Energy, and anger, waves surged through the country as Eskom, South Africa’s sole electricity generator, proposed massive planned electricity price increases earlier this week. An annual increase of 16% is proposed for the next five years. Which brings us to a cost increase from the current 61cents per kWh to 128cents per kWh by 2017/18. During 2011, Eskom implemented a national 25% price increase. Needless to say, the country is seeing red lights.
Environmental activists including groundWork, Earthlife Africa and Greenpeace responded to the recent Eskom announcements with protests at Eskom’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Megawatt Park. Demanding a decisive change in coal-fired power stations, groundWork added that Eskom has failed South Africa’s population. South Africa is fast approaching a situation where intermittent electricity supply is a very common, often daily, occurrence. Protests further pounded on the injustice of the proposed price increases, health risks associated with the country’s coal-fired power stations as well as the irresponsible water usage associated with coal-fired power stations – water usage that South Africa as a water-stressed country, cannot afford.
Eskom’s CEO, Brian Dames announced that Eskom needs to keep the country’s lights burning, and continued electricity supply can only be provided with the proposed price increases. What is causing a further uproar is that only 3% of the proposed 16% increase will be allocated to developing the country’s renewable energy systems, with Eskom receiving the remaining 13%. Since the first announcements, Eskom has refused further formal discussion and comment, passing this responsibility to the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa). Nersa will be responsible for reviewing Eskom’s proposed increases and their decision is expected by the end of February 2013. However, Nersa is promising intensive consultation and public hearings to inform their decision.
Meanwhile, the media continues to report on how the proposed annual 16% increase can cause job losses, food and fuel price increases. But apart from all the financial talk involved, Eskom still has to solve the country’s energy insecurity. Renewable energy is well-supported by the public, yet it remains questionable whether renewable energy is high on Eskom’s priority list…Eskom is after all only willing to allocate minimal amounts to renewable, clean energy.
Photo credits: some rights reserve by muora via flickr