x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Power bills double for Sharjah residents plagued by power cuts

Customers angry as charges leap in month where some had more days without electricity than with.

Supermarket customers shop in the dark during one of Sharjah's frequent power cuts.
Supermarket customers shop in the dark during one of Sharjah's frequent power cuts.

SHARJAH // Frustrated customers say Sharjah's power company as much as doubled its rates without warning last month, even though the emirate has been plagued by power outages. The Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) says the customers may not have realised they were using more power to cool their homes with the onset of the warmer weather.

"The bills are also not just for electricity, but water and gas as well," said Abdrahman al Salman, the utility's head of public relations. "Any increase in the usage of these other two would also reflect on bills." That explanation did not sit well with Mustafa Eissa, a 40-year-old construction engineer who lives in Al Qassimiya, who was shocked to receive a Dh1,500 bill for May, his highest in the past 10 years, despite spending part of the month without power.

His bill for April was Dh730, he said. "Disturbingly, May was full of power cuts and we spent more time in dark than we did with power," he said. "If this bill almost doubles the April bill, what will happen in July and August?" Power outages have bedevilled Sharjah in recent years. Businesses say they have lost tens of thousands of dirhams already this year because of the unreliable electricity supply.

Other residents say their bill for May was almost as much as their monthly rent. Some say they are considering leaving the emirate as a result of the charges. Dr Manal Mohammed, an Egyptian physician who lives in a two-bedroom flat, said his Sewa bill for May was Dh1,700, up from Dh950 in April. "I am already making comparisons with the tariffs in Ajman and Dubai and am considering moving on," saidDr Mohammed, 60, who has lived in the UAE for more than three decades. "It could be cheaper now staying in Dubai with good services, rather than staying in Sharjah."

Residents also complained that Sewa has compounded the problem by refusing to accept partial payments, which they claimed was a departure from previous policy. "What disappoints me most is that Sewa has stopped taking part payments," said Kassim al Amir, 35, a resident of Nabba. "I was at their counter and had only Dh700, and their officer told me my bill was Dh1,250." Mr al Amir said the utility's representative referred him to a department head, who said he had orders to accept only full payments. His May bill for his one-bedroom flat represented a 150 per cent increase on his Dh500 bill for April.

Sewa announced last year that it would raise electricity tariffs by almost 50 per cent to meet increased power production costs. The new charges, which came into effect last September, would cost industrial sector users 40 fils per kilowatt hour (kWh), while commercial and residential sectors would pay 30 fils per kWh instead of 20 fils previously. @Email:ykakande@thenational.ae