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Op-ed: Ted Blom on where Eskom tariffs are heading. Image: 123rf.

South Africa’s state-owned power utility Eskom has launched a communication campaign aimed at raising awareness of the longstanding Free Basic Electricity (FBE) programme.

The FBE initiative is targeted at giving limited free electricity to indigent households and is reignited at this time to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 national lockdown.

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Qualifying households, in terms of the government’s policy of providing support to the unemployed, low-earning, the destitute and the elderly, are encouraged to approach their municipalities to register as indigents in order to collect their allocated units every month.

“Customers on municipalities’ indigent household registers have the right to collect a minimum 50-kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity for free every month, which can also be higher, depending on the municipality,” said Monde Bala, Group Executive: Distribution at Eskom. 

Bala added: “Unfortunately a large number of indigent households don’t exercise their right. Either because they are unaware of the free basic electricity, or because they have not registered with the municipality.”

Once registered with the municipality, the customer’s details are loaded on the Eskom system where they get credited with free electricity tokens.

Uncollected free basic electricity

As at end-March 2020, Eskom had 900,000 registered indigent customers for free basic power but only 700,000 people are collecting their FBE tokens.

Eskom is working with municipalities to ensure that indigent households receive the free electricity allocated by the government. “The partnership with municipalities will go a long way to helping cushion the indigent households from the full impact of COVID-19 lockdown,” said Bala.

Customers who qualify for FBE but who are not currently collecting it must approach their municipality and register to receive their free allocation, advised Eskom in a statement.

Find more information about the FBE programme here.