Seven years after the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric dam (HCB) became property of the Mozambican State the country continues to import electricity. It seems this trend will continue in order to “meet domestic demand” according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity (CIP), which also noticed that power quality is poor and “energy tariffs are among the highest in the region” despite being the second largest energy producer in southern Africa.
Data from a CIP survey released in Maputo on Tuesday, December 9, 2014 indicates that in the year 2000 Mozambique spent 13.2 million meticais (approx. USD 400,000) for the purchase of energy in neighboring countries, a figure that has increased alarmingly in 2013, reaching 262 million meticais (approx. USD 7.7 million).
CIP researcher, Borges Nhamirre, says that Mozambique suffered the highest number of serious cases electricity supply among a total of 12 countries in the region.
The degradation of transport and energy distribution infrastructure, resulting from lack of maintenance and system overload due to an increased number of electricity consumers in the which exceeds the amount of electrical current available. These factors contribute to the systematic restrictions of energy supply, Nhamirre asserted.
Although Mozambique generates enough electricity to meet the current needs of internal and external consumption, the data shows the opposite. Compared to the other 12 countries in the region, Mozambique ranks as the 4th country with the worst public access to electricity. Currently, electricity reaches just 20 percent of Mozambique’s population, which surpasses 23 million people total. This means that we are still well below the regional average of around 37 percent, highlighted Nhamirre.
According to CIP, in 2005 Electricity of Mozambique (EDM) imported 19.2 Gigawatts of electricity per hour and increased to 86.5 Gigawatts in 2011, representing an increase of more than 400 percent over five years.
This import, according to the survey, elevated EDM’s debt. In June 2014, this debt was about USD 115 million and included costs for electricity supply and other goods from 2008. Of this amount, USD 50 million were due to Cahora Bassa.
According to Nhamirre, the opening of thermal power plants will not solve the problem of electricity shortage because not all domestically produced energy is provided to EDM. This is because its acquisition price is very high, reaching four times more than the rate established by the HCB.
“Mozambique, despite being the second largest producer of electricity in the region, has the sixth highest tariffs among a group encompassing 12 countries,” noted Nhamirre.
EDM enables illicit enrichment of the political elite
According to CIP, EDM ceased to provide services required and went on to work as a network or agency of concession of contracts, serving the interests of the political elite. Example can be noted by the electrical wiring replacement and other services given to companies of former directors and thus spending more money unnecessarily.
The lack of transparency and integrity in the activities of EDM serves as a business source for the political elites of the country. According to Nhamirre, the scheme works through captive and protected companies operating in the field electrical equipment supply and services that are owned by senior political figures.
Other illegal activity that occurs systematically results from the signing of several agreements for the benefit of EDM facilities, in order to be integrated into energy production and purchase of projects without public tenders. This shows that this institution does not observe the law and represents a situation aggravated by the interference of the government in the protection of public institutions that do not pay their electricity bills.
Rural electrification has no impact on the population
The CIP survey states that since rural electrification began across the country, it has not yet produced satisfactory results. Most Mozambicans still have no access to electricity, which shows that the money spent is not meeting the needs of the population.
From 2008 to 2013 the Mozambican government, through the state budget, allocated about 1.7 million meticais for the expansion and implementation of the rural electrification process, which now covers only administrative posts.
Lack of investment chastises Nacala city
EDM data indicates that Nacala, in Nampula province, is powered by a substation with a capacity to generate 220 Megavolts and with a range of 200 kilometers. It was built in 1980 and so far has not received any funding intervention to assure the infrastructure’s expansion.
When this substation was being constructed, Nacala had an estimated population of 80,426. Currently, the city has a population of 234,807 inhabitants, which proves that the capacity of electricity supply in that part of the country is overloaded. It is no surprise that there are frequent electricity cuts and restrictions.
Furthermore, the CIP study reveals that the power voltage level, instead of 110 kilovolts, has been reduced to 98, which affected all electrical installations fed by Nacala substation.
The study concludes that EDM acts as an institutional island. Why does EDM not not have information on the number of existing neighborhoods and industrial projects? This lack of information makes it difficult for determining the precise amounts of energy required for the citizens and businesses propelling Mozambique’s economy.