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More electricity hikes for SA

On 24 March 2011, in News, by Andrew Bennett
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South Africa is faced with the threat of blackouts this winter as domestic electricity usage peaks – and the City of Cape Town has urged everyone to reduce energy consumption by between 25 and 40 percent. On Wednesday the city launched an energy-saving campaign and said mid- to high-income energy consumers would be paying more when new electricity tariffs are introduced, if they were not reducing electricity consumption.

Eskom wants major cities to save up to 10 percent of energy this year, to avoid blackouts.

City director of electricity services Leslie Rencontre said households that use more energy would pay more when the electricity price hikes are implemented in July. He said the campaign targeted households that use more than 450 kilowatts a month. “If you use more, you will pay more,” Rencontre said.

Mayoral committee member for utility services Clive Justus said efficient use of electricity was important because of the steeply rising electricity tariffs and the medium-term shortage of South Africa’s electricity capacity “The need to reduce operating costs, the cost of inefficient energy use to the economy, the risk of future load shedding and ever increasing carbon emissions all add up to the urgent need for a concerted effort to improve our electricity efficiency in Cape Town,” Justus said.

The first electricity tariffs are going up by about 20 percent in July. Head of energy and climate change, Sarah Ward said there were a number of reasons the city was calling on residents to save electricity. “We have had cheap electricity in the past and people are not yet used to being energy efficient. “A 25 to 40 percent reduction by mid- to high-income households would make a considerable difference as residential electricity consumption is responsible for a massive 43 percent of the total electricity consumption in Cape Town,” said Ward.

The city said it had spent considerable time researching what residents can do to save electricity. There are no-cost actions, like turning the geyser thermostat down to 60°C. That will enable residents to save at least 5 percent on their electricity bill. Investing less than R1 000 on an energy efficient showerhead and a geyser blanket will save more and investing in options like solar water heating and ceiling insulation will save the most. Doing all of these will save residents 50 percent or more on their electricity costs – and add value to the property.

Ward said the city had put a range of initiatives in place to encourage energy efficiency. An energy efficiency forum was set up for large commercial and industrial electricity consumers to provide managers of offices, shopping centres and hotels with practical knowledge on energy-efficient solutions. Public lighting and traffic lights were being retrofitted to be more energy efficient. The city is undertaking energy efficiency retrofits on some of its largest buildings, namely Durbanville, Fezeka, Ottery and Plumstead Civic Centres, Ward said.

On Wednesday, the Energy Department said consumers were unlikely to face further electricity tariff hikes to recover an estimated R30-billion needed to upgrade distribution infrastructure. The deputy director-general for electricity, nuclear and clean energy, Ompi Aphane, said the department had four potential ways to fund the desperately needed overhaul of outdated supply networks. These were a national levy or municipal surcharges, private partnerships, development funding, potentially from the World Bank, and tariff adjustments. “We are looking at all these options, and the World Bank is keen to facilitate any of them,” he said.

Reports following a briefing by Energy Minister Dipuo Peters to Parliament’s portfolio committee on Tuesday, that the department was considering imposing a levy that could send tariffs soaring beyond the annual 25 percent hike, were misleading Aphane stressed that only the finance ministry had the power to impose a levy. Any increase in tariffs to recover the money would be minimal, and would not affect the poorest. They are shielded from the full effect of the yearly 25 percent increases over three years that came into effect last year.

Cape Times xolani.koyana@inl.co.za

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