Business Day

Eskom aims to recoup R22.8bn from users

- CAROL PATON Writer at Large

ESKOM has applied for permission to levy electricit­y tariffs by up to 16.6% next year.

At present, it is allowed to charge tariffs of 8% for 2016, which are well below cost-recovery levels. Tariffs that are not cost-reflective are a drain on Eskom’s sustainabi­lity.

A mechanism known as the regulatory clearing account allows Eskom to apply to the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) to claw back some of its costs retrospect­ively. This is because tariffs are formulated on the basis of projection­s, and once audited, some adjustment to the projection­s may be required. These costs can then be recovered from consumers by adding them on to the following year’s tariff. Eskom said yesterday it had applied to Nersa to claw back R22.8bn from the 2013-2014 financial year.

Nersa will determine how much of the R22.8bn Eskom can recover based on efficiency tests. Costs that are determined to be essential can be recovered, while those that were wasteful operations or broke the efficiency rules may not be.

Nersa spokesman Charles Hlebela said should Nersa decide that Eskom was justified in recovering the full R22.8bn from consumers, then electricit­y tariffs next year would rise to 16.6%.

But in the past, Nersa has been hard to please.

In the original multi-year price determinat­ion for the period 2013-14 to 2017-18, Eskom was granted only 8% of the requested 16% tariff hike.

A year ago, it allowed Eskom to recover less than half of what it had claimed through the regulatory clearing account. This raised tariffs from 8% to 12.69% for this year.

In June, it turned down Eskom’s “selective tariff reopener” entirely. Had the re-opener been granted,

tariffs would have risen 25.3%. In turning it down, Nersa advised Eskom to either file a new applicatio­n or use the regulatory clearing account to enable higher tariffs.

Nersa said in a statement yesterday that Eskom’s applicatio­n could go either way. “Should the results of the assessment indicate that Eskom has to reimburse the customers, the price of electricit­y would have to decrease proportion­ally to the regulatory clearing account balance. Similarly if the customers have to reimburse Eskom, the price would have to increase.”

Public hearings will be held to inform the decision.

The fact that it costs Eskom more to generate and distribute energy than it is able to recover from customers is a constraint on its financial health. At the time the 2013-14 to 2017-18 price determinat­ion was announced, Eskom estimated that it would have a R225bn revenue shortfall over the period. Since then, it has received an equity injection allowing it to borrow more and was allowed to raise tariffs this year by 12,69%.

On Monday, Eskom CE Brian Molefe will provide an update on the state of the electricit­y system.

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