Eskom cannot offload the cost of its problems on consumers – energy regulator

Eskom cannot transfer the costs of having to improve the capacity of power stations, onto consumers, the national energy regulator has said.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) held its third day of nationwide public hearings on Eskom's tariff applications.

Eskom is seeking a 15% increase on tariffs for the next three years, as well as an increase to recover losses of the 2017/18 year.

During the day's hearings in Port Elizabeth, the panel of regulator members, led by chairperson Nomfundo Maseti, heard how Eskom's performance problems were linked to capacity issues due to limited funds to implement maintenance on units.

But Maseti took Eskom to task over this, asking how the power utility intended to take responsibility for its failings.

"That is what the regulator wants to see from the utility – to take responsibility for failure within your control," Maseti said.

She added that the regulator acknowledged CEO Phakamani Hadebe's apology, which he made on Monday when hearings kicked off in Cape Town, but stressed it was not fair for Eskom to transfer its problems to consumers.

Maseti wants the power utility to reflect in its application the cost of the responsibility and accountability it is taking.

She said if Eskom encountered problems with the design, defects in the new build projects, delayed investment, delayed commissioning, poor quality in maintenance – they should explain how they would account for it. "Why should the consumer be the only one who picks up the costs?" she asked.

Chief Financial Officer Calib Cassim said Eskom would look at its figures and reflect the adjustments in its application.

Maseti pressed him for a deadline, and Cassim said that the earliest Eskom would provide insights on this would be at the hearing in Gauteng.

The hearing resumes in Durban on Thursday.

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