Outrage at MCB hike

2011-09-12 00:00

THE Msunduzi Rates Forum (MRF) has vowed to fight the 23% tariff increase for miniature circuit breakers.

Miniature circuit breakers (MCBs) regulate electrical supply to residences, businesses and industries.

The forum wants to meet Mayor Chris Ndlela to discuss issues affecting ratepayers.

The issue of MCBs has been a bone of contention for many ratepayers because they think that paying the tariff on top of the exorbitant electricity bills they are already receiving is unfair practice.

Ratepayers say MCBs are the responsibility of the electricity supplier, but the Msunduzi Municipality charges a monthly tariff even though many were installed years ago.

A consumer with a 60 amp MCB pays R77,50 extra per month with the 23% increase.

The MCB tariff was supposed to be a short-term provision instituted during the eighties for the municipality to recoup the cost of new electricity installations. However, MCB tariffs continue to make up a substantial portion of consumers’ bills. What’s more, MCB tariffs are charged regardless of consumption levels.

Consumers billed directly by Eskom do not pay MCB charges and some municipalities charge for consumption only.

MRF chair Babs Sithapersad said: “This is a way for the municipality to make easy money. We have for a long time been concerned about the MCBs being charged for,” he said.

A retired electrical expert who asked not to be named said about 20 other cities also levy MCB charges. “The fact that it has increased by 23% in line with the electricity usage tariff increases is wrong. Something must be done. They should freeze the charge.”

He does not believe that even an inflation-linked increase of around six percent is justified.

The expert said the MCB charge does make people use electricity more efficiently by controlling the demand and helps by maintaining the capacity of mini sub-stations around the city for peak loading.

“If demand increases, then the capacity of the substations has to be increased and the size of the cables supplying them.

“From a planning point of view it helps, but they are ripping us off. We are paying over R200 before we have even switched on a light, and we are being charged a monthly service fee on top of this.”

The expert also complained that the service being provided by Msunduzi is less than ideal. “They are making a lot of money, so why isn’t this translating into infrastructure being maintained? They must quantify where the money is going. It’s not acceptable any more.”

Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma said the MCB is municipal property. What is commonly referred to as the MCB charge is actually a demand charge, meaning the control of the demand (in amps) for the energy supplied. “This is a monthly charge that is regulated by [the National Energy Regulator of SA] and all municipalities charge it, as we are also charged by Eskom,” he added.

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