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Dark days coming – mayor

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Mayor Kagisho Sonyoni has warned that the city could face “dark days and load shedding” should electricity prices not be increased.

Picture: Sandi Kwon Hoo

SOL PLAATJE Municipality executive mayor Kagisho Sonyoni warned that the city could face “dark days and load shedding” should electricity prices not be increased.

Sonyoni was speaking at a council meeting that was held this week to discuss the 2022/23 annual budget.

Council has proposed a 6.82 percent increase to the electricity tariffs, which Sonyoni referred to as “the elephant in the room”.

“Our options are to give electricity to customers for free to avoid the unknown and be heroes of the century; we can establish an entity that will render electricity independent of the municipality, we become parent municipality and control the entity.

“We can petition the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to develop a Sol Plaatje-specific tariff structure outside the electricity pricing policy.”

Sonyoni added that it was necessary to provide a reasonable and equitable tariff structure and find a balance between people and to ensure that the lights “stay on”.

“This is entirely up to us. The previous council resolved to scrap the basic charge and are hailed heroes by the community and the municipality is now at the deep end of the sea, as Eskom is in the process of lodging a dispute on the non-payment of its account. With no viable payment plan in sight, dark days are coming, blackout and load shedding are now unavoidable.”

Sonyoni stated that the electricity tariff structure that was to be introduced as from July 1 would see non-indigent residential customers charged a R65.24 per month basic charge and R2.61 per amp as a capacity charge.

“End users have an option to change their capacity between 30, 40, 50 and 60 amps over the next three years. The capacity charge converts to R82.67 per month for a 30-amp capacity, R110.23 for 40 amps, R137.79 for 50 amps and R165.35 for a 60-amp capacity. All these costs are basic and billed before energy purchases or consumption.

“It is agreed that for the first year, 2022/23, the basic and capacity charges will be billed in the account with other municipal services. An assessment will be made every quarter on billed versus paid and this will inform the billing and collection strategy in 2023/24.”

Sonyoni added that no indigent households would be billed for basic and capacity charges.

“They will be cross-subsidised by other customer groups.”

Sonyoni noted that intermittent power outages were affecting businesses and impacted on their ability to pay for services provided by the municipality.

“We need to have a clearer appreciation of the impact of these outages on the confidence that potential investors will have in investing in the country as energy is at the centre of many business operations.”

He stated that electricity losses were estimated at around 32 percent of the bulk supply, due to a range of factors including billing and poor management of facilities.

He acknowledged the need to review the municipal energy policy to mitigate the effects of electricity interruptions through sourcing and securing alternative energy sources.

“This may also assist the municipality in addressing the perception that the cost of electricity in the municipality is among the highest in the country. Through this project, the municipality should be in a position to reduce the burden of electricity costs on the shoulders of our communities.”

Sonyoni added that the municipality was addressing cable theft and vandalism of infrastructure.

“The municipality lost millions of rand due to vandalism and theft and will engage with law enforcement agencies in order to find a long-lasting solution to the theft of cables. There is a call from the Minister of Public Enterprise to close all scrap metal dealers in the country as vandalism has a huge impact on the economy of the country.”

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