Electricity sector urged to allow private players

An industry expert has urged regional governments to allow private players in the electricity sector as this will increase competition and enhance power supply.

Ruth Ngwenya
Own Correspondet

In an interview, Regional Electricity Regulators’ Association of (Rera) Southern Africa executive secretary, Elijah Sichone, said one of the complaints in the region was that the power generation sector was dominated by big monopolies.

“We need to address the situation so that we allow new players to join the industry,” he said. “It is no secret that governments have too many other responsibilities like education and health to then fund electricity expansion.

“One of the things that utilities are going to tell you is that there are power cuts because they do not have money to invest in their systems,” Sichone added.

He said power problems in the region started in 2008 when surplus capacity started diminishing, a decade after the Southern Africa Power Pool had indicated that electricity shortages were looming if governments failed to invest in power generation.

Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa have been facing tremendous load-shedding, forcing consumers to go for more than eight hours a day without electricity.

Sichone said allowing new players into the industry would not only assist in stabilising electricity supply, but might lead to competition and better service delivery.

“When there is competition people would want to make sure that their pricing is such that they can sell their products,” he said.

“It will also lead to efficiency in service delivery and satisfy consumers.”

Sichone said utilities were finding it difficult to provide efficient electricity supply due to failure to manage cost recovery programmes.

“I commend Zimbabwe’s move of conducting cost of supply study with a view to determine how much it costs for Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to supply electricity and it helps in coming up with tariffs that permit full cost recovery,” he said.

Sichone said the study is an important step, although most countries had not conducted it, making it difficult for them to recoup their investments.

“Private investors are also not coming to invest in most African countries because they think that tariffs are high and do not encourage investment and energy efficiency,” he said.

Rera is organisation meant to promote interconnection, sharing of resources, information and experiences by member states. It has membership from 10 Sadc countries, Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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