Accentuate the Negative
The image above is taken from my latest Johannesburg utility statement. The minus sign in front of Total Due signifies that rather than owing the municipality for my electricity and water, the municipality owes me. I would love to say that this is because I am producing electricity on my roof and selling it to City Power. That day is coming – slowly. It is, however, my reward for reducing electricity consumption.
I recently qualified for the LifeLine Tariff, which is available to customers who use fewer than 500 kilowatt hours a month. The rate that I pay for electricity itself came down only slightly, from R1.08 to R1.01 per kWh. The big difference is that I no longer have to pay fixed fees – Network Charge, Service Charge and Demand Side Management Levy – of R409 a month. In most months I was paying more in electricity service fees than I was for electricity. These mandatory charges create a perverse disincentive to save power. Previously, if I were to cut my consumption in half, my bill would go down by less than a quarter because of these fixed fees. Now I pay only for the electricity I use.
When I first enquired about the LifeLine Tariff, I was told that anyone using less than 500 kWh per month for six months in a row “automatically qualifies.” Nothing could be further from the truth. It took dozens of letters, emails and calls over the course of seven months to finally get my account changed on the system. The new tariff was backdated to the date of my application, which explains the credit that shows on my bill.
A prepay meter is another way to get out from under the burden of service charges. This comes with its own set of hassles, but is an alternative to the LifeLine route. If you are also a kilowatt-hour miser and have the patience to take on the bureaucracy, apply for the LifeLine tariff by emailing a letter with your account number and details on your consumption for the last six months to [email protected] If you first need to cut kilowatt hours before Jo’burg will throw you a LifeLine, keep reading Greener House.