Most expensive power in KZN

2012-09-26 00:00

RESIDENTS in the small farming town of Melmoth are paying among the highest electricity rates in South Africa.

This follows an application from Mthonjaneni Municipality to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), for an increase well above the approved 11,03%.

Municipalities cannot levy increases as they wish, as Nersa regulates energy prices.

At a meeting at the end of May, the council agreed to an electrical tariff increase of 18% from July 1 for pre-paid and billed electricity. It applied to Nersa for permission to do this.

Only eight out of the roughly 230 local municipalities in the country applied for increases. Only three applied for higher increases than Mthonjaneni’s 18%, namely Midvaal (25,04%), Gamagara (23,83%) and Lesedi (20%).

Residents say they were not informed of the increase.

However, Mthonjeni municipal manager Andre Els said that the increases were advertised.

The increase followed a hefty increase of over 30% in the previous financial year.

Nersa said it published a notice of a public hearing with a list of all municipalities applying for an above-guideline increase.

An invitation was extended to members of the public and other parties to present their views at public hearings in Pretoria on May 29. A decision was made on June 21.

Melmoth residents are in an uproar after receiving electricity accounts dated August 31 that are in many cases double the charges seen at the end of July.

Els said the high bills resulted because readings for August were for six weeks’ usage, instead of the usual four, although August was a five-week month.

He could not say when the six-week period had started and ended.

He said it was necessary to charge a higher rate because the municipality could not cover costs when Eskom had increased its rate by 13,5%.

“At the prices charged by Eskom, we cannot break even when we sell the electricity to customers,” Els told The Witness.

However, documents provided by Nersa show that the municipality had applied for the increase for the “upgrading of infrastructure”.

Nersa approved the increase on condition that “the additional funds above the guideline be ringfenced and used solely for the purposes [i.e. upgrading of infrastructure] it was approved for”.

Els disputed that Melmoth residents were paying one of the highest rates in the country for electricity.

He said: “Each municipality, depending on its size in terms of consumers, has different tariff structures, so it is not possible to make that deduction.”

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