Advocacy groups are seeing red over the timing of the request for a whopping 45% hike in charges over the next three years. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/ African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - In a first gut punch for consumers for 2019, Eskom is asking the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) for a 45% electricity increase spread over three years.

Public hearings on Eskom’s demand for a 15% electricity tariff increase over the next three years will start in Cape Town next week and advocacy groups are seeing red, saying government’s timing was a clear sign that it wanted increases pushed through.

This increase is on top of the 4.41% hike that was already granted to Eskom by Nersa. Eskom has argued that this 15% increase was needed to ensure that it maintained its stability and growth trajectory. 

But Energy Expert Coalition’s Ted Blom said Eskom’s application should be scrapped as the still-captured and corrupt utility should not be granted any increases until a full forensic audit was completed.

“As we now enter 2019, Eskom is rudderless. The Eskom board has proved to be dysfunctional and required ministerial intervention on several occasions. Although appointed 12 months ago, they were unable to carve out a credible turnaround plan despite the use of expensive outside consultants,” he said.

Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa intervened in the crisis at Eskom by appointing a team of eight to steer the board in the right direction by January 31 this year.

“The many futile interventions point to an unsalvageable and bankrupt Eskom. In fact, the pillaging is still continuing, this time by another ‘third force’ which has replaced the Zupta gang. Questions remain as to why no one has been prosecuted and no monetary recovery has occurred,” Blom said. 

Nersa said it had received Eskom’s third Multi-Year Price Determination Regulatory Clearing Account (RCA) Year 5 (2017/18) application totalling R21 million and fourth Multi-Year Price Determination application totalling R219 billion, R252bn and R291bn for the 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 financial years respectively. 

The energy regulator said that it would assess Eskom’s applications following due regulatory processes.

Eskom said that it continued to implement a short-to medium-term 9-point recovery programme that would see steady and sustained improvement in plant performance and coal stock levels. 

It added that steady progress was made with regard to fixing coal stockpiles as 35 new coal contracts were concluded in the last year.

It also said the probability of load shedding remained low until January 13.

Stop CoCT founder Sandra Dickson said the timing of the public hearings showed that the increases should be rubber stamped.

“It is the worst decision to hold public hearings so early in the January. We also need to state that consumers cannot pay these exorbitant increases. It just does not work. 

“The average family earns about R15 000 and more. For all that money to go to the City and to Eskom is absolutely criminal. People cannot survive,” she said.

Dickson said although Eskom had problems, its cash flows remained important. “They should get an increase but nothing above the current inflation rate… We need Eskom to run properly but cannot expect people to pay such high rates,” she said.

Public hearings on the increases will be held on January 14 at the Southern Sun Cape Sun Hotel in the city between 9am and 5pm.

@JasonFelix

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Cape Argus