Shedding the load of electric power in the country is becoming a permanent canker. This is evident from the unending power cuts that consumers have been experiencing since the commencement of the Holy month of Ramadan last week.
After making electricity consumers wonder what was causing the frequent power outages in the last couple of days, the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) announced that it would come up with an increased tariff to manage the power challenges facing the country.
At a joint press conference organised by NAWEC in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Nani Juwara, said the increment had become necessary in view of “unprecedented changes or increases in the cost of materials” in electricity generation.
According to the NAWEC, by the beginning of next week, the increment will take effect.
Indications are that the country is far away from the planned load-shedding exercise, otherwise known as “blackout”.
Presently, the capital city and the Greater Banjul Area served by the national grid experience the impromptu load-shedding, the consequence of a shortfall in power supply, according to the power producer.
The government has in place an elaborate programme to narrow the gap in the energy supply chain in the country.
The hardest hit by the surprised load-shedding are the operators of small-scale businesses such as hairdressers, artisans of all kinds, drinking and ‘chop’ shop operators, convenience and barber’s shops. When the lights go off, these operators have no choice but to close their shops, as they do not have the ‘muscle’ to purchase generators to serve as redundant power stock which can be used during the power outages.
Big businesses that cannot halt their operations are forced to purchase generators to run their production lines, but the extra cost of production is always passed on to consumers.
The recent decision to introduce tariff adjustments was meant to remedy “foreign exchange losses affecting NAWEC’s operations”. Ironically, these efforts to recover the cost of production of power are not helping to make the energy producer very efficient.
Unreliable supplies also affect investor confidence in the country and it is against this background that I would want to prevail on NAWEC and the line ministry to ensure that the load-shedding exercise is announced and conducted in a frank and transparent manner. This will allow users to plan efficiently and avoid any losses that might result from the unannounced cuts.
Quite a sizeable percentage of power that is produced goes to waste through illegal connections and the use of obsolete equipment and technology.
The poor generation of power, leading to the unannounced power outages, is one of the low points of the government’s service delivery to the people and the earlier this problem is fixed, the better it will enhance the government’s move to fulfil its contract with the people.