Public hearings on Eskom’s proposed increase to the electricity tariff are taking place in Durban. Picture: EPA

Representatives of various communities and civil society formations yesterday pleaded with energy regulator Nersa not to approve any hikes in electricity tariffs, saying the poor simply cannot afford these.

Munsamy Naicker, a pensioner and fisherman from Phoenix, was one of the people who made submissions at the public hearings held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC yesterday.

He said pensioners were struggling to keep up with electricity prices. 

“It is a very big stress for pensioners, (blood) pressure has gone high, sugar levels have gone high now that the money (for electricity) is gonna be high,” he said.

Zelda Norris, a resident of Sydenham heights, also pleaded the case for pensioners and the poor. 

“Most electricity bills are in excess of  R1 000 a month and therefore most people are forced to use candles and paraffin stoves and that results in fires,” she said.

Norris suggested that a solution may be to explore renewable sources of energy, and use those to provide electricity to the poor.

Noluthando Mbeje of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) said the organisation had conducted a survey which revealed that electricity was affordable to very few people.

The door-to-door survey was conducted in Bluff, Clairwood, Durban Central, KwaMakhutha, Merebank and Wentworth. 

“What this survey found is that people are battling with the cost of electricity, particularly pensioners and the unemployed.”

Mbeje said of those surveyed, 75.3% said electricity was not affordable to them. 

“Regarding disconnections, 46.6% of people have been disconnected at some stage or another.”

She accused Eskom of resisting renewable energy sources despite these being shown to be much cheaper than coal fired sources

“If coal costs are going to rise into the future and renewable energy costs are going to decrease, then why would we continue with coal fired electricity?” Mbeje asked.

Sizwe Shiba of Mayine said Nersa should consider the plight of the poor, especially those in informal housing before granting any tariff increases. 

Alice Thompson of Earthlife Africa, said environmentally sustainable sources of energy should be explored as the current model is no longer economically or environmentally sustainable.

She warned that nuclear energy was a major concern and could result in even more costs being incurred by the power utility. Even decommissioning a nuclear plant at the end of its life is costly, she said.

The hearings continue today.