EGI South Africa strengthens the public voice at South African Tariff Hearings

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA’s) held its first hearing in Cape Town on January 15th, 2013 to discuss a tariff proposal by Eskom (the South African electricity public utility) that would double electricity tariffs over the next five years.

EGI South Africa Highlights Governance Issues

Despite the severe time constraints leading up to the meeting, a number of EGI South Africa partners made submissions in November 2012 that highlighted a number of issues with the proposal, as well as participated in the hearings. NERSA will consider these views in order to make a decision, which is scheduled to be published in March.

The submission highlighted a number of important governance issues with Eskom’s proposal, including:

  1. A lack of transparency. A number of the studies that were cited in the proposal were not available to the public for independent analysis.
  2. A lack of accessibility. The technical density of the proposal made it difficult for a consumer to understand the cost implications of the proposal. This is especially important as a tariff increase has large impacts on poor consumers.
  3. Hidden impacts. The proposal masks the true costs of the tariff increase to particular user groups.
  4. Undermining energy efficiency and renewable energy goals. The document proposed by Eskom ignores or even undermines governmental policies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in the energy mix, and prioritizes coal and nuclear sources, which will likely continue to have substantial price increases.

Local Civil Society Workshop to Increase Participation in Tariff Process

In addition to their submissions, EGI South Africa convened workshops to train a range of civil society organizations to effectively participate in the NERSA hearings. More than 80 community leaders drawn from civic organizations around the country attended the three workshops held ahead of the NERSA public hearings on the electricity tariffs. As a result of these workshops, these leaders were better equipped to substantively participate in the NERSA hearings. The workshop agenda and trainings were built on a number of analytical research products, including:

  1. Governance assessment of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPP), which was researched using WRI’s Policy Implementation Assessment Framework framework
  2. EGI South Africa’s recently drafted “Smart Electricity Plan”, which incorporates EGI expertise into an original analysis on the South African energy sector
  3. EGI South Africa’s submission to NERSA that highlighted the governance issues in the Eskom proposal
  4. EGI’s “10 Questions to Ask about Tariffs”, which helped civil society understand the tariff-setting process itself

Using these products, EGI South Africa helped civil society organizations to gain an understanding of the different institutions that have a role in energy governance in the country, and to demonstrate and assess how civil society groups currently utilize opportunities to participate. They also helped to create awareness of the planning processes for the Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) and the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP), and to highlight the importance of inputting into the ongoing IEP process. Civil society had the opportunity to learn about the Eskom tariff increase proposals as well as the procedure for public comment. Many participants were shocked to learn of the content of the proposals and eager to participate in the NERSA hearings. The NERSA hearings so far have seen an increased demand for participation by a number of actors who have raised objections to the proposed tariff increase. At a number of hearings there was insufficient time to hear comments from everyone present, so NERSA has agreed to host additional hearings in a number of locations. NERSA has also complied with a request to have translators present, so that presenters could speak in the language of their choice.

A full write-up of the EGI South Africa workshop is attached here.

Media coverage of the NERSA hearings included:

  1. “Eskom’s proposed tariff hikes face barrage of criticism” from the Mail & Guardian
  2. “I Can Buy Food or Electricity, Not Both” from IOL news.

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