Now that the two million free energy-saver bulbs or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are within our reach, almost two years after the promise in the 2010/11 national budget, I say thank you to our development partners, notably BritainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Department for International Development (DfID).
Every electricity consumer should be excited by the news because if projections from authorities are anything to go by, their increased usage by Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) customers would help save power.
For example, we are told that if all of EscomÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 180 000-plus customers used energy-saver bulbs, the power utility would save between 20 and 30 megawatts (MW).
That is no mean saving! It is equivalent to power generated by one of the units at Kapichira Falls Phase I Hydro Power Station installed in 2000 with an output of 32MW. There are two units at Kapichira each producing 32MW.
Given our power supply challenges, using energy-saver bulbs appears to be a win-win situation. Escom will have an extra 30MW which we are currently losing due to use of conventional or ordinary bulbs that consume more power.
The picture goes like this: With a lifespan of over 10 000 hours, energy-saver bulbs consume less power, in most cases 15 watts compared to between 60 and 100 watts consumed by the conventional or incandescent bulbs.
To discourage importation and use of incandescent bulbs, government announced an increase in excise duty on the bulbs to 100 percent while removing the same on energy-saver bulbs.
Sadly, however, from my observations, consumers have not benefited from the duty-waiver on energy-saver bulbs as, two years on; prices of energy-saver bulbs are still too high. The prices range from K250 to K600 per bulb compared to less than K100 for the ordinary bulb.
So, while we celebrate the step towards saving power through use of free energy-saver bulbs, I believe government would do the nation justice by monitoring and investigating pricing of energy-saver bulbs to establish who benefited from the duty waiver.
It is also my prayer that the distribution exercise for the energy-saver bulbs will be more transparent than similar public sector-managed initiatives. Please, tisamanganepo apa!
Now that we have the energy-saver bulbs, let there be light! Escom should eventually shift from its brand promise of Ã¢â‚¬ËœTowards Power All Day, EverydayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to Ã¢â‚¬ËœPower All Day, EverydayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.