Swazi officials on study tour

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MASERU – A delegation from the Swaziland Energy Regulatory Authority (SERA) was in Lesotho this week on a study tour of the country’s energy sector.

SERA said it was in Lesotho to learn from the Lesotho Electricity Authority (LEA)’s experiences on electricity regulation.

SERA board’s deputy chairperson Dumisani Dlamini told the Lesotho Times that they were planning to introduce an electricity levy to raise funds.

Dlamini was speaking on the sidelines of a one-day workshop held at a local hotel on Monday to discuss issues of electricity regulation.

The government of Swaziland established SERA 18 months ago to regulate energy affairs in Swaziland.

“We have been not able to charge levies for the past 18 months because we thought we should have regulations first.

“But through what we have learnt from the Lesotho Electricity Authority it is not necessary to wait for regulations.

“We are now ready to start charging levies. But we still have to make recommendations to the entire board for approval,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini said SERA was hamstrung by lack of funds to execute some of its operations.

He said they had run out of ideas on how to raise sufficient funds to achieve some of their goals.

“Now we have learnt that in order to get funds we have to look outside the country.

“We are now aware that the Lesotho Electricity Authority got some donor funds to do carry out of its activities,” Dlamini said.

LEA’s chief executive officer, Ntoi Rapapa, told the SERA delegation that some of the funds used by the energy authority had come from international organisations such as the World Bank.

Rapapa however said most of LEA’s budget comes from the government.

He also said the authority was in the process of establishing watchdog teams in the districts to ensure proper electricity delivery to customers.

Dlamini said Swaziland was currently facing challenges in importing electricity from South Africa.

He said Swaziland often suffers when South Africa decides to reduce electricity supply to its neighbours.

“We are now faced with the problem of increasing electricity supply generated within the country.

“I say this because 80 percent of our power comes from South Africa,” Dlamini said.

Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki said the LEA was established to oversee and regulate electricity affairs in Lesotho.

This, he said, was made to avoid a situation whereby the electricity supplier becomes both the supplier and regulator of its business.

“Gone are the days when our utilities were prosecutors, judges and everything in the industry,” he said.

However, the LEA’s economic regulation manager, Thuso Ntlama, told the SERA delegation that Lesotho is facing its own challenges in ensuring maximum connection of domestic electricity supply.

“Infrastructure is almost everywhere in Maseru but some people are still not connected,” he said.

He also said the electricity regulatory body has to be cautious in approving tariffs proposed by the supplier.

“The Lesotho Electricity Authority has rejected many tariff increase proposals,” he said.

LEA is likely to get a budget of M17 million from the government for the 2011/2012 financial year.

LEA was awarded M14 million for this financial year.

SERA’s study tour to LEA was the first tour since its establishment 18 months ago.

SERA was established after the enactment of the Electricity Act of 2007.

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