Electricity deal with business imminent

After months of intense negotiations with some of Nelson Mandela Bay’s biggest employers, the municipality is planning to write off millions of rands owed by some businesses for unpaid electricity bills.

This, together with plans to reduce electricity tariffs for businesses that qualify, is all in a bid to save thousands of jobs, ensure the companies’ doors remain open and attract more investment to the metro.

A final decision on whether to go ahead will be taken in council on Thursday.

If councillors give it the nod, it would help to heal a rocky relationship between big business and the municipality since 2009.

By September last year, some of the 13 high-energy users involved in the dispute owed the municipality R156-million as they had been paying only 76% of their bills since 2011.

Others, however, although they joined the lawsuit against the metro, the Department of Energy and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, have been paying their accounts in full.

The 13 companies, with the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber as a 14th applicant, went to court complaining that they could not afford electricity prices which were 35% higher than if they received electricity directly from Eskom.

They appealed to President Jacob Zuma for an electricity tariff that was globally competitive and attracted business, and the president instructed the municipality to negotiate with the companies out of court.

– Rochelle de Kock and Cindy Preller 

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