Energy regulator reinstates public hearings on proposed electricity tariff increases after backlash

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

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

  • NERSA says many stakeholders have requested it to hold public hearings about the 2022 municipal electricity tariff increases.
  • The regulator proposed an average increase of 7.47% in municipal electricity tariffs from 1 July 2022. 
  • But it initially did not want to hold public hearings saying that few or no people showed up in the past.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) says its initial decision not to hold public hearings about its proposed municipal electricity tariff increases did not mean it wasn’t willing to hear residents’ views on the issue.

NERSA proposed an average increase of 7.47% in municipal electricity tariffs from 1 July 2022. But it initially advised that there would be no public hearings on the matter. That move attracted massive backlash from members of the public who said they cannot stomach another above-inflation increase, given that all other costs of living have gone up.

READ | ‘We are not coping already’: Cape Town residents up in arms over latest tariff and rate hikes

Earlier this week, the DA also called NERSA’s decision not to hold public hearings “Illegal” as it denies residents their right to a procedurally fair process to air their views. It 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 prices cost levels, yet NERSA thinks it is not important to canvass their views on another tariff increase,” said the DA MP Kevin Mileham.

But NERSA said it had not violated any rules. The regulator pointed out that it published a consultation paper on the municipal guideline increase and benchmarks and requested the public to submit comments.

“The energy regulator opted not to hold a public hearing on the key issues highlighted in the consultation paper on the municipal guideline increase and tariff benchmarks, but rather decided to follow a notice and comment process,” wrote NERSA in a statement on Saturday.

It said the deadline for the submission of comments is 22 April 2022.

A change of heart

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

“Furthermore, the energy regulator is required to approve the guideline increase and tariff benchmarks in time to allow municipalities to prepare tariff applications for consideration by NERSA,” it added.

NERSA said that municipalities still need to table their budgets to their respective councils when new tariffs are approved. So, the regulator wanted to publish the final guideline increase and benchmarks by 11 May 2022, which would enable the municipal tariff process to be finalised for implementation by 1 July 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 paper. NERSA remains committed to its regulatory principle of being transparent in its decision-making processes,” it said.

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