Department of Energy – more talk or a move to action?

June 23rd, 2014, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize

 

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by The New Age and SABC at the Sandton Convention Centre on 23 June 2014, the new minister of energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, indicated the priorities she has set herself in her new portfolio.

Tina_Joemat-PetersonCentral to this appears to be an appreciation of the weaknesses in her department, and the need to engage widely. “We are going to need input from other experts in the energy sector”, she said.

The minister indicated that she will be inviting the public to recommend people that can serve on a new Ministerial Advisory Council on Energy. The proposed panel of experts will serve as a sounding board on many of the challenges that confront the energy sector.

“This will not be a statutory body and will not make decisions, as these will still be the preserve of Cabinet. I will be looking for experience and innovation”, she said. “The panel will include academics, civil society, labour and engineering expertise”.

The priorities the minister listed recognise that energy is the lifeblood of the economy needed to unlock economic growth and eliminate impediments to such growth. The minister indicated her determination to “dispense with some of the issues that have been left hanging for far too long”.

The minister reaffirmed the need to achieve an energy mix which has greatly reduced carbon intensity. “We only have 15 years to get there, and my approach is that we should attain our energy security aspirations much sooner than that.”

The recent loadshedding and power interruptions in the heart of winter that have affected domestic, business and industrial electricity customers throughout South Africa are clearly weighing heavily on her mind.

She indicated that after discussions with Eskom last week, the departments of Energy, Public Enterprises and National Treasury will meet this week to propose a roadmap to the three ministers to strengthen the position of Eskom and ensure that the construction of new plants is kept on track.

Minister Joemat-Pietersson also said she has directed the Department of Energy to accelerate the pace of the Independent Power Producer programme, and will be making further announcements in this regard during July.

On the subject of the long-delayed nuclear new-build programme, the minister said: “The debate on nuclear energy has gone on for a long time and perhaps this was necessary. The time has now come for some decisive actions. In the next few weeks, I will outline a comprehensive roadmap that will lead us to a firm decision on the nuclear build programme. Key in this roadmap is ensuring that the 30 year old units at the Koeberg nuclear power station continue producing power for another three decades. This will involve some life extending refurbishments at the power plant”.

Regarding biofuels, the minister indicated that this was an area that has to begin to yield tangible progress. “Time for certainty on the regulatory framework on pricing has come, and I can assure stakeholders that I intend to engage with the obstacles to progress on this matter, and ensure that they are removed. Biofuels has a potential to contribute to economic development, particularly on job creation, and we therefore should not be tolerant about the delays”, she said.

On solar water geysers, the minister says the government has set a target of an additional 1,3-million units to be installed in households over the next five years. Key to this programme is localisation of component manufacturing, as well as job creation during installation and maintenance, and the minister said her ministry will not compromise on local content requirements.

The minister also expressed the view that energy security cannot be achieved without regional integration, and to this end she said that her ministry will continue to work closely with its SADC counterparts to fast track all energy generation and transmission programmes in the sub-region.

On electrification, the minister said that effective service delivery could not be achieved without close coordination with municipalities and provinces, and that this will include closer monitoring of the use of the electrification funds and investments in the distribution infrastructure.

The minister concluded by stressing that energy efficiency and a proper awareness of energy consumption by households and businesses was an opportunity that that has not achieved the success that had been envisaged, and that this will be driven hard during her term.

“I will ensure that the National Energy Efficiency Agency within SANEDI can further justify its existence, and we envisage a more determined focus and effort in this regard, mobilising the widest range of role players around this national campaign”.

Not mentioned by the minister as a priority area is the issue of electricity theft and non-payment, particularly in Soweto where the level of non-technical losses of electricity supplied by Eskom to domestic and commercial “customers” is in excess of 80%.