How to get cheap electricity from your municipality – Fill up your tank before July 1st (City of Cape Town)

You’ve got until 1st July to top-up your meter at the old rates in any Municipality. But remember to keep buying the special ‘discounted’ units every month on the new tariff!

That’s right, we’ve updated our Energy Tariff fill-up calculator to include City of Cape Town (email/comment/shout if you want another municipality — preferably telling me where I can see the tariff online!)

After we’ve been asked by numerous people about our Eskom ‘fill up your tank’ post (FYI – that is now out of date, because Eskom’s increased it’s prices now!); we thought we’d update our amazingly useful spreadsheet with the city of Cape Town’s proposed tariffs. We’ve only included the basic City of Cape Town Domestic tariff (not the Lifeline one with free units, because it’s a pain to work out – as you’ll lose your free units if you spend too much!!).

Basically our advice boils down to 2 situations:

1. You spend Less than R850 every month — before July 1st you should spend a total of R922 every month – then not buy anything until you need it.

2. You spend more than R1100 every month – buy as much as you want, but make sure you keep spending at least R1050 every month after July (otherwise you’ll lose your cheaper units)

(if you spend between R850 and R1100 every month, there’s not really much in it for you, you just keep doing what you’re doing!)

As an example, let’say you spend R2000 every month – that buys you 1,117 units on the current tariff. The best thing to do would be to buy LOADS this month (as many as you want really), but then MAKE sure you keep buying at least 600 units every month after July – spending R1055 per month.

Otherwise you’ll be buying units for 186.81c this month to replace units that cost 175.90c next month. So you need to keep buying the ‘cheap’ units on the new tariff.

CT tariff now:
First 600 = 153.63c — you get 600 here (R922)
Over 600 = 186.81c – you get 577 here (R1078)

CT tariff from 1st July:
First 600 = 175.90c – keep buying these — R1055/mo
Over 600 = 213.90c – don’t buy these unitl you need them!

tariff optimiserSo on the default ‘3 months of saving’ – this is effectively spending R5,250 in June, buying you 2909 units (that’s 1732 more than normal). Then you keep buying R1055 every month – that’s 577 less than normal!. So after three months you’ve used up all those spare units – and saved yourself R469 (i.e. 15%). This is because you only paid R1.86 for each of these units, rather than R2.13.

If you stopped buying in July — then effectively you’d be using up these extra units  (which cost you R1.86 each) instead of buying the first 600 cheap units (at R1.75 even on the new tariff!).

The full spreadsheet is right here: Homebug Energy Tank Filling – CT 2015

New tariffs are here:
http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/Budget/Budget%20201516%20Draft/Annexure%204%20-%20Consumptive%20Tariffs%20-%20Electricity%20-%20Attachment%201.pdf

FYI – these are subject to change if NERSA let’s Eskom get an additional 10% increase. But if anything, that will make it MORE important to buy units at the old rate.

We want to hear back for you - feedback below!

  1. Hello very new to prepaid elec meters. This is first month. Family unit of 1 sometimes two- we are 60 now kids all gone, fearing towards retirement. I am trying to work to my old billing rate at previous home in NW Province of R750 ish a month but that was very tight. It’s 22 nd August and have already bought R600 and will need to top up in 3 days. Next purchase will be R150. I’m in Knysna and just not sure if I’m getting it right. Geysers get turned off, no dishwasher, rarely tumbler. Also do different institutions or outlets charge differently it handling fees etc. ? I use FNB online. Hear some crazy stuff like don’t turn off geysers and cheaper whining of month but goes up later in the month. Geysers hog Elec and I thought it was a fixed rate tarrif- to a certain usage. I see you recommend buying R920 a month, what happens if I don’t use that much? I will end up losing the excess or does it keep carrying over? Thank you

  2. Good day, we received our prepaid meter this month we bought R500 prepaid twise and and another R800 recently we never used so much electricity before the prepaid maybe R800.00 a month i dont know why and i tested to see how much units we use a day and works out to 30 units a day Kind regards

  3. Pingback: Another Year, another chance to stock-up at last year’s prices! |

    • If your bill is two high there’s three options:
      1. Reduce your tariff — i.e. make sure you’re on the best one for you (e.g. like buying your Diesel at the cheapest place, maybe you’re buying ‘premium’). You’d need to figure out who you buy electricity from now — Either ESKOM directly, or your muncipality (Mogale City maybe?)
      (if it is Mogale City – then there are options to change to Time of Use Tariffs, if you are a heavy user – http://www.mogalecity.gov.za/content/pdfs/tariffs/2014/201415_schedules_aprroved_tariffs.xls )

      2. Reduce your usage – i.e. use less kilowatt-hours; either by cutting out waste, or reducing heavy-users (driers, reduce hot-water usage etc.) or by getting newer more efficient equipment (fridges, LED lights etc.)

      3. Make some of your own – solar power etc… (big capital outlay, probably not cheaper until you get past 2020!)
      We’ve laid out more of the options here:
      http://blog.homebug.co.za/?page_id=55

    • You think Eskom is expensive, you should try City of Cape Town 🙂
      How much are you using every month right now? The key will be to use less electricity… but how will depend on how you use it.
      Let me know how much you spend each month and how many units you buy – that helps us to understand whether you’re OVERPAYING right now…

      BTW – this article has been updated for June 2016: http://blog.homebug.co.za/?p=399

  4. I thought of buying extra electricity before the price increase but are having some problem understanding my costing. In the past people told me that it doesn’t matter if you buy a lot of electricity in the beginning of the month or buy it weekly as the cost will not increase up to the maximum level (either 350kWh on Lifeline or 600kWh on domestic).
    This month however, I bought on the following occasions:
    1 June – R150 – 145kWh (R1.03 per unit)
    5 June – R30 – 13kWh (R2.31 per unit)
    11 June – R150 – 65kWh (R2.31 per unit)
    14 June – R200 – 85kWh (R2.36 per unit)
    20 June – R250 – 106kWh (R2.36 per unit)
    the FNB site on which I buy my electricity also didn’t want to give me my free units in June, in the past I’ve always gotten free units.
    So I’ve got no idea whether I’m on Lifeline or Domestic as neither makes sense for what I paid in June.

    Can anyone maybe give me clarity?

    • Hi Nella,
      Sorry this reply is going to be a bit long and possibly a bit complicated! I’ll try to clear it up later, but thought it was worth me answering sooner rather than later. In summary though, it sounds like you’re already in the TOP block for Lifeline — and you’re already buying too much to keep getting free units. It seems like you’re on the border-line of free units – so options are:
      A. You’re going to keep using more than 450 units (spending over R570 each month), then you should buy extra this month, then keep spending at LEAST R363 EVERY month after. Doing this will save you 23% on anything extra you buy — i.e. you’ll be paying the 2014 price of R2.33 rather than the 2015/16 price of R2.87!
      B. You can reduce your usage… if you can get back under R450kWh/month, then you start getting free units again… and if you can get under 350 units per month, then your units are MUCH cheaper (on the new tariff R1.03 vs. R2.87!)
      No matter what you do — make sure you KEEP buying AT LEAST R363 after July — even if you buy more now in June.

      On your questions:
      Yes – you’re right it doesn’t actually matter WHEN in the month that you buy just the total in that calendar month. Considering you’re on Lifeline but get no free units – if you buy R400 on the 1st of the month you’ll get 377.25 units. If you buy R100 – the first three times you’ll get 104.04 units, then the 4th time you’ll get 65.14.
      104.04 + 104.04 + 104.04 + 65.14 = 377.26 (+/- the same as 377.25)

      On Lifeline (in Cape Town… you are in CAPE TOWN right, other municipalities have very different tariffs) there’s three things to think about – Free units, Blocks and alternative tariffs…

      – Your free units depend on how much you’ve bought over the past 12 months. You have to keep the total used over 12 months to less than 250 units per month to get 60 free credits; and less than 450kwh to keep getting 25kwh free. If FNB have stopped giving you the free units then either they’ve screwed up; or the system has decided you’re using more than 450kwh on average every month… I can see this month you’ve bought 414 units already in June, so maybe you are now consistently buying more than 450 units per month. In which case, sorry, you are no longer entitled to free units.
      Getting the entitlement back is a schlep – you’ll have to call and ask the city and possibly go in and prove you deserve free units (based on your house-price, indigent status etc.) This is why we always encourage people to keep a close eye on their purchases and if you’re nearing the limits – figure out a way to reduce your consumption — i.e. if you’re using 500 units per month, reducing your usage by 50 units, has a big impact — because you also get to keep your 25 free units…

      – Lifeline has 2 blocks — so there’s one price up to 350kWh purchases in one month and a different price after.
      So far this year – i.e. up until next Wednesday (1st July) the tariffs are as follows:
      Block 1: 96.12c/unit — first 350 units = first R336.42 bought every month
      Block 2: 233.20c/unit – everything over 350 units (when you spend over R336.42 per month)
      Running through your purchases
      1st June = R150 = 145kwh ==> should have been 156 units — looks like FNB are only giving you R139 worth… so they must be charging you? Maybe buy from Homebug next time 🙂
      All your other purchases are effectively in Block 2 — they shouldn’t be. Block 2 doesn’t start until you’ve spent R336 for the month… did you buy from somewhere else? It includes all purchases made wherever, not just FNB, but anything bought in Pick n Pay or anywhere. Maybe someone else in your house bought?
      Again though they seem to be charging you a strange amount suggesting there is some fee coming off (or we’re not talking Cape Town!?)

      – Third thing – your tariff. If you’ve already lost your free units then maybe you could change to Domestic. If you’re consistently buying more than 600 units (spending more than R920 each month), then you’d be better off on Domestic. Given that it is Winter right now, I’m guessing that’s probably not the case.

      So remember, reducing your tariff will have the biggest impact for you — every unit you save, you’ll be getting R2.33. When the new tariffs kick in from 1st July you’ll be paying R2.87 for EVERY unit you use over 350 each month. This is a GOOD thing in a way… every unit of power you SAVE you’ll be SAVING R2.87. This means buying LED lights or a solar-water heater have MUCH quicker pay back for you than for other people!

      There’s more explanation by the city of Cape Town here:
      https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/electricity/Elec%20tariffs%20201415/Residential%20Electricity%20Tariffs%20Explanation.pdf

      • Thank you so much for your explanation! I will definitely be buying my electricity from homebug (powertime) from now on as it seems like something might be funny at FNB. In the past I’ve sometimes bought from FNB and sometimes from Prepaid24 and must say I rarely check exactly how many units I get as I’ve never had a problem before. I’ve checked now and since July 2014 to end May 2015 I’ve bought R5100 worth of electricity so it does seem that I’m really on the border-line of average 450kWh per month. I am actually not sure why I am on lifeline fees as iI thought the value of your house plays a role here as well and my house is worth more than R300k (I read this somewhere).

        My real concern is whatever happened in June with the price of my electricity as I definitely didn’t buy anywhere else (as I had problems with prepaid24 so stopped using them) and has no one else in the household that can buy electricity. As after 143 units bought on 1 June, they started charging me much more…do you maybe know if this is something worth-while quering with City of Cape Town or not really worth the energy.

        My biggest concern is to get it right from now on. So say I use 500kWh per month on average – what will your suggestion be for me going forward (what to buy monthly and how much should I buy now before end June)?

        I really appreciate your help and will definitely be buying from homebug now…homebug is powertime right?
        On their website when I log in it says Monthly Purchase Limit: R278.00
        What does this monthly purchase limit mean?

  5. Thanks for your reply, Rich. I just tested it out and can confirm that you are correct… despite even city of cape town’s documents going on and on about using a 12 month average, I just bought R100 prepaid as a test and was charged the lower rate for it.

  6. Your assumption is that units are charged according to your monthly spend. I have read on other websites that the rate charged is according to what you use (your monthly usage), so according to them, purchasing 600 units a month will not get you the lower tariff (if you are using more than 600 units a month). Which of you is correct?

    • Hi Keith,
      If you are PREPAID – then it’s based on when you buy not when you use. Your meter has NO idea what your tariff is, when months start or end, or when you’ve topped up before. The code you type tells it how many units to top up and it’s the Vending computer that does all the calculation. Just think, how would your meter know if you were a Lifeline customer or Standard Domestic?
      Otherwise every year when the tariff changes, they’d have to come around and update ALL the meters.
      It’s not an assumption; I’ve done this for the last couple of years and it works. I’m happy for you not to believe me though 🙂

      The reason some people get confused is that they think they go and buy lots of credits before the rise forgetting the golden rule — don’t buy credits in a higher block… Hopefully this post makes that clear!
      If you’re an account customer, you can’t do this… but then that’s obvious as you don’t “buy credits”.

      • Good to hear it’s not just me 🙂
        -> yes if you buy R100 today you should get 65 units. This will work right up to R922 spent in the month.
        So the first 9 times you buy R100 you’ll get 65.09 units (R1.5363/unit)
        The 10th time (R1000 total) you’ll get 55.84 units*
        The 11th time (R1100 total) you’ll get 53.53 units (R1.8681/unit)
        As far as I know, the 12 month moving average is only for free-unit determination. If you buy over 250kwh/month on average over a year, you get cut back from 60 units to 25… then again to 0 if you use over 400kwh/month.

        * [65.09*9 = 585.81 = 14.19 left @ R1.563 = R22.18 –> then leftover R77.82 @ 1.8681 = 41.65 units)

        BTW – if you sign up online on our site homebug.co.za – you can do this all online, rather than getting funny looks from the cashier at Pick n Pay 😀