You may not be aware that South Africa offers a Free Basic Electricity allocation to a portion of its population. If so, you’re either too busy trying to keep your family fed, or you don’t have to worry about FBE.
Even if the latter is the case, it’s entirely possible that you know someone who could benefit from the government program but doesn’t. Be a good chap (or lass) and pass it on, will you?
What is Free Basic Electricity?
Free Basic Electricity is a program that gives some South African households between 50kWh and 60kWh of free electricity a month. This allocation is wholly free of charge, for qualifying homes. At a time when the price of electricity just keeps on going up, government assistance to some of SA’s poorest is very welcome. It’s enough to keep the lights on, phones charged, and a few other essentials.
But not everybody qualifies for a monthly drop of free power. Indigent households are the primary recipients, as they typically don’t have demanding power draws. Nobody in a shack is running a bitcoin mining rig, after all. Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to be identified as one of these households. Either the local government will assign the designation, or prospective users can apply to be considered.
Getting your FBE on
There are two main steps to getting access to Free Basic Electricity. There’s the difficult one, and then there’s the easy one. Unfortunately, the difficult one must be completed first. There is an exception, though. If you’ve been notified by your local municipality that you’re a confirmed FBE household, you can move right on to the easy step.
If you’re starting from scratch, then your first step is to locate local contact information. You’re looking for the municipal office, ward councillor or a Community Development Worker in your area. You can head to the Municipalities of South Africa website to begin your search for contact info. Just click your province, identify your area on the second map, and then head to the Contact tab.
Following a bit of pillar to post (it’s inevitable), there’s a vetting process. You’ll either be granted or declined FBE status. If you are identified as an indigent household, claiming your free electricity is remarkably simple.
There are two USSD codes in use. *130*869# should work best for first time users. It’s also an option to try before going through the whole ‘contact the government’ procedure. Previously configured customers (those who have already been set up) can use *130*269# to claim their 50kWh or 60kWh allocation on the first of each month.
There are a few last items to be aware of. FBE customers are determined at a local government level. The 50kWh or 60kWh limit is dependent on which municipality you live in. Pre-paid electricity meters in South Africa will only accept one FBE voucher a month, so it won’t help to try to stack them. And the vouchers are only valid for a month, so there’s no way to stockpile them. It’s very much a case of use it or lose it.
Finally, FBE customers who have prepaid meters can load extra electricity once the free allocation is finished. This is charged at regular rates. Those without prepaid meters will have the 50kWh amount discounted from their bill at the end of the month. If you have any other questions, this FAQ should have the answers you’re looking for.