NELSON Mandela Bay residents who use an excessive amount of electricity will be hit by tariff increases of as much as 35%, while those who keep power usage to a minimum will end up paying less than the 11% increase announced by the municipality earlier this year.
And prepaid users have been advised to buy just enough electricity for the month, as buying in bulk will end up costing them a whole lot more.
In a bid to keep electricity usage down, a new stepped tariff rate kicked in in the city yesterday. As with the stepped water tariffs that were introduced in the city during the recent drought, the new electricity tariffs do not take into account how many people live on the property.
Despite the increases having taken effect yesterday, to coincide with the first day of the municipality’s 2012/13 financial year, the municipality will only officially announce the new rates at a media conference tomorrow.
However, the metro confirmed that residents using more than 658kW of electricity a month would be subject to an 11% increase, while households using less than 350kW monthly would pay a flat rate of 91c per unit, or 1kW.
Households using between 350kW and 600kW would pay R1.09/unit, while using 600kW or more a month would cost R1.29/unit.
High-end users who used more than 3000kW would see a 34.6% increase in their electricity bills.
These rates excluded VAT.
Last year, households were charged 22% more for electricity irrespective of usage.
The new tariffs apply to conventional and prepaid users and were approved last week by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa).
Due to the escalating price of electricity, Nersa made a decision in February 2010 to implement an inclining block tariff (IBT) concurrently with the price increase to all existing Eskom residential/domestic tariffs.
Municipal acting communications director Carlé Ritter-Erasmus said that for prepaid users, the municipality’s online vending system would keep track of purchases and allocate IBT to the relevant block, based on the purchases in any calendar month.
"The IBT was designed in such a way that the more electricity one consumes, the higher one’s average price, on a monthly basis.
"The tariff structure is divided into four consumption blocks, and each successive block has a higher price per kW of energy.
"[Prepaid] customers are advised to purchase electricity on a monthly basis and not in bulk, as no leftover units can be converted to a new month at a cheaper rate,” Ritter-Erasmus said.
According to the metro, only 10% of domestic consumers in Nelson Mandela Bay consumed more than an average of 660kW per month.
Indigent customers will pay 65c for using more than 75kW per month and R1/unit for using between 351kW and 600kW.
While the metro did not give an indication of the increase for businesses, a letter from Nersa to the municipality, which The Herald has seen, indicated small businesses with prepaid meters could pay 131.83c/kW while those with conventional meters could pay a basic charge of R130.56 per month and a 115.04c/kW energy charge.
Medium-sized businesses could pay a basic charge of R283.66 per month and an energy charge of 114.83c/kW while industrial tariffs for users of more than 200kVA could be a basic charge of R283.66 per month and an energy charge of 66.99c/kW.
Meanwhile, some prepaid electricity users said they were unhappy after many electricity vendors’ systems were off-line at the weekend.
Many of them had been turned away several times while others had to wait in long queues.
South End resident Linda Pemba said she had gone to six different places in an attempt to purchase electricity. "I went to various places, from New Brighton to Fiveways, before eventually finding a place in Summerstrand where I could buy electricity. Some places were off-line and at others the queues were way too long,” she said.
Pemba said the increase would hit her hard as she was responsible for buying electricity for two households, her own as well as her grandmother’s in New Brighton.
"I am definitely going to feel the pinch more. We are already saving where we can by switching off lighting and geysers until we need them,” she said.
On social networking site Facebook, Alida Phielix said: "Heard over the radio the municipality’s system is down because the price is increasing on the 1st and they are trying to avoid people buying lots at once, a day or two before the price hike ... typical.”
Ritter-Erasmus said the technical problems were the result of vendors receiving the software for the new IBT on Friday evening and some experiencing difficulties while trying to come to terms with the new system.
"People have not been buying in bulk but problems have been experienced since vendors started to load the new software.
"Modifications have been made and they are trying to learn the new system. We have assisted with some online training so the difficulties should be cleared up soon,” she said.