Monday, the 14th of December 2015, was the last day for the public to comment on Eskom’s request to increase electricity tariffs in 2016 so that they can recover R22.8 bn. Eskom proposed a 9.58% increase which would form part of the planned total of 25.3%, which is allocated to cover R11.7bn in revenue shortfall, R2.4bn for primary energy costs as well as R8bn for the Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) required to alleviate the amount of load shedding by providing additional capacity when required. NERSA has already approved an increase of 12.69% and the final increase will be confirmed after all comments have been considered.
Eskom submitted the application for the 2015/2016 financial year, and if approved, it could result in future tariff hikes. Eskom last week said that the approval of the application would improve their ability to meet financial commitments and prevent future load shedding. A decision on the application is due by 25 February 2016.
A big contributor to the issue of electricity supply is planned and unplanned maintenance, which increases costs and decreases electricity production, creating the shortfall which results in load shedding. Eskom’s spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, said that 6 700 MW of Eskom’s electricity capacity is currently unavailable due to planned outages, and 5 000 MW because of unplanned outages.
So far Eskom have confirmed that Unit 2 at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station has returned to service and is currently fully operational. The unit had been shut down for a maintenance. Every 18 months, each of the two units at Koeberg is shut down for maintenance, to avoid having both units out of service at the same time. Eskom also said it plans to take full advantage of lower electricity demand during the festive season to conduct more maintenance on its power stations.
The question remains whether the increased maintenance will result in more load shedding this holiday season, and whether it will be sufficient to alleviate load shedding throughout the upcoming year! All that is certain is that the increases will put additional strain on consumers’ pockets, but will hopefully be a step in the right direction towards ending load shedding indefinitely.