The South African Local Government Association (Salga) in KwaZulu-Natal has welcomed the Eskom debt relief arrangement for municipalities that was announced by the finance minister on Wednesday.
The arrangement would see municipalities’ debt being written off over a three-year period provided certain conditions were met, including increasing revenue collection and fast-tracking the implementation of smart meters.
Municipalities that fail to meet the conditions will need to repay the remainder of their arrears debt to Eskom, including interest and penalties.
Salga hosted an Energy Crisis Summit on Thursday in Durban.
Speaking on the debt relief arrangement, Salga KZN chairperson Thami Ntuli said it was worrying that one of the conditions set out was that municipalities had to increase the installation of prepaid meters.
“To install meters requires a budget.
It’s difficult for this to happen. There actually needs to be a grant set up to assist municipalities to fund the additional installation of smart meters.
“Remember, municipalities are already under pressure. They are incurring extra expenses due to the load shedding and it is going to be difficult to fund smart meters.
“We have to see what happens, but we welcome the announcement by Finance Minister Godongwana on Eskom debt relief.”
At the energy crisis summit, Eskom and the KZN Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department discussed plans they put in place to address load shedding.
Harish Raghnandan, chief engineer at Eskom in KZN, said they wanted to get the Energy Available Factor to 70% in 2024.
“To get to this we have brought Kusile unit 1 online and we are expecting Kusile unit 2 and Kusile unit 3 to come back to service soon, this will bring more generating capacity. We also will be addressing maintenance at Koeberg unit 1 and Koeberg unit 2.
“We want to bring Koeberg unit 1 back to service and then take Koeberg unit 2 off-line for maintenance as this is important to build capacity. We also plan to bring Medupi unit 4 back to service next year.”
Barbara Mgutshini, deputy director-general in the KZN Cogta department, said they had established a war room to speedily address the energy crisis.
“We have three municipalities, namely eThekwini Metro, City of uMhlathuze and KwaDukuza Municipality, that are embarking on programmes to generate energy capacity that includes solar energy, gas to power and installing microgrids.
“We want to be able to generate energy capacity so that we don't only rely on Eskom for electricity.”
Mgutshini added that they would also be looking at ways to reduce electricity usage.
“We will be installing energy-saving devices and smart meters and will be exploring all options where we can install solar and LED lights.”