company needs to increase it’s revenue by at least 14.2% to make up for the costs.

“The current flat energy charge per kilowatt (KWh) is M1.4782 for domestic usage and we only demanded a M0.19 increment and we are charging M0.2559 per KWh for commercial electricity and only demanded M0.03 increment”, Ledia said.

Metro asked Ledia what would happen to their plans if LEWA either rejects or reduces their proposed electricity percentage hike to which the public relations officer said they will be forced to cut down on some of their planned activities though this would inevitably compromise service delivery.

Giving an example of places like Qacha’s Nek which is not connected to the LEC grid, Ledia said, such places only depend on electricity from South Africa and if the budget is insufficient, they may fail to purchase backup generators that can take over if electricity from South Africa is cut which is going to be a problem, especially now when ESKOM is on constant load-shedding.

Responding to the question as what measures LEC is going to implement in the near future in order to reduce electricity bill, Ledia indicated that LEC is going to join South Africa Power Pool where all Southern Africa countries will have surplus electricity pooled in one place.

Electricity bidding logistics will be applied as a result the electricity bulk purchases would be relatively much cheaper and affordable.

Ledia disclosed that Lesotho is going to construct a solar energy plant which will produce 20 megawatts of electricity at Ha Ramarothole in Mafeteng district to increase power supply in the country and would be under LEC management once it has been completed.

Ledia appealed to the community to refrain from vandalizing LEC’s property as such misconduct causes them to incur unnecessary expenses which eventually would be passed on to the consumers, making electricity more expensive for the ordinary Mosotho.

‘Machabala Koatsa, Consumer Affairs Officer at LEWA on the other hand confirmed that sometime in January this year his office received an application for a review of electricity service tariffs for the financial year 2019/20.

Koatsa indicated that his office’s work is to regulate LEC which is licensed to transmit, distribute and supply electricity to the consumers and to monitor if such services reach the consumers with the intended quality and standards.

One of LEWA duties is to mediate if there are discontents between service provider and consumers, Koatsa added, further advising that if a customer is unhappy with LEC services, he or she is free to table their complaint before LEWA.

The consumer affairs officer also noted that LEWA also deals with issues pertaining increment of LEC’s tariffs and prices.

“If LEC intends to propose new electricity tariffs increment, we comply with regulations and Acts regulating such a body based on public opinion and other economic considerations before the administration board of LEWA can make a final conclusion weather to approve or reject such a proposal,” Koatsa explained.

Koatsa pointed out that it is not always the case that LEWA approves LEC electricity increments and she cited a 1998 proposal from LEC which was completely declined by LEWA.

In conclusion Koatsa indicated that LEWA is mandated to deal with LEC’s proposal within the period of three months from the receipt of such a proposal, failing which LEC has a legal right to implement the 14.2 percentage increment as it is.

However, she pointed out that her office is already dealing with the issue and LEWA will be in the position to make a final decision after engaging public opinion, giving LEC opportunity to present its proposal to the public at large.

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