Plans to hike electricity tariffs meet opposition in Zambia

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Xinhua Netews, April 04, 2019

LUSAKA, April 4 (Xinhua) — Various groups in Zambia opposed plans by the country’s power utility to increase electricity tariffs on Wednesday.
Last month, state-run power utility, Zesco Limited, applied to the country’s energy regulator, the Energy Regulation Board (ERB), for an upward adjustment in electricity tariffs which is yet to be given.

But the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), a local lobby group, said it was concerned with the proposed plans to hike electricity tariffs. While acknowledging that the country needs to graduate towards cost-reflective tariffs, Chenai Mukumba, CUTS communications officer, said consumer interests should be at the center of all decisions.

Instead of punishing consumers, the power utility should restructure itself in order to achieve efficiency, she said, adding that the hike will have a negative bearing on the provisions of goods and services in the country. According to her, the proposed tariff hike will result in an increase in the cost of production and eventually the cost of basic commodities, leading to a high cost of living.

The Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) called on the energy regulator not to grant the power firm a permission to raise tariffs. The consumer body said an increase in electricity tariffs will result in a rise in production costs, which will be passed on to consumers.

Isaac Mwaipopo, executive director of the Center for Trade and Policy Development, a local think-tank, said he was worried that the power utility wanted to increase electricity tariffs barely two years after an upward adjustment was effected.

He called on the ERB to exercise caution regarding another upward adjustment. Mwaipopo called for an evaluation of the real underlying challenges in the country’s electricity sub-sector. It is becoming clear that successive increase in electricity tariffs has not managed to address the actual bottlenecks, he added.

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