South Africans are being asked to bite the electricity price hike bullet for the next three years, after which tariff increases should fall back in line with inflation.
That's the word from Thembani Bukula, executive director of the National Energy Regulator (NERSA), speaking at a Neotel/Mail & Guardian event this morning.
Bukula did, however, warn that South African businesses and individuals would have to find ways of reducing electricity consuption in the short-term in order to allow for economic growth during the next three years.
While the approximately 25% increases Eskom has been awarded over the next three years are to contribute to major capital building projects, he says we need to be realistic about when these projects will start producing electricity – and it won't be before 2013.
On the plus side, Bukula points to a number of relatively painless ways that companies and householders can reduce their electricity consumption. For instance, companies could replace end-of-life motors with more energy-efficient models, install double-glazing or even implement smaller measure like turning off refrigeratros at night.
Householders could look at solar water heating to save costs, or reduce the hours that a pool pump runs to make immediate gains.
Without a reduction in electricity consumption, he warns that there won't be headroom available for economic growth, and the country could once again face the spectre of load shedding.
Bukula explains that the increased electricity tariffs should help to inspire South Africans to change their consumption habits. At the same time, the regulator kept the increases lower than Eskom asked for by disallowing a cushion for bad debts – effectively motivating Eskom and the municipalities to do a better job of collecting outstanding funds and policing the network to prevent theft.
Regarding the upcoming Soccer World Cup, Bukani has assured South Africans that power from neighbouring countries would be made available.