opinionBy Laonard Mwakalebela
'I BELIEVE I can fly' is a very popular hit by American music R Kelly. Now the song is a reality to residents of Mtwara and Lindi regions following availability of reliable electricity and discovery of gas. The two have become antidote for the residents as they have changed their lives drastically.
For those who are going to Mtwara and Lindi now without booking for hotel rooms, they must be prepared for the consequence. Finding hotel room in the two regions now is as cumbersome as it was for reaching the two regions 10 years ago.And for those who are going to the two regions with 'a thin pocket', they will face the music.
Availability of reliable power and discovery of gas have tremendously changed lives of people and state of affairs of the two regions.More opportunities are opening up, lifestyle has changed and prices of goods and services have gone up while more residents are earning more and more than before.
The government made various initiatives to tap natural gas discovered in order to change lives of the residents of Mwara and Lindi and their economy.Last April, the government decided to take a power generation plant from a private company, Artumas and now the power plant is generating electricity using natural gas instead of heavy fuel (furnace) as before.
According to Mtwara Regional Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) Acting Engineer Idefonce Arthur, the power generating plant has a capacity to generate 18MW of electricity while the actual demand is 13MW.The acting engineer said 7.5MW of electricity from the plant that uses natural gas to generate power, is distributed in Mtwara region and another 5.5MW in Lindi region.
"Surprisingly, while most regions in the country are experiencing power blackouts, there's no power blackout in the two regions and power rationing is now a history", proudly stated Mr Arthur.The acting engineer however stated that Liwale district is not yet connected due to distance and a diesel powered plant is now being installed in the area.
He said since the power plant started generating enough electricity using natural gas, the public awareness and demand to have power connection has increased mostly also. Last year, the government, too, reduced connection charges (for the two regions) from 455,000/- to 99,000/- in areas that do not require electric poles. Areas that do require electric poles customers now are paying 995,778.79/- instead of 1,510,000/-.
The offer expired on December 31 last year (2012) but due to overwhelming response and positive impact of the offer, the government has decided to extend it to June this year."Awareness and demand for power connection has increased tremendously especially in 2012, such that we are overwhelmed and fail to provide connections in time due to lack of materials," Mr Arthur explained.
Mtwara Regional Tanecso's Acting Manager Christopher Semindu noted that by early December 602 customers in Mtwara town alone have benefited from the offer and it was expected that the number could have reached 1,425 for the whole region by the end of last December.
Mr Arthur noted that Tanesco in the region has managed to reduce power leakage from over 12 per cent to 5 and with a target of reducing to 0 per cent.According to Mr Semindu, his region has been able to collect a lot of revenue due to electricity, energy that is being generated using natural gas.
He explained that in a period of three months (of the offer) revenues have increased by 30 per cent.If materials will be availed on time and according to customer needs, Tanesco in the region has the capacity to operate without depending on subsidy from the government, he stressed.
"After completion of a number of Tanesco's projects and those funded by Rural Energy Agency (REA) in the two regions, and with extension of the offer, we'll eventually operate profitably and even without government's subsidy", said the acting regional manager.He added: "Requests for electricity supply in Lindi and Mtwara regions are coming in at a very high speed from a wide range of would-be customers including owners of grass thatched houses".
However, Mr Semindu said that they were advising people owning grass thatched houses to put iron sheet roofs so they can be connected and be able to enjoy electricity in their homes. "They (owners of grass thatched houses) were coming in doves but we've decided not to connect them due to safety reasons," he said.
Explaining about the power generating plant built in 2007, the Plant Manager, Mkulangwa Chilumba, said the objective was to supply electricity in Lindi and Mtwara Regions. He said that daily gas consumption stands at 2,000,000 Standard Cubic Feet (scf).
"When the power plant was built it had a capacity to generate 12MW of electricity, however it now has a capacity to generate 18MW of power, when the actual needs is 13MW, so we have enough power surplus," he explained.