East Africa’s power woes continue as TANESCO admits to being literally broke and unable to pay power producers

In a startling development it was learned overnight that TANESCO, Tanzanias power distributor, has run short of cash and was unable to pay independent power producers, in turn compelling them to switch off their plants as they could no longer buy fuel. This comes after weeks of strenuous denials by the company, when it was deliberately misleading the general public over the true extent of power cuts across the country, saying there was no rationing of electricity. That now exposed as just another lie the latest twist in this saga has enraged business owners and in particular hoteliers, which have to resort to expensive stand by generators to keep their fridges and freezers running, their lifts operating and their pool plants turning over. This is a national shame. It is admitting they lied to us for a while, concealing what was going on and blaming everyone and everything else for their own problems. Of course in parliament they could no longer maintain their cover story. Our electricity sector is in a mess and the whole country is suffering. Our government has not invested in alternate sources of power like geothermal, wind and solar and our gas reserves could produce enough but are barely being tapped. Hydro plants are partly out of service, the transmission line system is breaking down too often because of old age and there are no tax incentives for industries or hotels for instance to generate electricity with their large back up generators, so it is very expensive and causing price rises for commodities and room rates in hotels or meals in restaurants. But is anyone listening? a regular source from Dar es Salaam wrote in an email.
Tanzania last year went through a series of nationwide power outages and experienced a crippling rationing regime when independent power producers were not paid and fuel ran out for thermal plants. Across Eastern Africa has this become a major issue, in Uganda where monopolist UMEME bears the brunt of public disaffection since tariffs rocketed earlier in the year after government dropped its subsidies due to lack of cash, and in Kenya too where KPLC is also in the public cross hairs for frequently switching off electricity at the most inopportune moments. As the budget for the 2012/13 financial year is now only weeks away from being published, it remains to be seen how the three governments intend to facilitate the electricity sector to keep industries running, tourists comfortable in air conditioned rooms and households and small businesses and enterprises powered up to generate economic growth. Watch this space.

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