Durban residents picket against Eskom’s 35% planned tariff hike

2010-01-19 00:00

HUNDREDS of angry Durban residents voiced their concerns over Eskom’s proposed 35% tariff hike, at the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) hearing yesterday.

Residents from the poorer areas of Durban’s south basin picketed outside the Durban Exhibition Centre, where stakeholders from NGOs, trade unions, environmental groups and political parties were meeting to engage in public talks about Eskom’s revenue application to Nersa for a multi price determination for the next three years.

Cosatu’s provincial secretary, Zet Lusipho, said the proposed increase will have a detrimental impact on the economy, which is starting to recover from the recession.

“This will not help to create jobs. Cosatu has made a submission that electricity prices must be moderated. Excessive increases will not help the poor,” he said.

Lusipho said high electricity tariffs will result in people failing to pay their bills, which means that people will end up with huge arrears. “These steep electricity tariffs contradict the objective of a democratic South Africa to correct the wrongs of the past. It is outrageous and opportunistic of Eskom to hike prices.”

Desmond D’sa, co-ordinator of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, an environmental justice organisation, said that while he welcomes the hearing, it is not a meaningful public participation session.

“There is only one hearing being held for the entire province in Durban, thereby inhibiting those in rural areas from participating,” he said.

D’sa said Nersa should reject Eskom’s application because it has failed to consider consumers’ ability to pay for electricity and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Eskom’s proposal will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and thereby cause more climate vulnerability, which impacts on the poor.”

D’sa suggested a stepped block tariff, whereby consumers who use the most energy would be charged according to their increased use.

“A meaningful supply of electricity is provided to the poorest of the poor free of charge,” he added.

The SA Institute of Electrical Engineers raised concerns that the proposed hike would lead to more illegal connections as people battle to pay their electricity bills.

The institute’s president, Du Toit Grobler, said the hike would reduce economic growth and could lead to more job losses.

Said Mervyn Reddy of the Clairwood Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association: “It’s a reality that if the hike is accepted, thousands of people’s electricity will be disconnected. They will be left out of pocket and in further debt.”

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