Eskom takes a sceptical U turn

Following indications that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa will consider Eskom's requests to allow a 60 per cent increase in electricity tariffs, Eskom has suspended its controversial load shedding programme.

There has been a seven per cent reduction in energy consumption in April, said Eskom chief Jacob Morga at a recent meeting with municipality officials from across the country. "Recent energy savings, particularly from industry, have shown that it should be possible to achieve the national target,' said Maroga. However, he warned that with winters ahead, the "suspended' cuts were likely to be reinstated. The utility is currently moving ahead with construction of coal-fired power stations as part of a us $45.6 billion infrastructure expansion programme.

Business groups of the country, which consume 40 per cent of the electricity, however, doubt Eskom's move. "We can't understand how it can say that everything has gone back to normal,' they said.

Eskom, which produces about 95 per cent of South Africa's electricity, has rationed power through load-shedding since January saying there is a supply crisis. To fund its expansion programme, it has requested the government to revise electricity tariffs.