BUSINESS, trade unions and civil society organisations will be speaking with a united voice of opposition to Eskom’s proposed electricity tariff hike when the National Electricity Regulator of SA (Nersa) holds public hearings in the Mother City on Tuesday.
Day-long hearings are planned in all nine provinces over the next two weeks so Nersa can consult society on Eskom’s application for annual hikes of 16% over the next three years to fund its capital expansion programme. There has already been a groundswell of opposition by business and labour on the grounds that it will reduce the competitiveness of the economy and add to the cost of living, respectively.
A consortium of civil society organisations, mainly those concerned with the environment plan and sustainable energy plan, will protest outside the hearing at the Cape Town International Convention Centre Tuesday. The group will demand that alternative plans based on renewable energy and energy efficiency be considered before Nersa approves Eskom’s tariff hike application which they say will hurt the poor and working class.
The National Union of Mineworkers will be making a submission Tuesday, as will the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce, which will argue that the proposed increases are "unaffordable and will have a devastating effect on the economy and small business in particular".
The chamber’s executive director, Viola Manuel, and chairman of its industrial focus group, Peter Haylett, will express grave concerns about the management of Eskom which neglected maintenance in the good years to improve the bottom line and was now having to play catch-up. They will argue for greater efficiency in the use of electricity and even propose that domestic consumers be rationed if this is necessary.
"We have been shocked by evidence of the mismanagement of coal supplies and how this has lead to higher coal costs. There is also ample evidence of extravagance and wastage while the average Eskom salary is now about R500,000 a year," the chamber will say.
"There has been an exodus of skills and Eskom now has to import technicians to perform highly skilled procedures.
"Further evidence of poor management can be seen in the escalating costs of the new power stations which Eskom is building and which are now well behind schedule and over budget," it will say.
The chamber will accuse Eskom of failing to introduce measures to curb peak demand while lowering generation costs for peaking power and municipalities of relying too heavily on the sale of electricity as a source of revenue.
It will urge that greater use be made of the "cheaper and cleaner" natural gas, vast reserves of which had been found off the Mozambican and Namibian coastline.
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