Environmentalists have cautioned the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) against further price hikes on liquid petroleum gas, saying the move defeats effort to increase use of gas for cooking.
The sentiments follow Mera’s decision on Sunday to adjust upwards gas price from K2 175 per kilogramme (kg) to K2 649 per kg.
Civil Society Network on Climate Change national coordinator Julius Ng’oma said in an interview yesterday, gas is a good alternative in transition to save our environment.
He said: “Government should, therefore, consider making the price of gas affordable to every Malawian.
“They can use some levies such as carbon levies to subsidise the prices, otherwise we are losing the battle on mitigating effects of climate change.”
But Mera spokesperson Fitina Khonje yesterday justified the price adjustment, saying it has been necessitated by the increased cost of importing the productfrom South Africa where Malawi sources it.
She said, therefore, to ensure continued flow of supplies, Mera had to make it possible for importers to cover their importation costs adding that the authority does not expect the sales volumes to decline.
“The adjustment can momentarily affect perceptions of some would- be new users but this will not be significant enough to alter the improving gas trends in the country.
“Gas offers very good value for money since it has no match in terms of reliability, convenience and being fast. Especially now when electricity supply is yet to stabilise and prices of the other sources of energy have increased, gas remains the most viable option,” said Khonje.
She explained that the country has in less than a year registered over 40 percent increase in gas imports which indicates an increase in the uptake of the product.
Last year, government increased the price of gas twice from K1 952 per kg to K2 065 per kg in April and revised it upwards to K2 175 per kg in October.
Environmental activists Charles Mkoka warned at the time that high gas prices were a contradiction to government mission to increase uptake of gas for cooking.
He said the National Charcoal Strategy acknowledges liquid petroleum gas as one of the most promising alternatives to urban charcoal use in the medium to long-term stressing that affordability, accessibility and acceptability of gas are key variables that determine adoption.
Currently, according to Mera, the market consumes approximately 1 560 metric tonnes of gas per year.
Mera eyes an increased uptake of gas by three percent by 2030 from the current one percent.
Current data shows that domestic users make 70 percent of consumption and the remaining 30 percent by commercial users.
The country has three importers and 35 retail outlets, however, Khonje said two of the four new gas marketing companie have finalised setting up their facilities.
“We expect to see more new gas retail outlets and competition in the sector, improved access and customer experience,” she said.