City fac­ing power bat­tle

Ac­tivists pre­pared to go to court over elec­tric­ity tar­iffs

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE - MARVIN CHARLES [email protected]

SO­CIAL ac­tivists are gear­ing up for a big fight with the City over its elec­tric­ity tar­iffs, and are pre­pared to drag them to the courts if nec­es­sary.

Civic or­gan­i­sa­tion Stop CoCT said it was con­sid­er­ing tak­ing le­gal ac­tion against the City for its home-user and sur­charge rates. This comes af­ter the City met the Na­tional En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor of SA (Nersa) and the or­gan­i­sa­tion, which had dis­puted the City’s elec­tric­ity tar­iffs.

Stop CoCT founder San­dra Dick­son said the City did not ad­dress their con­cerns be­cause the per­son they had sent to the meet­ing could not an­swer their questions.

“The elec­tric­ity di­rec­tor could not deal with billing is­sues, the City’s debt col­lec­tion prac­tices, pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion is­sues, elec­tric­ity bud­get is­sues or the ef­fect of prop­erty val­ues on elec­tric­ity tar­iffs.” She said at the end, they had to only discuss the home-user charge and su­per­charge rates.

For months, the or­gan­i­sa­tion was ask­ing questions around the dis­crep­ancy be­tween the City’s im­ple­mented tar­iffs across all blocks ver­sus what Nersa pub­lishes as ap­proved tar­iffs on their web­site.

Since 2016, the City’s im­ple­mented elec­tric­ity tar­iffs have been be­tween 2% and 18% higher than the Nersa-ap­proved tar­iffs.

“For months, Stop CoCT was ask­ing questions around the dis­crep­ancy be­tween the City’s im­ple­mented tar­iffs across all blocks ver­sus what Nersa pub­lished as ap­proved tar­iffs on their web­site.

“Since 2016, the City’s im­ple­mented elec­tric­ity tar­iffs were be­tween 2% and 18% higher than the Nersa-ap­proved tar­iffs,” Dick­son said. The City im­posed a new elec­trify tar­iff in July.

The home-user tar­iff ap­plies to res­i­dents with pre­paid me­ters, liv­ing in homes worth more than R1 mil­lion. It will also ap­ply to res­i­dents who have a credit me­ter, ir­re­spec­tive of the prop­erty value.

Ac­cord­ing to Dick­son, there was no men­tion of the home-user charge when the city’s draft bud­get was ap­proved back in May.

En­ergy ex­pert Tim Blom said mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties had mis­chie­vously im­posed high rates on con­sumers with­out their knowl­edge.

“All mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are un­der huge strain and ev­ery­one is tight­en­ing their belt.”

He said the en­tire process had be­come an abuse of res­i­dents of the city.

“They can fight this in court, but it will strongly de­pend on the mood of the ju­di­ciary on this,” Blom said.

The city is stick­ing to its guns on its elec­tric­ity charges.

Les Ren­con­tré, the city’s di­rec­tor for elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion, said: “Nersa’s man­date does not ex­tend to reg­u­lat­ing a sur­charge un­der the mu­nic­i­pal leg­is­la­tion. It is highly likely that the com­plaints made to Nersa come in light of other South African cities at­tempt­ing to in­tro­duce a fixed elec­tric­ity charge as a sur­charge to raise ad­di­tional rev­enue.

“To re­it­er­ate, the city’s fixed charge is not a sur­charge. It is for re­cov­er­ing the cost of pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity, and no profit is made,” he said.

MMC for en­ergy and cli­mate change Phindile Max­iti said: “No profit is made from the city’s elec­tric­ity in­come. Some 65% of the tar­iff goes to­wards buy­ing bulk elec­tric­ity from Eskom. Eskom’s tar­iff in­creased by 15.6% com­pared with the city’s in­crease of 8.88%.

“We have made con­sid­er­able pro­vi­sion for vul­ner­a­ble house­holds… through the pro­vi­sion of rates re­bates and in­di­gent relief…”

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