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LEC increases electricity tariffs

Mpeshe Selebalo


MASERU — If you are one of those who leave their lights on all night or one who fills their bathtub to the brim with hot water then you might have to drop those habits.

That’s because power charges have gone up.

The Lesotho Electricity Authority (LEA), the power industry’s regulatory body, this week allowed the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) to increase power tariffs by between six and 7.3 percent.

The LEC had earlier applied for a tariff increase of between 14 and 17 percent.

The new tariffs came into effect yesterday.

General purpose customers will pay six lisente more for every kilowatt-hour they use.

There will be a 7.3 lisente increase on the maximum demand charge for low-voltage customers both in the industrial and commercial classes.

The customer levy has also been increased by M0.0056 per kilowatt-hour to M0.0196, representing a 40 percent hike.

For domestic customers, the new price of a unit of electricity with all levies included is 71.92 lisente per kilowatt-hour which is a 5.12 lisente increase from the previous charge of 66.80 lisente per kilowatt-hour.

Individual household users who purchase M20 worth of prepaid electricity will now receive about 26.42 kilowatt-hours of electricity compared to the 28.44 kilowatt-hours they were getting for the same amount before the hike.

This is the sixth time that the LEC has hiked its power charges since 2006.

Lesotho Textiles Exporters Association vice-president Nkopane Monyane said he was happy the LEA had considered the fact that most people were struggling to make ends meet.

“There is a need for a tariff increase that follows the cost of production but the increase should be reasonable,” he said.

“The 14 to 17 percent increase proposal was horrendous.”

Monyane said the approved tariffs were reasonable “as they are not far off from the current inflation rate which is 4.2 percent”.

Lehlohonolo Chefa from the Consumer Protection Association, a consumer rights watchdog, said he is satisfied with the increases but emphasised that the money collected from the increased charges should be used to introduce consumer education programmes.

“LEC management should be prudent in its expenditure programme during this economic slump,” Chefa said.

“Rather than spending unlimited resources on luxury vehicles it should ensure that service provision is improved.”

Chefa added that the LEC must stop providing its employees with free electricity as this practice discouraged sustainable use of electricity.

LEC workers don’t pay for power for domestic use.

“LEC should rather convert this benefit into monetary units rather than electricity,” Chefa said.

The latest tariff increase comes at a time Lesotho has been hit by a shortage of paraffin, one of the alternative sources of energy used by many people in the villages.

The past week has seen long queues forming at garages as customers jostled for the commodity.

The Petroleum Fund, which regulates the fuel industry, has attributed the shortage to some consumers hoarding paraffin.

“The problem is observed to be exacerbated by some businesspeople taking advantage of the situation to frustrate the public by over-purchasing the limited supplies so that they can manipulate the retail prices to their benefit,” the Petroleum Fund said on Friday.

The current price of the illuminating paraffin is M5.05 in the lowlands but prices in the villages can be anything from M6 to M7.

The fund said the government has been liaising with oil companies to address the problem.

“We have been assured that this was a temporary supply setback which has now been resolved, and things should return to normal in the next few days,” the fund’s statement said.

The Petroleum Fund said it will continue monitoring the situation and would introduce remedial measures should the shortage persist next week.

Paraffin is mostly used by the low-income earners and remains their only source of power.

Electricity supply coverage in the country has improved but still remains lowly at 19 percent.

So should prices of paraffin increase, low-income earners will be hard hit.

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