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South Africa’s unemployed cry foul over Eskom tariff hike

Membership-driven South African non-profit organisation the Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) has berated the country’s National Energy Regulator (NERSA) for approving an 18.65% tariff hike requested by the national utility service provider Eskom.

The AoU released a statement today in which it detailed its strong objection to NERSA’s decision amid increasing rolling blackouts.

South Africa has continued to experience load-shedding or scheduled blackouts – up to stage 6 - as Eskom battles with infrastructure maintenance and technical breakdowns.

Local media has reported extensively on the situation, with the latest headlines detailing plans by civil society organisations, unions and political parties to mobilise protest action.

The AoU’s statement reads: “The Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) strongly opposes the National Energy Regulator’s (NERSA) decision to approve Eskom’s 18.65% electricity tariff hike, effective from 1 April amid increased rolling blackouts. In June 2021, Eskom applied for a 32% tariff increase for the 2023/2024 financial year and an additional 22.52% in 2024/2025.”

“With more than 11 million South Africans being jobless, how on earth does NERSA think we will be able to afford such steep tariffs? The public should not have to pay for ongoing corruption, mismanagement and Eskom’s wasteful expenditure. Eskom must accept responsibility for its own problems and come up with alternative solutions. It is perplexing that Eskom is failing to repair and maintain its existing fleet despite the fact that we are paying exorbitant electricity rates only to be subjected to extended load-shedding.”

The organisation stressed the need for “a fully transparent and participatory national dialogue around the energy crisis that we face in South Africa… with more environmentally sustainable, efficient and affordable energy options shaping that dialogue”.

It said the government must invest in more sustainable, efficient and affordable energy options like solar and wind power “and do so with and through the public”.

“We are calling on communities, organisations, and individuals to make their voices heard by protesting and challenging both NERSA and Eskom. Eskom is stifling consumers, especially the poorest of the poor, who are barely affording the current rates,” the AoU statement continued.

According to media statements published by Eskom on its website and dated 16 January 2023, during the course of this week 14 generators are expected to return to service, “helping to ease the pressure on the power system".

“Stage 4 loadshedding will be implemented at 05:00 – 16:00 daily from Tuesday morning, with Stage 5 loadshedding daily from 16:00 – 05:00. Eskom cautions the public, however, that there is a high degree of uncertainty associated with this and that these changes will only be possible in their entirety if the units return to service as planned. Changes in the stages of loadshedding can therefore occur at short notice, due to the inherent unreliability of the coal power station fleet. A further update will be published as soon as any significant changes occur.”  

Battery energy

In early December 2022, ITWeb reported that Eskom has begun the construction of its much-anticipated energy storage facility under its Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project.

The power utility, in partnership with South Korean firm Hyosung Heavy Industries, held a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of the site in KwaZulu-Natal.

ITWeb quoted a statement released by Eskom in which it said the construction of the facility will take between seven and 12 months, and the batteries on the site will be charged from the main grid via Eskom’s Elandskop substation.

The facility will have a capacity of 8MW, equivalent to 32MWh of distributed electricity, enough to power a town such as Howick for four hours, says the power utility.

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