An increase of 31% in fixed charges levied by Johannesburg’s City Power for electricity over the last two years means that postpaid (credit) customers now don’t even get 100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of usage for R1 000. Less than 100kWh is an astonishingly low amount.
The two fixed monthly charges – a network charge and capacity charge – totalled R631.16 including value-added tax (Vat) per month in 2019/20. Today, they total R825.32. This is charged by the metro’s utility regardless of how much electricity is consumed.
An analysis by Moneyweb in 2019 revealed that Joburg residents who are serviced by City Power and are not on prepaid continued to pay the most for electricity among the country’s major metros.
But, comparing the cost of power at just R1 000 in spending is not entirely fair. A comparison of the amount of electricity received for R2 000 in spending removes the distortion of those high fixed charges is somewhat removed.
But at that level, customers in Joburg continue to receive the lowest amount of electricity across major metros.
Apples-with-apples comparison all but impossible
The way tariffs are designed across the various metros differs greatly:
- Some have fixed charges, others don’t;
- Some have flat-rated tariffs regardless of usage;
- Those that charge different rates depending on levels of usage (so-called inclining block tariffs) don’t all use the same sized blocks;
- Tshwane used to bill seasonally with different rates for summer and winter, but this has changed since 2019; and
- Eskom is included, as sizeable areas in Joburg (Sandton and Soweto) are supplied directly by the utility.
- eThekwini has four “scales” of prepaid tariffs that are all identical. On postpaid, it only offers a time-of-use tariff which is impossible to compare against under this methodology.
Rather than attempt to compare the base tariff, in other words the cents per kWh rate, the methodology used here is to calculate how much electricity a household will receive for two amounts: R1 000 and R2 000.
Again, as pointed out in 2019, this is the lived experience of customers.
Importantly, fixed charges on some tariff structures distort matters, making a simple comparison between the rates per kWh meaningless. This methodology removes this distortion.
Amount of electricity households receive (2021/22)
|Tariff||R1 000||R2 000|
|Eskom Homepower 4||440kWh||862kWh|
|Cape Town Domestic1||367kWh||710kWh|
|Cape Town Home User2||335kWh||710kWh|
|City of Joburg City Power prepaid||491kWh||884kWh|
|City of Joburg City Power residential||93kWh||606kWh|
|Ekurhuleni Tariff A (prepaid/credit)||548kWh||768kWh|
|Ekurhuleni Tariff B (prepaid/credit)||349kWh||722kWh|
The situation in Joburg is bizarre and increasingly untenable: postpaid/credit customers pay among the most for electricity across metros, while prepaid customers pay among the least.
For R2 000 in spend, Joburg postpaid customers receive more than 30% less electricity because of the fixed charges.
The municipality has repeatedly attempted to introduce a R200 (R230 including Vat) monthly surcharge for prepaid customers, but continues to U-turn on the proposals.
Until it implements some sort of fixed monthly charge, City Power prepaid customers will continue to enjoy among the cheapest electricity across the metros.
Effectively, these customers are being subsidised by City Power’s postpaid ones.
A further analysis by Moneyweb reveals how tariff changes over the past two years have affected how much electricity you will get for the same amount of money.
It’s not as simple as assuming that two back-to-back annual increases of around 15% would result in 30% less electricity for the same amount of money.
Metros seldom keep tariff structures the same for long periods of time. Changes are made to methods of charging (block sizes in incline block tariffs are changed, fixed charges are implemented or removed, and so on).
From this comparison, the biggest decline in the amount of electricity received is for CoJ postpaid customers. This is followed by Eskom Homepower 4 and Ekurhuleni Tariff B customers, where the decrease is greater than 20%.
How much less bang you’re getting for your buck
|Tariff||R1 000 2019/20||R1 000 2021/22||Change|
|Eskom Homepower 4||571kWh||440kWh||-23%|
|Cape Town Domestic1||436kWh||367kWh||-16%|
|Cape Town Home User2||414kWh||335kWh||-19%|
|City of Joburg City Power prepaid||575kWh||491kWh||-15%|
|City of Joburg City Power residential||239kWh||93kWh||-61%|
|Ekurhuleni Tariff A (prepaid/credit)||603kWh||548kWh||-9%|
|Ekurhuleni Tariff B (prepaid/credit)||454kWh/439kWh||349kWh||-23%/-20%|
Update: An earlier version of this article used a (now) obsolete base tariff (/scale) for residential customers for eThekwini from the metro’s published tariff book for 2021/22.