Bandar Seri Begawan - Some Legislative Council (LegCo) members during the ongoing 9th LegCo meeting yesterday asked the government to review the new electricity tariff again amidst public complaints, despite the government stating that $30 million worth of energy savings was achieved in 2012 since the introduction of the new tariff January last year.
Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim informed LegCo members that since the introduction of the new electrical tariff in the country, the total electrical power usage in the housing sector in 2012 was 1,879 GWH, which was a reduction of 12.4 per cent compared to the total usage in 2011, which was 2,145 GWH.
"If we take into account the four per cent growth per annum in electricity usage, the overall reduction in power usage in the housing sector is (thus) 16.4 per cent," the minister said.
YB Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman was answering to Legislative Council member, YB Dato Paduka Awang Hj Abdullah bin Hj Mohd Jaafar's enquiries on the effectiveness of the new electrical tariff since its introduction in January 2012. This includes effectiveness in terms of reducing energy usage as well as benefitting the public.
The Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office said that in terms of the demographic aspects of the monthly payments last year, 37 per cent or 28,849 users paid S6 or less monthly, and 79 per cent or 31,784 users paid an amount quite similar to the pre-new tariff period.
The minister also said that based on the 29 per cent improved efficiency, the savings from natural gas usage was 1,201,539 MMBTu, or 16.4 per cent or in financial terms, it saved the government $21.6 million.
"If we take into account losses during transmission or distribution process, which was on average six per cent, then the savings was 386,069 MMBtu or in financial terms, $6.9 million,
thus making the total savings in the housing sector in 2012 estimated to be $30 million," the minister added.
The minister said as further steps, the government will continue to assess the effectiveness of the electrical tariff and will speed up the migration or installation of pre-paid meters to replace postpaid meters, targetted to be completed by October 2013.
The government will also replace postpaid meters in existing commercial premises to prepaid meters free of charge, the minister said, adding that the savings success of pre-paid meters in the housing sector has provided a justification for prepaid meters.
The government will also make a review of the new tariff in the commercial sector by taking into account its implication to the food and services sector.
Other (energy) savings initiatives include installing LED lights in government buildings and other government administrative system as well as the introduction of Energy Standard Policy and labelling for air-conditioners and lightings in 2013.
According to the minister, the new tariff, which is progressive in nature, benefits low income group, where the minister said a study showed that 37 per cent of users (in the housing sector) only pay $6 or less, and 79 per cent of users pay no more-than the previous tariff or even less.
LegCo member YB Awg Hj Ramli bin Haji Lahit, in congratulating the government's efforts to reduce energy usage, insisted that the new tariff has burdened some users and should be re-examined, in addition pre-paid meters require users to check frequently the balance and if the pre-paid meter unit is installed at the outside wall of the house, it can be quite troublesome, thus it should be installed inside the house.
YB Hj Mohd Yusof bin Hj Dulamin also asked for the new tariff to be reviewed considering complaints among middle income groups.
"Thus we need to consider the middle income group of the population that owns big houses and need more energy to suit their situation," YB Hj Mohd Yusof said.
He also thanked and congratulated the efficient installation of pre-paid meters.
YB Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman said it was actually positive news that some of the houses have opted to switch-off lights that shows that the energy saving initiative is effective, as energy efficiency is achieved and the public is prudent in their household spending."
In terms of pre-paid meters installation, the minister said to date it is currently 42 per cent complete in the housing and commercial sector, where the pre-paid meters are installed free of charge and scheduled to be completed by early 2014.
The minister said the Department of Electrical Services (DES) has implemented several initiatives, for example the number of sale counters for buying pre-paid cards has been increased. The waiting time for buying tokens at counters has been reduced to 1015 minutes during peak period, and two cash deposit machines are now in operation in the Department of Electrical Services HQ and at the Seria branch, where 24-hour services are being provided.
He said further initiatives will include establishment of sale counters for prepaid cards at commercial areas and to enhance the e-Services, currently being participated by Bll3D, Baiduri Bank and Standard Chartered Bank, and lastly the DES has applied for budget allocation for procurement of CDM machines to be placed in various branches including Tutong, Kuala Belait, Sengkurong, Muara and Temburong.
YB Awang Hj Jumat bin Akim suggested that the system of buying credits for prepaid electricity be made simple as buying an 'Easicard' (prepaid phone card).
YB Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman said it is true that buying the credit in the beginning of the month will give more credit than buying it at the end of the month, and this is due to the progressive structure of the new tariff system.
The minister said the public is advised to purchase credits for the right amount, according to their respective monthly electrical usage and not buy for a big amount for a two-month period or more. This is because the KWh that one gets for the purchase each month is higher compared to KWh obtained if they charge the meter with excessive credit for usage of more than two months.
The minister said it is hoped that more road shows can be organised to further reinforce understanding on the usage among the population.
YB Awang Hj Mohd Shafiee bin Ahmad insisted that there is still a lack of understanding on the pre-paid meter cards and supported the additional road shows, especially in making the public understand the 'formula' of buying the prepaid cards. He said there should be a review on this.
YB Awang Hj Jumat also called for more road shows due to the complications.
YB Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman said the structure of the new tariff is progressive: one cent per KWh for usage of 1KHw-600KWh; eight cents per KWh for usage between 601-2000KWh; 10 cents for usage between 2001-4000KWh; and for usage of more than 4000KWh the charge will be 12 cents.
The minister said a second round of road shows should be organised. The minister also highlighted that the electricity bill arrears stood at $200 million.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin