Northern Electrification Spreading

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By Engel Nawatiseb OTJIWARONGO The Chief Executive Officer of the Central Northern Electricity Distribution Company (CENORED) says his company has managed to amalgamate the many disparate local authority electricity undertakings into a technically competent organization to meet the challenges of a vibrant electricity industry in Namibia. Mburumba Appolus told New Era that the current electricity crisis looming in the country could be overcome if all stakeholders collaborated with government’s efforts to put contingency plans in place to avert a long-term shortfall of electricity supply. He said Cenored has made huge investments in the upgrading and expansion of the electricity network in its service areas while harmonizing tariffs and containing operational costs. The company recently requested a N$15million grant from the European Investment Bank to electrify both rural and urban settlements in its license area to meet its identified priorities in the electricity supply industry. “All assurances thus far are that the grant will arrive by the end of June. We value our customers as important stakeholders in business together with our employees, shareholders, government and the Electricity Control Board. Cenored is an integral part of the communities we operate in and it is our wish to contribute to the socio-economic upliftment of the community through capital investment and the provision of affordable and reliable electricity services.” Appolus added that 15 staff members recently completed an intensive training in the installation and maintenance of pre-paid meters by ESKOM in order to improve the company’s technical competencies. NamPower has reportedly run a high voltage network training course for Cenored technicians boosting the skills capacity of the company. “Our major constraint, however, is to grow the business and increase our customer numbers, which is no easy task given that in all the towns we operate in the growth points are in the informal resettlement areas – unlike Windhoek and Swakopmund, for example, where there is strong and continuous growth in the high income segment. That is the reason why our company is very cost conscious to make electricity affordable as catalyst to new investments,” said Appolus. The company also launched a marketing campaign last month to raise awareness about the pre-paid metering system to the benefit of pre-payment meters and to encourage consumers to convert from conventional meters to PPM to allow customers manage electricity consumption and purchase as much or as little as required and when required. “Thus the customer is empowered by switching to PPM because he or she immediately gets very conscious of electricity consumption and takes steps to save this precious commodity.” He stressed that the pre-paid metering system is not a new technology, but has been around for the past 15 years. He added that what is new is the state of the art Eclipse vending system that Cenored is installing in all its license areas, replacing the nine different Legacy systems that were previously in use. The new vending system would allow Cenored to dispense electricity 24 hours through third party vendors similar to the models that were implemented by the city of Windhoek. Cenored has a client base of approximately 25 000 consumers that has been broken down into households, businesses, farmers and large power users in the Otjo-zondjupa and Kunene regions, including Tsumeb in the Oshikoto Region. The CEO added that his company is initially targeting the residential segment of the market where the benefits of the PPMs are most apparent, although a remote metering solution (AMR-automated meter reading) for other customers is in the offing. Appolus rejected allegations that his company is insensitive to customer’s concerns over delayed payments of accounts, saying that Cenored tries to take a reasonable approach to satisfy all its customers. “Disconnection is a last resort after we have exhausted all avenues including sending final notices and phoning the customer concerned. Only when these persuasive measures fail do we instruct our electricians to disconnect supply, and this usually has the effect of making the defaulter realize the gravity of the situation. But we do not reconnect until the approved penalties have been paid,” said Appolus. He added that Cenored has ordered 2000 pre-paid meters although it intends to install about 6000 new meters by the end of this year. This will constitute 45 percent of the domestic customer base in its service area. “This will have a positive effect on our cash flow and debtors book in so far as the domestic revenue segment is concerned. Yes, the customers will also pay for the meter in two ways through a N$250 connection charge and 5 cents per unit sold will go towards the capital redemption throughout the life of the meter. The total capital cost of installing a meter is around N$1500 and that cost is recovered through the 5 cents per unit over the 15 years life of the meter.”