Instead of granting increases to Eskom’s “fat cats”, the state-owned energy supplier should be told to reclaim money stolen through corruption, representatives from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) were told today.
“We propose a radical shift in how electricity is produced and we insist those who were party to the corruption which has undermined this parastatal be prosecuted. They must be put in jail,” said Desmond D’Sa, environmentalist and founder of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance.
D’Sa was speaking at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, where Nersa was conducting public hearings into Eskom’s proposed 15 percent annual increase in electricity tariffs for the next three years.
Senior Eskom representatives had spent the better part of the morning presenting on why the increase was justified.
Eskom contends that its financial situation is unsustainable and a targeted loss of over R15 billion could be expected in 2019 if the increase is not granted. The increase, according to Eskom, would still not cover its costs. Previous increases had been below the inflation rate, it said.
“The argument they presented today should have been different. They should have given us a history of what has happened at Eskom over the last few years, and what the Zondo commission of inquiry has exposed – that Eskom has been captured and that there has been looting and stealing of the money of the citizens and the taxpayers of this country. There is no doubt anymore,” said D’Sa.
He said the proposed increases would lead to unemployment and that the poor and elderly would be disconnected.
Municipalities had added their own increases, said D’Sa, and they had been ruthless in carrying out their disconnections — especially in eThekwini. The high cost of energy drove the need for illegal connections, he said, which in turn led to the death of children by electrocution.
The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO, Melanie Veness, questioned if Eskom was in fact legally allowed to apply for an increase.
“The Electricity Regulation Act talks about the fact that you must enable an efficient licensee full costs for its licensed activities. There are no private sector businesses or shareholders that would ever tolerate results like [Eskom’s],” said Veness.
“Decreasing sales, bloated staff, ballooning debt and financial losses; quite honestly it is shameful and it is embarrassing for every South African. Eskom cannot in its current state be considered an efficient licensee and therefore I must start on this basis, questioning whether this is a valid application,” she said.
Veness said the chamber rejected “in the strongest terms” the Independent Power Producer (IPP) programme where the parastatal buys energy from renewable sources.
“This is expensive energy and we don’t need it,” said Veness, adding that studies had shown renewables were 13 percent more expensive than the cost of energy generated by Eskom. She called for an overhaul of the IPP programme.
Veness further questioned if Eskom was “efficient” in its attempts to control expenses.
The hearings continue.
– African News Agency (ANA)