Frequently Asked Questions




All information provided has been produced and reviewed by the City of Cape Town, and some answers include material sourced from eThekwini Municipality and the Green Building Council of South Africa’s My Green Home initiative. This is content which is shared non-commercially on condition of acknowledgment.

Other electricity, climate change and general FAQS.

1. What are the actions or equipment that will save the most?

There are a huge range of electricity saving tips on this and other websites, and what works best for one home might not work best for another home. The recommendation is to try and see what works well in your home context. Take action and monitor your consumption levels. However, the City of Cape Town did research into what are typically the most impactful and cost-effective ways to save electricity in Cape Town’s homes which are consuming the most electricity. The result is this downloadable PDF document: Top Ten Ways to Save Electricity at Home . Note that typical and average figures are used, so your savings may differ.

2. Do people use more electricity in winter, and how can I reduce this?

Winter is usually an expensive time of the year for most households when it comes to using electricity for heating, especially with tariff increases which kick in from 1st July for City of Cape Town customers (or earlier for Eskom customers). Most households tend to spend at least about 20% more on electricity in winter months for their electric heating. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to save in winter. See other parts of this website, like 'Heating and Cooling' and this downloadable PDF: Ways to Save Electricity in Winter.

3. Where does our electricity come from?

Eskom generates 95% of the power in South Africa, and the vast majority of this is currently produced by burning coal. Eskom operates about 27 power stations with a nominal capacity of 41 919 MW, comprising 35 650 MW of coal-fired stations (91% of capacity), 1 860 MW of nuclear (4% capacity, but around 6.5% supply), 2 409 MW of gas-fired and 2 000 MW of hydro and pumped storage (these last two are largely peaking stations).

In recent years, private renewable energy generation has been introduced, using a competitive bidding process (the REIPPP programme). The national target is to have 10 000 GWh of renewable source electricity as part of the overall supply mix. By January 2015 the Department of Energy announced that total MWs of renewable energy (through the REIPP programme) actually connected to the grid to date is 1 915 MW, and a further 1512 MW have reached commercial operation stage. So it is still a very small part of the mix, but is set to grow over time.

4. What is the cost to the environment of using mainly coal-fired power?

Coal-fired power stations and the burning of coal produces pollution, consisting of carbon emissions (CO2) and other emissions that cause climate change, and other pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, which causes acid rain. At the same time, coal mining damages the environment by degrading land and depleting our water supply. For every 1 kWh of electricity consumed, approximately 1kg of CO2 is produced and 1,26 litres of water are used.

5. Where is our electricity being used?

In Cape Town, the residential sector uses almost as much as the commercial sector, and much more than the industrial sector. See the pie chart below showing 37% of total use. Residents are collectively the second biggest users, which is why residential saving can make such a big difference.

Electricity consumption by sector in Cape Town 2012.

Within middle and high-income homes, the biggest user of electricity is usually the geyser. An electric geyser is typically responsible for 40-60% of an average home's electricity costs.

Typical electricity consumption for middle-income households.

A breakdown of usage which is indicative of a typical home, but note that all homes are different.

Note: A kilowatt hour (kWh) is the amount of energy required to provide 1 kilowatt (1 000 watts) of electricity for one hour. One kilowatt hour (kWh) can boil 75 cups of water in a kettle, or burn a 100 W light bulb for 10 hours.

6. How can I monitor my electricity costs?

Calculate your monthly consumption, and start recording it over time to see if you are making progress. Whether you use credit metering or a prepaid meter, it is important to know your tariff and keep track of how much electricity you use month to month. Remember that there are usually seasonal differences e.g. electricity use goes up in winter for heating. See the resources section for more tools and help on this.
Switch to prepaid electricity. Prepaid metering allows you to monitor how much electricity you are using at any time, thereby revealing which appliances use the most. Studies have shown that greater 'real-time' awareness of electricity usage encourages people to drop their consumption by about 10-12%.

To switch to prepaid electricity, call:

City of Cape Town Electricity Services general enquiries: 0800 220 440
Eskom serviced areas: 0860 037 566

For questions about an incorrect electricity bill/charge, please call:
Account enquiries/non-payment disconnections: 0800 220 440
Meter reading consumption queries: 0860 103 089
If supplied by Eskom: 0860 037 566