150711. Sunset in Crownmines, Johannesburg. The picture can be used for Eskom energy supply crisis. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Pay up or the lights go off on August 4. That’s what Eskom has told three Free State local municipalities that together owe more than half-a-billion rand on overdue power bills.

They are Maluti-A-Phofung, which owes R228 million; Ngwathe, which owes R216m; and Dihlabeng, which owes R58m.

All the debts have been outstanding for more than 90 days.

“We are very serious about enforcing municipal debt management,” executive Erica Johnson said during the presentation of the power utility’s annual results on Friday.

Eskom issued disconnection notices to the three municipalities on June 6.

An Eskom official said the disconnections would be implemented on August 4 “if no payment has been received or if no payment plan has been presented to Eskom”.

Customers directly supplied by Eskom would not be affected, it said.

* Ngwathe includes Heilbron, Koppies, Parys and Vredefort.

* Maluti-A-Phofung includes Harrismith, Kestell, Phuthaditjhaba, Tsheseng, Tshiame and Witsieshoek.

* Dihlabeng includes Bethlehem, Clarens, Fouriesburg, Paul Roux and Rosendal.

Soweto is another area of unpaid electricity bills. Johnson said that the solution there was to install split meters.

Eskom also emphasised the need to move to cost-reflective tariffs, which means big increases in the price of electricity over the next few years.

It reported an after-tax profit of R7 billion for 2013/14.

The national regulator decision to grant it lower price increases than requested had resulted in a revenue shortfall of R225bn, which would have to be made up somehow.

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The Star