Sparks fly as Eskom seeks price hike

ESKOM is set to ask the electricity regulator to endorse another electricity price hike for next year.

Eskom chief executive Jacob Maroga said yesterday that Eskom needed to fund building "more infrastructure".

The government's plans to move away from producing electricity mainly from coal, and towards hydropower, would also have to be funded, he said.

Maroga declined to say how much the price would go up next year and would only say "consumers can look forward to the lights being on today, tomorrow and can invest in the future".

He confirmed he would ask for a new three-year tariff starting on April 1 2010, and hinted that it would be larger than the 31,3percent hike approved by electricity regulator Nersa this year.

"When we asked for price increases last year we assessed what Eskom needed to keep the lights on against what was provided.

"We made a decision that we would do what was required to keep the lights on. Clearly you can't do that forever," he said.

But MPs told him they would not endorse a steep price hike and accused him of poor planning.

"The poor people are suffering down there. You grew up in the rural areas yourself. You should never forget where you come from," said ANC MP S'busiso Radebe.

Radebe accused Maroga of wasting money trucking coal from KwaZulu-Natal to Mpumalanga even though Mpumalanga was a major coal producer - and said Maroga should contribute his "annual bonus" to Eskom's coffers.