Energy regulator restores public hearings on proposed power rate increases after backlash


NERSA has proposed an average increase of 7.47% in municipal electricity tariffs from July 1, 2022. Photo by Buziwe Nocuze

  • NERSA says it has been asked by many stakeholders to hold public hearings on municipal electricity rate increases in 2022.
  • The regulator has proposed an average increase of 7.47% in municipal electricity tariffs from July 1, 2022.
  • But initially he didn’t want to hold public hearings saying few or no people had come forward in the past.

South Africa’s national energy regulator (NERSA) said its initial decision not to hold public hearings on its proposals to increase municipal electricity tariffs did not mean it was not unwilling to hear residents’ views on the matter.

NERSA proposed an average increase of 7.47% in municipal electricity tariffs from July 1, 2022. But it initially advised that there would be no public hearings on the issue. The move provoked a massive backlash from members of the public who said they couldn’t afford another above-inflation increase given that all other living costs went up.

READ | ‘We’re not getting through this already’: Cape Town residents rail against latest tariff and rate hikes

Earlier this week, the DA also called NERSA’s decision not to hold public hearings “unlawful” because it deprives residents of their right to a fair procedural process to express their opinions. He also pointed out that this violates Section 10(1)(d) of the NERSA Act.

“Consumers are already struggling to keep the lights on at current electricity price levels, but NERSA believes it is not important to probe their views on another rate increase,” said DA MP Kevin Mileham.

But NERSA said it broke no rules. The regulator pointed out that it had released a consultation paper on the municipal guideline increase and benchmarks and asked the public to submit comments.

“The energy regulator has chosen not to hold a public hearing on the key issues highlighted in the consultation document on the increase in the municipal directive and the tariff references, but has instead decided to follow a process reviews and comments,” NERSA wrote in a statement on Saturday.

He said the deadline for submitting comments was April 22, 2022.

A change of heart

NERSA said it decided not to hold public hearings because few or no presenters had attended in the past.

“In addition, the energy regulator is required to approve the guideline increase and rate references in time to allow municipalities to prepare rate applications for review by NERSA,” he added. .

NERSA said municipalities still have to present their budgets to their respective councils when new tariffs are approved. Thus, the regulator wanted to publish the final guideline increase and benchmarks by May 11, 2022, which would finalize the municipal pricing process for implementation by July 1, 2022.

But because many stakeholders had a problem with the suspension of public hearings, NERSA has now changed its mind.

“NERSA has decided to hold a public hearing on a date to be published later, which will provide stakeholders with a further opportunity to engage on the issues raised in the consultation document. NERSA remains committed to its regulatory principle of being transparent in its decision-making process,” he said.

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