Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

JOHANNESBURG - Lobby group Afribusiness said this week it was worried the National Energy Regulator of South Africa was attempting to create a database of private electricity producers in order to levy fees on people living off the national grid.

Nersa has published rules for the registration of "small-scale embedded generation" and has invited public comment until May 31.

"AfriBusiness believes Nersa is attempting to create a database of private electricity producers which could be used to identify individuals who are living off the grid completely or partially, which will allow Nersa or municipalities to levy fees for the operation of such systems," the business group said.

It said in the wake of chronic electricity shortages in South Africa in 2008 and about three years ago, some consumers had heeded a call by state utility Eskom to utilise less of its electricity.

"Now that they have heeded the call, there is an attempt to make an income off the dwindling electricity sales as more people and companies are going off grid," Afribusiness said.

The group said Nersa was attempting to regulate private electricity production in another example of unnecessary interference by the state to hinder the private sector.

"Private electricity production is not harming anyone except those state-owned enterprises and local municipalities that are now bearing the brunt of their efforts to have South Africans use less electricity from local suppliers," said Afribusiness.

"“AfriBusiness will submit comments to Nersa regarding these regulations and is urging the public to do the same," said Armand Greyling, a law and policy analyst at the lobby group.

"It is important to protect the private sector and free-market principles from state interference as such interference mostly leads to detrimental consequences for those who are being overregulated."

- African News Agency