Nersa proposes power saving rules

South Africa’ power regulator (Nersa) laid out the rules for its power conservation programme on Friday, in a bid for reaction from the public and affected sectors by early January.

According to the proposals, users will be allocated an annual limit for their electricity use and will have to pay a charge in addition to regular tariffs if they exceed that baseline.

“The programme is designed to accelerate the achievement of energy savings through behaviour change and promoting the use of demand side management (DSM),” the regulator said in the proposal.

State-owned utility Eskom , which provides 95% of the country’s power, has been rationing electricity since January, when the national grid nearly collapsed, forcing mines to temporarily shut down and costing Africa’s biggest economy millions of rand.

South Africa, the world’s number platinum producer and second largest gold producer, is also home to the some of the world’s deepest mines and a power-intensive mining sector.

Chronic power shortages, caused by years of underinvestment coupled with surging demand, have unnerved foreign investors already anxious about fallout from the global crisis and a possible shift in economic policy after elections due next year.

Eskom plans to spend a total of about R343-billion over five years on new power plants, but faces an uphill task given the global credit crunch and a Moody’s downgrade on its own rating.

“The reduction in consumption will also provide Eskom with the ‘breathing space’ necessary to address unplanned maintenance and possible slippages in the tight planned timeline for bringing new capacity onto the grid between 2008 and 2013,” the regulator said.

Services such as police, health, public transport and those related to water and sanitation, will be protected by the programme.

The regulator also defined national priority projects which may be fully or partly exempt from the rules.

Those include the construction of new power stations to boost the domestic energy supply and the building of soccer stadiums for the Soccer World Cup.

A final decision on the power-saving programme is expected by the end of April 2009. - Reuters

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