|Editorial Comment: Estimate bills remain an expense to Zesa customers|
|Friday, 15 June 2012 12:00|
It was even more disturbing for Zesa Holdings chief executive officer Engineer Josh Chifamba to suggest that they will have to increase electricity tariffs to be able to deploy adequate meter readers to cover the whole country.
Engineer Chifamba made the remarks on Monday when he was appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals Management.
The estimate bills are usually high such that when a consumer fails to pay or accumulates arrears they are disconnected. Given the intense load shedding Zesa Holdings is subjecting its customers to, there surely is no justification for the high estimates.
Most households, especially in high density suburbs, are going for almost 10 hours per day without power. Businesses have also not been spared the load shedding. Households and businesses have had to come up with back up plans in case of power cuts. Some are using firewood and gas while those who can afford are resorting to petrol or diesel powered generators as well as solar energy.
Customers are footing these expenses in addition to paying the estimated bills, which is unfair on the part of the consumers. From public hearings the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals Management conducted, it was revealed that there was no correlation between the Zesa charges and services rendered.
The committee said it emerged that consumers who had gone for days without electricity due to faults in their system continued to receive high bills every month.
What is clear is that the solution to Zesa Holdings’ billing and payment woes are pre-paid meters. The power utility should just provide every power consumer in the country with a pre-paid meter.
Zesa recently announced that it had bought 34 000 pre-paid meters for a pilot phase as it gears to replace the current meters with pre-paid ones.
According to Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company managing director Engineer Julian Chinembiri, they were now able to start installing the meters.
We commend the power utility for that while urging it to move with speed to buy more meters and make them available to all power consumers. We wonder when Zesa will be able to do this because it seems the power company is doing a lot of things at once.
While they talk of pre-paid meters they are at the same time spending millions of dollars buying energy saver bulbs to distribute free of charge to households. On Wednesday Engineer Chinembiri announced that Zesa will start distributing free energy saver bulbs on July 1. He said the power utility has since paid US$2 million for about 1,8 million bulbs.
Engineer Chinembiri said the 1,8 million energy saver bulbs were part of the 5,5 million bulbs Zimbabwe was expected to get this year.
Wouldn’t it have made sense to channel all this money to pre-paid meters? Engineer Chinembiri’s argument that the bulbs will result in the power utility saving close to 200 megawatts is understandable. But we believe with pre-paid meters more power will be saved because consumers will now be closely monitoring their power consumption.
They will be forced to buy these energy saver bulbs on their own, switch off geysers when not in use, buy electric kettles instead of boiling water in pots and switch off lights in unoccupied rooms.
Distributing free energy savers without outlawing incandescent light bulbs might not achieve the desired result because once the free energy saver is finished, the consumer will buy the incandescent one unless Zesa continues to supply free ones.