Cape Town - 121022 - South African power utility Eskom has applied to more than double the price of its electricity over the next five years. The state-owned utility said it has applied for a 16 percent annual increase for five years from April 2013 to March 2018. Many South Africans are struggling with the current cost of electricity. Pictured is teacher Michael Guzana with his son Hluma Guzana. Reporter: Yolisa Tswana PICTURE: SUPPLIED

Johannesburg - Wide acclamation has greeted a move by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) to limit an electricity tariff hike to eight percent over the next five years.

The decision was welcomed by, among others, the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), Agri SA, the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, Western Cape Finance MEC Alan Winde, and the Manufacturing Circle.

Eskom, which had applied for a 16 percent increase each year for the next five years, said Nersa's decision could present difficulties.

Announcing the decision, Nersa chairwoman Cecilia Khuzwayo said it was “based on facts”.

“The third multi-year price determination 1/8MYPD3 3/8 will be eight percent over the next five years,” she said.

The increase Eskom had sought would have more than doubled the current price, taking it from 61 cents a kilowatt hour in 2012/13, to 128 cents a kWh in 2017/18.

As a result of Nersa's decision, the price will increase from 65.51 cents a kWh in 2013/14 to 89.13 cents a kWh in 2018.

This meant the total revenue approved for the five-year period amounted to R906 million.

In reaching that amount, Nersa had conducted a detailed analysis of Eskom's application, and had followed due process by holding public discussions on the tariffs.

“Our challenge... has been and still remains regulating the energy sector in the manner that balances the interests of energy producers on one hand and consumers on the other hand,” she said.

Eskom spokeswoman Hillary Joffe said the parastatal would study the decision.

“We have noted the decision and it will present a challenge for Eskom,” she said, adding that Eskom would try to keep the country's lights on.

“We will now be looking at how we can meet this challenge,” she said.

Eskom later said in a statement the new tariffs would take effect on April 1 for Eskom customers, and on July 1 for municipal customers.

Nersa electricity subcommittee chairman Thembani Bukula said the eight percent increase was sufficient for Eskom to fulfil its obligations.

“Our function is not to run Eskom into the ground.”

He said the decision on tariffs had been made independently of Eskom.

“No, we did not speak to Eskom. We tell them what the decision is,” he said in a response to a question.

Asked whether Eskom could appeal Nersa's decision, Bukula said legislation allowed for the parastatal to approach the high court, if necessary.

TAU SA president Louis Meintjes said the tariffs represented an increase in farmers' monthly accounts.

“If government is not going to consider ways and means to support the producers, the South African population is indeed facing a bleak future,” he said.

Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said the decreased rate would affect inflation.

“We welcome the eight percent increase.... Although the increase will still be felt by working people, we feel that this is much better than the 16 percent requested by Eskom.”

Agri SA president Johannes Möller said the new tariffs were “realistic”.

“This will be conducive towards creating a more certain business environment in South Africa,” he said.

DA MP Lance Greyling said the decrease was a step in the right direction for the government.

“We call on Eskom to act responsibly and take the initiative in finding other funding models and policies that will assist in generating more cost-effective energy.”

IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini applauded Nersa for resisting pressure from Eskom to accept the 16 percent increase.

Winde said Eskom needed to look at innovative ways of producing electricity.

“We expect that between 40 and 50 percent of wind power projects in South Africa and 15 percent of solar energy projects will be set up in the Western Cape by 2014, to provide for about 10 percent of our region's energy needs.”

Manufacturing Circle spokesman Coenraad Bezuidenhout said the tariffs were a “tremendous relief to manufacturers”.

“It is a good decision that will support the maintenance of the manufacturing base, that will contain inflation and ensure a better future for South Africa.” - Sapa