Electricity price increases hurting household budgets

The hike in the cost of electricity has been a source of frustration for many South Africans as they navigate other price increases, including the cost of water, food and petrol. Stock photo.
The hike in the cost of electricity has been a source of frustration for many South Africans as they navigate other price increases, including the cost of water, food and petrol. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/choneschones

Herman Dormehl says his family is considering switching off the geyser at weekends and taking scheduled showers during the week too. This as he struggles to keep up with the cost of electricity and managing his family's expenses.

Johannesburg's City Power is among the electricity providers to have increased the residential prepaid tariffs by 14.59%, which is regulator Nersa's guideline increase. Spokesperson Isaac Mangena said tariffs are increased annually and factors taken into consideration include the increase allowed to Eskom as bulk supplier, and inflationary adjustments to City Power's operating cost. 

The hike in the cost of electricity has been a source of frustration for many South Africans as they navigate other price increases, including the cost of water, food and petrol.

Herman Dormehl.
Herman Dormehl.
Image: Supplied

“We’re constantly cutting too close to the bone. I have to be even stingier and make adjustments in spending,” said Brakpan resident Dormehl.

“I’m an average income earner and I’m already trying to cut costs as much as I can. The electrical bill adds an extra strain to my spending.

“I must be stingier. We are considering switching off the geyser on weekends — this means we won’t be taking baths then. During the week we might have to schedule baths on specific days. What used to last us through the month doesn’t even cover two weeks any more.

“The geyser and the stove uses up most of the electricity, but we can’t afford to not eat.”

Dormehl added that as a result he cannot afford to spoil himself and his family any more.

“There’s no money for nice things.”

Pontsho Malatji, who lives in Pretoria, said she was shocked by the dramatic change in the cost of electricity.

“It puts financial pressure on some of us — we actually budget for our spending. That it doesn’t last means you have to buy twice a month.

“With R100 you get 33 units, which is very little. I have heard people complain about how this even changes depending on the time of the month. It doesn’t even last like it used to, which means you have to keep recharging.”

Pontsho Malatji from Pretoria says she was shocked by the dramatic change in the cost of electricity.
Pontsho Malatji from Pretoria says she was shocked by the dramatic change in the cost of electricity.
Image: Supplied

She said her household budget has been negatively affected by recent price hikes: “A lot of things have shifted, we can't even afford to buy the things we used to enjoy buying, and the cost of living has gone way too high. Everything is going up.”

Lesedi Dimapo from Midrand said she thought the coldest winter week was to blame for her high electricity bill.

“I already can’t keep up with a lot of needs, this puts unnecessary pressure,” said Dimapo.

“We used to spend about R800 or less per month. This month when we loaded the R800, it only lasted for two weeks. But whether we’re angry or not we still have to pay.”

New tariffs explained

Mangena explained that City Power's prepaid tariff is based on the inclining block tariff methodology.

The tariff applicable increases as the actual monthly consumption exceeds the respective threshold for block 1, block 2 and block 3 of 350kWh, 500kWh and any usage above 500kWh.

To simplify it, he used an example of a customer, “Mandisa Maseko from Mondeor”.

Last financial year she used to pay R773.12 for the same 500kWh. From July she will pay R885.90, which is an extra R112.78 for the same 500kWh. Like other customers consuming 500kWh per month or less, she is paying an average of R1.7718/kWh compared to R1.5462/kWh for the previous financial year.

“Let's say, for instance, at the beginning of one month Mme Maseko decides to buy 350kWh of electricity. She will pay R592.93 for it. However, should Mme Maseko run out of electricity in the middle of the month, and would like to buy further 350kWh, Mme Maseko will pay R735.57.

“This is because the Mme Maseko will be buying at block 2 and block 3 tariffs, which are higher due to the inclining block tariff methodology whereby customer pays more when they consume more.”

Mangena advised that when running out of electricity before the end of the calendar month, customers should only buy enough electricity to sustain them until the end of the month. “In so doing, they can limit the usage of electricity.”

“If Mme Maseko estimated her consumption that month and anticipated that she may need 450kWh for a month, she could buy only 350kWh at the beginning of the month for R593.92. Depending on when in the month she runs out of electricity, she should buy a further 50-100kWh for a further R97.32-R194.65.

“By limiting monthly usage to less than 500kWh, customers can save in cost.”

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