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Free Basic Electricity
free basic electricity

What is free basic electricity?

FBE is the amount of electricity, which is deemed sufficient to provide basic electricity services to a poor household. This amount of energy will be sufficient to provide basic lighting, basic media access, basic water heating using a kettle and basic ironing in terms of grid electricity and basic lighting and basic media access for non-grid systems.

What is regarded as a household?

It is a residential customer with an official point of electricity supply.

What is government policy regarding free basic services?

Access to basic energy and other basic resources have a significant role to play towards enhancing the well being of consumers. The government's intention is to support the needy by facilitating the provision of free basic services. The government has announced its intention of providing free basic water and electricity services for all. However, the provision of FBE will be provided specifically to the poor households through a self-targeting approach. This approach enables poor households to be provided with limited but sufficient electricity output. It must be emphasized however, that qualifying consumers will pay for any consumption over the set free basic service level. For that reason, strict credit control measures and revenue management must be maintained.

What is the self-targeting approach?

Households that are "poor" generally have a low demand for electricity. Their needs could adequately be met by restricting the current drawn from the supply to about 10 Amperes. These households would consume the free basic electricity at no cost and pay the approved tariff for all units of electricity consumed above the free allocation.

What amount of electricity will be considered as free basic electricity?

The proposed levels of service are 50kWh per household per month for a grid-based system for qualifying domestic consumers, and 50Wp per non-grid connected supply system for all households connected to the official non-grid systems.

Who is supposed to get the free basic electricity per month?

The focus of free basic services is intended for poor households.

How much is 50kWh and what can be done with this amount of electricity?

The 50kWh is equivalent to energy necessary for basic lighting, small black and white TV, small radio, basic ironing and basic water boiling through an electric kettle for grid-connected consumers.

What will happen if one uses more than the 50kWh?

Only 50kWh per month would be provided free, extra units would be charged at approved rates tariff.

How would one know when the 50kWh has been exceeded?

For pre-paid meters a household will be provided with a non-interchangeable voucher or token loaded with free basic units per month. When the free units have been used up, the consumer will need to buy additional units at the prevailing approved rates. For credit-metered customers, the total units consumed will be reduced by the amount of free basic units. For credit-meter customers, it is not easy to see when the free units are exceeded.

What will happen if I do not collect the voucher?

The voucher will be valid for one month only, and units will not accumulate to the next month (claim it or loose it). The same applies for credit-metered consumers (use it or loose it). Remember that network charges will be imposed to all consumption exceeding 50kWh per month. Who is responsible for the provision of the free basic electricity? National government will provide policy and guidelines in respect of free basic electricity. Local government will be responsible for implementation of the FBE with the aid of guidelines from national government.

How will non-grid electricity customers benefit from the free basic electricity policy?

Solar home systems (non-grid) are unique in the sense that they produce energy on site from sunrays. Most of the cost of solar home systems goes towards maintenance and operation. A capped maintenance and operational cost of R48 a month is available to subsidise households connected to solar home systems under the national electrification programme. Consumers will be expected to pay the balance between the subsidy and the prevailing tariffs. Other technologies are still being investigated. Criteria for other systems like mini-grids and hybrid systems will be developed as such systems are approved.

What benefit can be derived from solar home systems?

Solar home systems provide basic lighting, access to a black-and-white TV and a small radio.

What about people who do not have the infrastructure to get the free basic electricity?

Presently the DoE is progressing with the electrification of households in un-electrified rural and urban areas in order to achieve the goal of universal access to electricity under the INEP. The free basic electricity policy is intended for consumers who are already connected to electricity systems. It is worth noting that VAT has been removed from paraffin to provide affordable alternative energy for poverty relief to non-electrified poor households.

How long has free electricity been available?

It is not intended to provide free electricity but free basic electricity. Free basic electricity commenced in a phased manner from July 2003, after municipalities received their funds from the Department of Provincial and Local Government. The above does not stop able and affording municipalities to proceed with provision of free basic services in their areas of jurisdiction if funds are available.

What happens in areas where Eskom is the provider rather than municipalities?

Local government is responsible for the provision of basic services in its area of jurisdiction. Eskom is providing a service on behalf of municipalities. Even in a case like this, municipalities will still be responsible for funding the provision of free basic services. Where government grants are paid to municipalities, these must be paid to Eskom to cover the cost of providing free basic electricity to the targeted households.

How do service providers deal with non-payment of electricity by customers who consider themselves as poor, yet consume more electricity?

Unless otherwise stated, the provision of free basic electricity should neither be an excuse for non-payment of previous debt, nor should it be an excuse for future debt accumulation. The FBE is about poverty alleviation not free electricity as may be misunderstood. Municipal terms and conditions regarding non-payment for services will not be affected by the provision of free basic service to the targeted households.

How will this policy be integrated with other services?

Both the DoE and the department of Water Affairs and Forestry are co-operating to make the provision of FBE and water services possible. The provision of free basic electricity should be in line with the provision of free basic water.

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