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Johannesburg residents could soon be paying R200 more for electricity each month, even before they start using it.

This is if a proposed capacity charge for prepaid electricity users in the city comes into effect at the start of July 2021.

According to the Democratic Alliance’s caucus leader in the City of Johannesburg Metro Leah Knott, the charge was approved as part of the city’s budget for 2021/2022 during a recent council meeting.

“We see that the City is sneaking in the R200 charge which we oppose,” Knott said. “This targets the poorest-of-the-poor who turn to prepaid meters to save on costs.”

“We should be encouraging everyone to move to prepaid, not penalising them,” she added.

According to a tariff document published on the metropolitan’s website, the charge is aimed at prepaid users to “start making appropriate contribution to the cost of operating and maintaining the City Power electricity distribution network to be available on demand”.

The proposed tariff for businesses is R400 per month.

Confusion over inclusion

This is the third time the capacity charge has been proposed by the metro, following previous attempts in 2019 and 2020.

On both of those occasions the plan was dropped following significant backlash from consumers.

City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena has told Rapport the council had initially considered adding the charge again in 2021 but claimed it had been dropped.

However, Knott said the charge was contained in the concept budget tabled before the council, which meant that it had legal power.

The city’s budget – which includes the proposal for the introduction of the capacity charge and general increases in electricity tariffs – is now open for public comment.

It should be noted that these changes will still require approval from energy regulator Nersa.

More increases

Should the latest proposal be approved and come into effect, the capacity charge will go on top of the electricity price hikes which the City wants to introduce following the increase of Eskom’s tariffs on 1 April 2021.

It has been proposed that starting from 1 July 2021, Johannesburg customers on prepaid block 1 – for use up to 350kWh – should pay 9.1% more.

For usage on the block 2 tariff prices will be increased by 18.1%.

The City has further proposed that qualifying residential prepaid customers in non-affluent areas with no renewable energy installed, except for solar water geysers,  should be given the option of a flat rate of R200 per month for the first 350kWh of electricity usage.

Meanwhile, most Johannesburg residents with conventional metres will have to pay 14.59% more for electricity.

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