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Tariff hearing stalls free electricity connection

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John Kapito

The much-touted free electricity connection, which were a part and parcel of the Tonse Alliance’s manifesto, are yet to see light of the day as the authorities claim a public hearing on tariff application stands in the way.

In an interview with Malawi News last week, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi’s (Escom) Chief Executive Officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda said they are waiting on Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) on the issue of new tariffs before they can move.

“Mera has not come back to us…you know there is an issue of new tariffs because the old tariffs ended in September so we are waiting for Mera to give us new tariffs. So the free connection is part of that engagement with Mera and they have not come back to us on that.

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“In terms of the amount needed to execute this, it will depend on whether Mera will thrush the numbers or maintain the same. Because we made a proposal and it is up to Mera to say it is too much or the figure is okay. So as it stands, we are still waiting for Mera,” he said.

Mera’s Public Relations Manager Fitina Khonje said there was a need for a public inquiry on tariff application.

In her response, Khonje shared information on electricity base tariff setting.

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“Escom and single buyer apply for a base tariff. Mera undertakes preliminary review of the base tariff application. If the application is found wanting, the applicant is given 14 days for rectification and re-submission of the application. Mera notifies consumers and stakeholders of the tariff application and requests for their comments. Public hearings on tariff application are held,” reads part of the process information.

In September, this year, Escom said it would need up to K5 billion a year to implement the free electricity connection programme once it rolls out.

In an earlier interview, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) Executive Director John Kapito said raising the required resources should not have a bearing on consumers in any other way.

“I don’t know really if they [Escom] are able to do something social like that at no cost at all when they are struggling themselves failing to provide electricity throughout the day. We know that someone is going to pay and that will be the consumer.

“We will not allow them to tamper with electricity tariffs in order to connect people when we are already paying for electricity connection through Marep [Malawi Rural Electrification Programme]. If anything, they can use Marep money because it is already meant for electricity connections,” Kapito said.

Free water and electricity connections were one of the key campaign promises of the Tonse Alliance ahead of the June 23 2020 fresh Presidential Election which ushered in the current Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima administration.

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