Outrage at power tariff plan

2017-05-19 14:09
Msunduzi wants to raise city tarrifs by 3,08%, Nersa allows 1,88%.

Msunduzi wants to raise city tarrifs by 3,08%, Nersa allows 1,88%. (File)

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Businesses and residents are outraged about the municipality’s latest plan to increase electricity tariffs well above the level set by the National Electricity Regulator (Nersa).

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) CEO Melanie Veness on Thursday had to give an 11th hour presentation at Nersa in Johannesburg, in opposition to a municipal application to increase tariffs by 3,08%, instead of the 1,88% determined by Nersa.

Nersa this year said municipalities should not increase tariffs beyond 1,88%, but Msunduzi applied after that to Nersa for the 3,08% increase, without telling any of its stakeholders.

And this was after the municipality said in its draft municipal budget that it would only increase tariffs by 1,88%. Businesses consume 70% of the power in the city.

Veness told The Witness on Thursday she had noticed an advertisement in a Sunday newspaper about a list of municipalities applying to Nersa for special permission to increase tariffs above 1,88% and Msunduzi was one of them.

“It was the first we had heard about this and the municipality made this application without anybody knowing about it,” she said.

She said she told Nersa on Thursday the city’s businesses were under severe financial pressure due to the weak economy, and they would be rendered uncompetitive if they had to pay a higher electricity tariff than that being applied in other cities.

“The municipality told Nersa they would ring-fence the amount of the increase above 1,88%, and use it for electricity infrastructure, but I asked Nersa, is it fair for business to have to pay for this infrastructure backlog?” said Veness.

She said the infrastructure backlog would not have arisen if the city had used previous sharp increases in tariffs on infrastructure, as stipulated by Nersa, instead of spending the money on other things.

City ratepayers associations also voiced their objection to the municipality’s attempt to “hoodwink” them by increasing the electricity tariff over and above the recommended increase by Nersa.

They agreed that the city needed to improve on service delivery, and properly maintain infrastructure “before they even consider to increase tariffs”.

Scottsville Ratepayers Association chairperson Dr Peter Green said they would accept the 1,88% increase recommended by Nersa, but “totally object” to the city’s latest plan.

“The tariffs have increased exorbitantly in the last few years, yet there has been no increase in the maintenance of infrastructure. We will not support the increase until we see a maintenance plan and costs, or else we are just going down a big black hole,” Green said.

He said the association understood there needed to be some sort of increase, but they believed it should remain minimal.

“We have heard about upgrades in the city centre, but that is not where the power outages are,” he added.

Speaking for the Msunduzi Rates Forum, Minnesh Parmanand said the municipality’s latest move on tariffs was “unacceptable” and called on the community to take a stand at the upcoming meetings.

“The street lights do not work, there are constant power outages and frankly, service delivery has just halted. The municipality does a lot of things behind our backs and we must take a stand,” he said.

Parmanand said during the last community meeting with the municipality, they were told the City were still in discussions with Nersa.

“We never heard anything since then. The community has only been told about the proposed tariff and not the revised version. We haven’t had a chance to discuss it fully, so how can they implement it in a few weeks?” Parmanand asked.

The municipality said in a statement on Thursday it would hold two public meetings on May 23 to discuss the electricity tariffs.

The municipality could not be reached for further comment on Thursday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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