South Africans have managed reduce their electricity consumption by up to four percent, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica announced on Friday.
Briefing reporters after the first meeting of the National Stakeholder Advisory Council on Electricity (NSACE) at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the minister said while this was an excellent trend, it was imperative for South Africans to do more.
"The inclement weather could cause a shortfall in the coming weeks," said the minister, adding that the major electricity users, in the minerals value chain, continued to bear the burden of the emergency in the form of reduced supply.
Ms Sonjica said public buildings, retail malls, office and government buildings as well as households could reduce there usage further.
"While we appreciate the savings that have been attained by the industry, we still believe more can be achieved through efficiency in production and maintenance. "
The minister said South Africans should make a bigger effort in the coming weeks to relieve the burden of the electricity emergency on the economy and society.
This can be done by turning off appliances, including geysers, and light bulbs when not in use and by using energy-efficient technologies like the compact fluorescent light bulbs and keeping the use of heating and cooling equipment to a minimum.
The brainchild of the Joint Presidential Working Group, the council's first meeting was attended by President Thabo Mbeki, his Deputy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and a number of stakeholders.
Initially council members agreed that all the parties should work together to find ways to efficiently conserve electricity.
Minister Sonjica said the council had noted the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) approving Eskom's 13.3 percent tariff increase, saying they were unavoidable.
The increase makes up a cumulative 27.5 percent increase.
However, she said the council had agreed that government should mitigate the impact of the increase on poor households and communities.
Providing adequate information on energy savings to relevant stakeholders and consumers is critical, and therefore the council requested that government and Eskom report back on the success in reducing usage on a regular basis.
Meanwhile the country's municipalities have already approved their tariffs ahead of the new financial year, which begins next month.
The tariffs are in line with Eskom's 14.2 percent as approved by NERSA in December.
However, the latest increase means that local authorities have to revise their earlier tariffs.
If this did not happen, they would have been legally compelled to implement the latest tariff increase by Eskom only in July next year.
The meeting confirmed that the NSACE will act as the primary location for high level formal consultation with stakeholders in respect of policy implementation.
Some of its main functions will be to develop communication messages about the electricity emergency; facilitate communication between stakeholders and government and to monitor the implementation of programmes and provide feedback on challenges being experienced.
The NSACE will work closely with the National Electricity Response Team (NERT) to be chaired by Deputy President and its outcomes will feed into the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Energy as well as the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC).
"It is expected that the monitoring and communication roles of the NSACE will lead to a broader and better understanding of the full spectrum of electricity needs and demands in the country, thereby ensuring that the required action is taken, including the required dispensation for poor communities," said Minister Sonjica.
Meanwhile, Minister for Finance, Trevor Manuel granted approval for Eskom's price increase for electricity as approved by the National Electricity Regulatory on 18 June 2008 to become effective for municipality and municipal entities as from 1 July 2008.
Minister Manuel said that the exemption granted is subject to the conditions that the adjustments budget approved by the council of the municipality or board of directors of the municipal entity must be submitted to the National Treasury and the relevant Provincial Treasury on or before 30 September 2008.
"The approved adjustment budget must be published on the municipality's website or in the case of municipal entity, on the parent municipality's website on or before 30 September 2008. - BuaNews