During a Press Conference held today in Cape Town – where DA Shadow Ministers for Public Enterprises, Ghaleb Cachalia, and Mineral Resources and Energy, Kevin Mileham, laid out the DA’s case on why a State of Disaster should be declared on Eskom and the Electricity sector – the DA announced that the party has taken the unprecedented step to have this issue placed on the agenda of the next Cabinet meeting.
In a joint letter addressed to Ms. Phindile Baleni, who is the Director General in the Presidency and also acts as the Secretary to Cabinet, Cachalia and Mileham requested that:
- The DA’s call for a State of Disaster on Eskom and the Electricity sector be placed on the agenda of the next Cabinet meeting; and
- An update on this request be given as part of the post-Cabinet briefing soon after the said Cabinet meeting.
South Africa’s 15 year old loadshedding crisis, which has of late reached record highs, requires a ‘whole of society’ approach that is anchored on making electricity generation the biggest priority for the country in the next 5 years. The failure to resolve loadshedding’s longstanding existential threat to the country ‘s economy and its competitiveness, has robbed unemployed South Africans of much needed jobs and damaged the country’s standing as an investment destination.
Yet in the middle of this national emergency in the electricity sector, the ANC government and energy regulatory bodies have adopted a lethargic and ‘business as usual’ approach that betrays their lack of urgency in finding lasting solutions to the crisis.
The significance of a State of Disaster on Eskom and the Electricity sector is that it will help galvanize the national effort towards incremental energy projects with specific deliverables.
Upon making this declaration, the DA is of the view that an Electricity Emergency Response Plan (EERP) must be activated to lay out short, medium and long term goals to bring additional generation capacity to the grid. Conceptualisation and finalisation of the plan should involve all stakeholders, from government, industry experts, engineering bodies, IPPs, civil society and members of the public.
Contrary to what the Minister of Public Enterprises appeared to insinuate recently, South Africa does not need to reach stage 8 of loadshedding before an emergency can be declared. The truth is, South Africa is already in an electricity shortage crisis, with a generation shortfall of between 4000 and 6000MW right now, and the government is duty bound to respond with urgency.
Should the electricity crisis be allowed to degenerate beyond the stage that it is in at the moment, the consequences on the country’s economy, security, investment climate and socio-economic order will be severe.
In the short term, South Africa needs to secure the amount of power made available by Eskom’s fleet of power plants to meet the minimum demands by consumers in addition to opening up – with speed – alternative sources of supply to meet the nation’s requirements. As such, the DA believes that a State of Disaster will:
- At the bare minimum, allow for a waiver or moratorium to be placed on stringent regulations that are preventing Eskom from pursuing an accelerated onboarding of generation capacity potential from IPP projects.
- Provide Eskom with additional state capacity to deal with acts of sabotage and criminality which have been cited as one of the causative factors of loadshedding.
- Place a mandatory requirement on all approved IPP projects to provide quarterly updates on progress made.
- Lessen or remove the costly regulatory burden which is standing in the way of self-generation, especially at household level and in discrete industry environments;
- Compel NERSA to conduct its regulatory approach within an emergency frame to help lessen red tape and approve generation projects in shorter timelines.
- Ensure budget reprioritization of resources from non-emergency expenditure items towards accelerated spending in energy generation projects.
The underlying premise of the DA’s call for a State of Disaster on Eskom and the Electricity sector is that, in view of the dire state of the country’s electricity generation capacity, South Africa should be making it easy, not difficult, for IPPs to bring new power at scale and in the shortest possible time. To this end, the State of Disaster will:
- Help to place a moratorium on localization requirements for renewable energy projects as a way of reducing costs for renewable energy projects;
- Compel Mantashe’s Department of Energy to review of the IRP, in order to bring new generation capacity online as quickly as possible.
- Facilitate the opening up of transmission and infrastructure investment to public-private partnerships in order to expedite the integration of upcoming planned generation capacity;
- Require that the Department of Energy provides full transparency on its internal standard operating procedure to ensure that the requests for Section 34 Determinations by municipalities are attended to in the shortest possible time;
- Make it easy for Small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) to become a critical component of the overall electricity generation mix by through the provision of an incentive-driven tariff system for SSEGs that allows municipalities to compensate customers for excess electricity fed back onto their electricity grid.
South Africa is in the middle of an electricity crisis. Unless urgent steps are taken to remove existing red tape for IPPs, there is a high probability that South Africa could face another decade of continuous loadshedding. Now is the time to put aside any political differences and put our collective effort into addressing loadshedding, which has become an existential threat to South Africa.