SEC tariffs highest in SADC
MBABANE – A study has shown that the Swazil-and Electricity Company (SEC) is the most expensive power utility company in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
The average tariff figures for power utility companies among SADC countries, released last month by the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), showed that SEC charges 11.5 US cents per Kilowatt hour (kWh).
In local currency terms, subject to the prevailing exchange rate, this is approximately 97 cents per kWh.
This is by far the highest compared to other countries within the region, even surpassing the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) at 83 cents per kWh and Namibian Power (NamPower) at 75 cents per kWh.
The study was carried out in May and was based on data compiled before SEC increased its tariffs by eight per cent on May 28 this year.
Sikhumbuzo Tsabedze, SEC General Manager for Customer Service, said the study, however, failed to take into account some factors such as the domestic-generation capacity of the other countries compared to Swaziland.
"The countries we are compared to have a larger domestic generation capacity than SEC. So whatever power they import will be less than what we import. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lesotho, for instance, have larger hydro-power plants," said Tsabedze.
This means that the less the dependency on imported power, the lower the tariffs will be.
More imported power and less domestic generation, as in the case of Swaziland, will require price adjustments to cater for the exporter’s fees and also domestic charges for distributing power to homes.
Tsabedze also mentioned that the study did not take into account the fact that the governments of other countries provided subsidies to their power utility companies.
This was something SEC no longer received, he said.
In Botswana, the government last year provided the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) with a P450 million subsidy (approximately E475m).
Botswana will most likely no longer need imported power because of its venture into thermal power generation.
Other countries, such as Namibia, Lesotho and Zambia, have been able to keep their charges low because they have big power plants, both hydro and thermal.
Swaziland currently does not have a single major power plant, hence the heavy reliance on Eskom in South Africa.
SEC has been known to generate no more than 10 per cent of the national electricity needs through its hydro-power stations, but this is subject to seasonal changes.
The dry season (winter) means low dam levels and, therefore, reduced power output.
Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Princess Tsandzile last week revealed that the government Minerals Board was already looking for a company to conduct coal exploration for the process leading to establishment of a thermal power plant.
Consumer Association shocked
MBABANE – The Consumer Association has reacted with shock to the study that SEC leads the pack with high tariff charges in the region.
Bongani Mdluli, the association’s Chairman, said it was hard to believe that a small country like Swaziland could emerge as one where consumers were charged more than in other countries.
"If, indeed, the situation of the tariffs is as the way the study portrays, it makes it seem as if there is more emphasis on profit making than service delivery. This is a challenge for the Swaziland Energy Regulatory Authority (SERA). They must take a leading role to see to it that consumers are not charged exorbitantly," said Mdluli.
He urged legislators to take note of the study and enact laws that will protect the consumers. He said consumers were already overburdened with the Value Added Tax (VAT) among other things, which could all lead to poverty.
high dependency on imported electricity to persist
MBABANE – The high dependency on imported electricity looks set to continue long after the dry winter season.
SEC General Manager for Customer Service, Sikhumbuzo Tsabedze, said the level of local power generation was influenced by the availability of water from rainfall. The absence of rain means that dam levels remain low and, therefore, the company’s hydro-power generation capacity is inhibited.
The country has still not embarked on a thermal power generation project even though the need for it was seen over two years ago.
"It is difficult to comment on the time it will take before we attain self-sufficiency. In the case of the thermal project, we continue to engage all concerned parties and are hopeful that we will start soon, given the assistance we are getting, particularly from government," he said.
Tsabedze added that SEC continued to explore other hydro-generation options that could take the country to a level of self-sufficiency. Currently, the maximum demand for power within Swaziland is 200 megawatts per year.
Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Princess Tsandzile said it was the duty of the government Minerals Board to look for a company to do coal exploration for the thermal project. She said the Board worked in consultation with SEC.