The Herald (Harare)

21 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Heavy Electricity Consumers to Pay More

HEAVY electricity consumers should brace to pay more money compared to clients who use less power, dispelling complaints by some consumers that they were being overcharged, Zesa says. Zesa has set a lower rate for the first 50 kilowatt hours a month which is designed for vulnerable

groups and were billed at 2 US cents per unit while those that used between 51 and 300 kilowatts were charged 11 US cents per unit.

This has seen some consumers who slipped into the 51 kilowatts range complaining that the recently introduced prepaid-meters system by Zesa was cheating them as their units got used up quickly.

Zesa Holdings spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira said tariffs for prepaid meter users had not been increased, but consumers would witness a corresponding rise in electricity payments if they used more energy.

Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority only gave the power utility the green light to increase average tariffs from US9,83c kilowatt per hour to US9,86 cents.

Consumers also complained that apart from new charges, Zesa was deducting more than 20 percent from amounts they pay to settle outstanding debts.

The power utility should deduct 20 percent from the amount paid by a client to settle outstanding debts, if any.

However, Mr Gwasira said people were complaining because they were now monitoring their electricity consumption.

"Customers are now paying more attention to electricity consumption because of a more direct relationship between use and payments," he said.

"If you use more electricity, you will witness a corresponding rise in electricity payments. The way to go is conserving energy in the homes."

He said prepaid meter users paying huge amounts of money were using a lot of electricity.

"If you consume more electricity, you are considered a heavy consumer and you pay more," he said.

"People should know that the first 50kWh are designed for vulnerable groups and are billed at 2 cents per unit. If you use electricity in the range of between 51kWh and 300kWh you pay more that is you are charged 11 cents per unit.

"From 300 kilowatts going upwards, you go to a higher tariff and you are charged 15 cents per kilowatt hour because we do not look at you as a vulnerable person."

He said the power utility would never shift from the tariffs that were approved by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority.

"Zesa has started implementing the approved tariff, which was granted by the regulator ZERA from the January 1 2013," Mr Gwasira said.

"The tariff structure is for the year ending December 2013 and Zesa is implementing only the approved tariff."

He said the power utility was deducting 20 percent from the amount paid by consumers with outstanding bills.

"That percentage is going towards settling the bills of those with debts and this is deducted each time one buys electricity.

"If a client has any queries or would want to see a statement of the amount he would have paid, he is free to visit our offices for assistance," he said.

Mr Gwasira said prepaid meters were "more economical" to use.

"For us prepaid meters have reduced tariffs because we would have reduced the costs of going to read the meter as well as the costs of producing the bill while the client pays for what he uses," he said.

"The problem is that during the hyper-inflation period people were getting electricity for free and before that they were getting subsidised electricity. Now with dollarisation they are paying the full cost of power hence the outcry. People should just be responsible."

Interviewed residents said Zesa had downplayed a tariff hike on prepaid meter users.

"When the smart meter was introduced, US$10 would buy me over 100 units but now for the same amount one only gets 62,5 units," said Mr Blessing Chinyanga.

"This means something has been done to their billing system as we are getting a raw deal."

Mr Nhamo Chimuka added: "It seems they are taking more than the recommended 20 percent towards the amounts we owe them. Since they control the machines, they could have done something to the system."

Zesa introduced the pre-paid meter system last year replacing the conventional billing system that had posed challenges to the power utility and the consumers.

Most consumers were not settling their bills arguing that they were inaccurate as they were based on estimates but their final debt is now based the actual reading taken when their old meter was changed over.

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