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Is Eskom trying to Dissuade South Africans from Using Solar Power?

Umm Muhammed Umar

There’s been outrage after it emerged that solar PV users could pay almost R1000 a month for Eskom grid tied electricity, based on the 2020/2021 proposal from the power utility. Eskom intends to submit a new tariff proposal to NERSA, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa next month, which will apply from April 1st 2023, and March 31st 2024. This tariff proposal will be based on the principles of the 2020 plan on which NASA did not decide. Radio Islam discussed this with DA MP, Kevin Mileham.

Mileham explained that ‘grid tied’ means is that homeowners and businesses will have their solar panels on their roof, but they have a connection to the grid. In other words, they have a meter and they are still able to, where there is a short supply of electricity from the solar panels, take electricity from the Eskom supply. The proposal, if it is introduced, will make people reconsider before actually installing solar power systems – for some people that may be more than what they pay for electricity at the moment. Mileham said, “we should be encouraging people to put solar panels on their roofs to ease the burden on Eskom because we know that Eskom’s generation capacity can’t keep up with demand.” He added, “we should be making it easier and cheaper and providing them with tax rebates and the like, to make sure that people are going up there and putting solar panels on the roof.”

If a household or business does not go totally off the grid, they have no choice but to pay for the service, even if they do not use it. Eskom’s argument is that they need to pay for the grid infrastructure. Mileham said, “that’s a reasonable argument, except that most households and businesses are connected to municipal distribution channels and they pay the municipality for that electricity availability tariff.” He explained, “So if you’re an ordinary home owner, on your municipal bill you will get an electricity tariff, and then your consumption charge. Eskom is proposing another R938 over and above that. And that’s just unfair.” He said, “You’re basically paying for electricity you’re not receiving.

Meanwhile, Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that government is looking at another state entity which will be in competition with the current state-owned entity, Eskom. An outraged Mileham said that the idea was utter madness. He said, “Eskom is unable to meet the generation demand of South Africa. And part of its problem is its financial resources – it is owed billions by municipalities. It owes billions for the power plants that it has constructed, Medupi and Kusile in particular. So, to set up a new generation company, is utter madness, particularly when you consider that that the plan that is being driven by Minister Gwede Mantashe, based on coal, gas, and nuclear.” He elaborated, “those are technologies that require a long lead time to implement. You can’t put up a coal fired power plant overnight. You can’t put up a nuclear power plant overnight. Secondly, they are very, very expensive, so we need to look at -if we’re going to address the rolling blackouts, if we’re going to address the crisis of loadshedding – what we can bring on the grid as quickly as we can.”

Latest reports read that Eskom spokesperson, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, said that the proposal has not as yet been released, and that the official cost for cost-reflective tariffs was R216.

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