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Heavy Electricity Consumers To Pay More 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr — Within a context of countrywide grumbling over increasingly intermittent and protracting powercuts, Cameroon’s longtime lone electricity producer, transmitter and distributor AES-SONEL has announced hikes in consumption rates.

The decision, according to the company management goes into effect from this June 1. 

Basically, it will affect low and average tension consumers including households, businesses and other structures consuming as from 111KW of electricity monthly.  They will pay additional sums of between 9 and 14 FCFA per KW of electricity – entailing a rate hike gauged at between 7 and 8 percent.

Elsewhere, those using up below 110KW monthly and who comprise about 60 percent of AES-SONEL’s over 760,000 clients will continue to pay 50 FCFA per KW of consumed energy.  They have also been accorded exemptions on monthly charges on maintenance and renewal of billing meters. 

Officials at the Douala head office of the subsidiary of the American AES Corp told May 29 that the measure implies a 22 percent overall consumption cost slash for customers in the lowest energy consumption category.  Otherwise stated, heavy consumers [using up between 111 and 2000KW monthly,] as well as other high tension users like industries which pay their consumption per hour are those to most feel the pinch of the decision.

According to a May 28 release heralding the hiked rates, AES-SONEL General Manager Jean David Bile says a standing concession agreement signed with the government entitles the company to review rates yearly.  He adds that over the last three years, nonetheless, there have been no consumption cost increases despite swelling production costs.

The decision to raise costs, according to him followed consultations with the government which has been subsidizing electricity production, transmission and distribution to the tune of 38 billion FCFA yearly.  It has been validated by the agency for the regulation of the electrical energy sector, ARSEL, which has over the years earned public kudos for frustrating attempts by AES-SONEL at upping consumption costs.

Bile additionally hinges justification of the decision on galloping consumption he says has doubled over the last decade – inflating maintenance and equipment refurbishing costs, as well as fuel prices that have witnessed a hundred percent soar in the last three years.  Officials say demand is currently growing at an 8 percent rate nationwide.

Initial reactions to the announcement have been generally harsh.  “It is unimaginable that while people are struggling to survive, the government and its partners are only looking for ways to scrape their wallets.  Locally produced goods will witness price hikes from added production costs.  It is provocation,” Gisele Tantoh, a Douala resident charged.

Observers on their part have been quick to note that the consumption cost hikes will encourage many more people to resort to energy theft as the nation awaits the coming online of ventures hydro dam projects including Lom Pangar, Memvele, Menchum and the Kribi thermal plant.

Meantime, AES-SONEL officials brandish investments staggering at above 550 billion FCFA since the company set up shop in Cameroon following the privatization of the defunct state-run national electricity corporation SONEL.  Yet, on a daily basis, poles continue to tumble while transformers explode, plunging vast neighborhoods and entire human settlements into prolonged blackouts spanning months in the worst cases.

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