Consumers could be burdened with another price hike should Nersa approve Eskom’s application for a R22.8bn claw back.

The amount is for the 2013/14 financial period and is said to have been used to purchase diesel in order to avoid load shedding during the winter months. The parastatal’s Khulu Phasiwe says whether or not their application will be approved is at the discretion of the energy regulator.

“If we do get a claw back, then it means that in addition to the 8% guarantee that we already have in terms of a tariff increase for next year, then the regulator might give us an extra percentage or whatever they will determine in the next financial year.

“What that means is that there’s likely to be an increase of more than 8% in electricity tariffs from next year,” he said. 

Eskom, which supplies about 95% of power to Africa’s most industrialised economy, submits accounts to the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) annually, enabling it to recover costs that weren’t budgeted for when Nersa first set tariffs for the utility.

Once the watchdog has assessed the expenses, it “will inform the adjustment of electricity tariffs,” Eskom said.

The regulator in June rejected a request by Eskom to raise prices by as much as 12% above an already agreed 13% for the year to March 2016. The additional funds would have been used to buy power from independent producers and for diesel to fuel generators the utility uses to curb scheduled blackouts. The inflation rate was 4.6% in September.

Electricity prices in SA have almost quadrupled since 2007, when the country first had power shortages. Scheduled supply cuts, known as load shedding, took place almost once every two days on average in the first half of this year.

In October 2014, the regulator gave Eskom permission to raise tariffs to help it recover R7.8bn of unbudgeted costs for the three years through March 2013. The company had applied to recover R18.4bn.