Energy minister – presiding over the worst power crisis in South Africa – completely out of touch with the people

  • It has been an interesting few days at the Africa Energy Indaba, currently on in Cape Town, an event The Green Connection says “exposes the elitist approach to solving South Africa’s electricity crisis and reveals that government is completely out of touch with the needs and wants of the people, and climate change.”

The Green Connection’s Advocacy Officer Lisa Makaula says, “Firstly, with tickets costing approximately R15000, clearly this exclusive event is not meant to engage the masses to find solutions to the problems they are facing. Instead, what this event shows us, is that the business of energy and electricity generation and distribution is more about profit and not about people or the planet.”

According Makaula, “Young South Africans, who will be the ones left to deal with the devastating impact of increasing extreme weather events, need a more realistic, inclusive and forward-thinking approach to solving the electricity crisis. It is therefore bizarre that the energy minister is patting himself on the back for the few small steps taken to secure more renewable energy projects, while at the same time putting much more effort into pushing for more carbon-emitting fossil fuel investments. And while the minister seemed to brag that the National Petroleum Company “will be in action” next year, there was no mention of a National Renewable Energy Company, which is where we should be headed instead of adding more fossil fuels. The fact of the matter is, South Africa’s energy outlook still includes too much fossil fuels – which is making climate change worse – and not enough renewables, which is better suited.”

Liziwe McDaid adds, “Unfortunately, the DMRE’s IRP2023 is another example of just how out of touch government is with the needs of the people and with what is required to address climate change. The current IRP – which sadly, is so much worse than previous versions – does not ensure energy security for the country and may actually lead to even more unaffordable electricity prices. Moreover, this IRP will make it impossible for South Africa to meet its carbon emissions reduction targets.”

“And to still be pushing Karpowerships, after years of unsuccessfully trying to prove its viability to South Africans. From the start, more than three (3) years ago, it made no sense why government thought that Karpowerships – with its potential to harm our oceans – were suitable for solving what should have been a short-term electricity emergency. Until now, the company has not met the requirements to secure environmental approval – because it cannot prove that its operations would not cause harm to marine ecosystems – in addition to not meeting the financial close deadline,” says McDaid.

In its case against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), The Green Connection challenges Nersa’s decision to grant three electricity generation licenses to the Karpowership SA companies to operate powerships in the ports of Saldanha, Ngqura (Coega) and Richards Bay. This is because Nersa had issued these licences before it could take the environmental implications into account, since the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) refused to grant the powerships environmental authorisation. The Nersa court case is scheduled to be heard in June 2024.

McDaid adds, “We think it is important that South Africans know and understand exactly how the pricing for electricity from Karpower will work because, since we believe the price is not only linked to the Dollar/Rand exchange rate but also international gas prices, this could ultimately affect the price we end up paying for electricity. Any number of events could lead to electricity from this source becoming unaffordable, without warning. Moreover, from what happened in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau – where Karpowership cut the power due to non-payment – relying on this energy producer to supply our electricity or to end load shedding is not in our best interest.”

In light of the country’s ongoing energy and climate crises, it is important that South Africa meets its energy needs in environmentally and economically sustainable ways. This can only be achieved with transparency and meaningful public participation in agreements that government makes on behalf of the people.

Source: The Green Connection

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