Electricity hike in the spotlight

THE National Energy Regulator of SA completed its first public hearing on Eskom's proposed tariff hike yesterday.

THE National Energy Regulator of SA completed its first public hearing on Eskom's proposed tariff hike yesterday.

The hearing was held in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

"Eskom opened the hearing and then the other participants made presentations," Nersa spokesman Charles Hlebela said.

He said one of the main concerns of business and labour at the hearing was the possibility of job losses should Eskom receive its proposed tariff hike of 35percent every year for three years.

"At the end of the hearings, Eskom responded to some of the parties' concerns," Hlebela said.

Sappi SA, TSB Sugar, Mpumalanga Cane Growers, the SA Institute of Electrical Engineers, the Congress of SA Trade Unions and Tankless Geysers for Africa participated in the hearing.

The hearings move to Limpopo today. Participants will include Eskom, Cosatu, the office of the premier, the Plastics Converters Association of SA, the SA NGO Coalition and the Nhzelele Electricity Customer Forum.

Public hearings for Eskom's required revenue application for the period April 1 2010 to March 31 2013 will be held in all provinces, culminating in the last hearing on January 21 in Gauteng.

According to Eskom, it had to raise its tariffs to fund its R385billion expansion plan.

In a survey carried out in December by research company TNS, over 80percent of a sample of people surveyed felt the proposed price increase would be difficult to cope with.

"Eight out of ten people will battle to cope with the mooted electricity price rises - only a quarter feel they are justified," the company said of the 2000 people questioned.

Eskom had initially asked for three annual price increases of 45percent, but this request was revised to 35percent a year for three years.

"This comes in the wake of pressure from all political parties as well as Cosatu, with significant concerns being raised about the inflationary effects of such large price rises, as well as the impact on an economy still struggling to cope with the current recession," TNS said.

The DA said yesterday the public hearings must be extended.

The tariff hike request was a direct consequence of the "chronic failure" of a state-owned enterprise to provide South Africans with an efficient, reliable and cost-effective service, the DA's shadow minister of energy Sejamothopo Motau said.

"The DA will be in contact with Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters to insist on an extension of the period for public comment to ensure the process is transparent and democratic."- Sapa