Tag Archive | Dr Wolsey Barnard

Overall energy strategy still not there

Feature article………….

DOE energy strategy in need of lead 

From closing parliamentary meeting….sent clients dec 15….   South Africa’s energy strategy problem is as much about connection as it is about the integration of supply resources, said Dr WolseyDr Wolsey Barnard Barnard, acting DG of the Department of Energy (DOE), when briefing the parliamentary select committee on DOE’s annual performance before Parliament closed in 2015

Of all the problems facing South Africa on the energy front, probably the most critical is the lack of engineering resources facing South Africa at municipal and local level, negatively affecting economic development and consumer supply, he told parliamentarians.

He particularly referred in his address to the fact that the main problem being encountered in the energy supply domain was the quality of proposals submitted by municipalities for supply development in their areas.     In many cases, he said, the entities involved totally lacked the technical skills and capacity to execute and manage projects and there was also, in many cases, a lack of accountability with reports not being signed off correctly and in some cases technical issues not resolved before the project started.

Doing the simple things first

Despite all the queries from Opposition members on major issues such as fuel regulation matters; nuclear development and the tendering processes; the independent power producer situation with clean energy connection problems and issues surrounding strategic fuel stocks; again and again (DOE) emphasised that nothing was possible until South Africa developed its skills in the area of energy (electricity) connections.

electricity townshipsThe quality of delivery in this area was “extremely poor”, Dr Barnard said, inferring that without satisfactory delivery of energy the burning issues of supply became somewhat academic. Localised development at the “small end” of the energy chain had to be developed, he said. This lack of skills was exacerbated by the “slow delivery of projects by municipalities and by Eskom in particular”, he said.

Eskom  in areas not covered by local government.

Dr Barnard said that there was a lack of accountability on reports provided; poor expenditure by most municipalities evident from the amount of times roll overs were called for and high vacancy rates in municipalities. Consequently, he said, the overall Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP) was producing slow delivery of electrification projects requested of both local government and Eskom against the targets shown to MPs.

In probably the last meeting of the present Parliament before its recess, DOE spoke more frankly than has been heard for some time on the subject of its short, medium and long term energy solutions, including a few answers on the problems faced.

Frank answers

DOE explained it had six programmes focus which were outlined as the various areas of nuclear energy; energy efficiency programmes; solar, wind and hydro energy supply; petroleum and fuel energy issues, regulations and development electrification with its supply and demand issues.

DOE specifically mentioned that the Inga Treaty on hydro-power had come into force in the light of theinga fact that conditions to ratify the long term agreement between SA and DRC were satisfied and commercial regulations could begin in order to procure power. This would change the future of energy of solutions. This was a long terms issue but targets for the year on negotiations had been met.

Opposition members were particularly angry that a debate could not take place of nuclear issues and whether South Africa was to procure reactors or not. It was suggested by the Chair that maybe the outcome of COP21 might have given more clarity but MPs maintained that to make a decision DOE, as well as the Cabinet, “must know the numbers involved”.

DOE maintained silence on the issue saying as before that enumerating bid details would destroy the process. It was assumed by the committee at that stage that the then Minister of Finance must be grappling with the issue but MPs wanted an explanation to back up President Zuma’s State of the Nation address on nuclear issues, complaining that nobody in Parliament had seen sight of Energy Minister Joemat-Pettersson nor heard a thing on the issue.

Full team minus nuclear

Present from DOE, in addition to Dr Wolsey Barnard, Deputy DG and Projects and Programmes were Ms Yvonne Chetty, Chief Financial Officer; DG Maqubela, DG of Petroleum Regulations and DG Lloyd Ganta, Governance and Compliance.

On solar energy, DOE said some 92 contracts had been signed in terms of the IPP programmes. Forty of them were now operating producing some 2.2 megawatts of energy at a “cheap rate” when on line and solar germanythe grid being supplied but it became more expensive when not being taken up. Dr Barnard explained that South Africa was not like Germany which was connected to a larger EU “mega” grid in Europe where it both received and supplied electricity.

SA’s system, he said was rather a “one-way supplier”, solar energy being made available only when needed by the grid. But as SA grew economically, things would change.

He commented that the new solar energy station in Upington had not yet been completed but shortly it would not only be supplying energy “when the sun was shining” but, importantly, be able to stored energy for later use. This made sense with the purpose of the IPP programme, he said.

The big failure

On the issue of the PetroSA impairment of R14.5bn, subject raising again the temperature in the meeting, DG Lloyd Ganta of DOE explained that the PetroSA impairment had happened mainly for two reasons.
The first was that PetroSA had made a loss in Ghana to the value of R2.7bn, primarily, he said, due to the fluctuations in the price of oil, the price falling from $110 per barrel to $50 at the time shortly after their entry and at the point of the end of the first quarter.

Project IkwheziThe second reason was due to losses at Project Ikwhezi (offsea to Mossgas) where volumes of gas extracted were far lower than expectation, the venture having started in 2011. At the end of the 2014/5 financial year, only 10% of the expected gas had been realised. When parliamentarians asked what the new direction was therefore to be, the answer received was that engineers were looking at the possibility of fracking at sea to increase the disappointing inputs.

The financial reports from Ms Chetty of DOE confirmed the numbers in financial terms making up the loss,

Dependent on oil price

Acting DG Tseliso Maqubela then stressed that nothing could not change the fact that South Africa was an oil importing country but the country was attempting to follow the direction of and promises made on cleaner fuels and it had been decided to continue with the East coast extraction.

In terms of the NDP, DOE said that South Africa clearly needed another refinery for liquid fuels but

refinery

engen durban refinery

whilst an estimated figure of R53bn had been attached to the issue some time ago for the financing of such, the issue of upgrading existing plant had not been resolved with stakeholders.

Oil companies, he commented, had said that if the government were not to pay for this in part, especially in the light of fuel specification requirements also required to meet cleaner fuel targets set by international agreements signed by SA, the motorist would have to foot the bill as the country could not import clean fuel as such to meet all demand.

More refining capacity

“A balance has to be found with industry and a deal struck”, he said, the problem being that the motorist was at the end of the fuel chain and such a call would affect the economy. He said that possibly the refinery issue could be approached in a phased manner and at perhaps a lower cost.

In the meanwhile, cleaner fuels were a reality and already some traders had applied to the DoE for licenses to construct import facilities, one in Durban and one in Cape Town.

If traders were to bring in large quantities of clean fuels, he said, this would represent a complete change in the petroleum sector and an energy task team, made up of government and main stakeholders was at present putting together a full report on cleaner fuels and a strategy for the future.

LPG a problem

lpgThe Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) situation was different, he said, since in this area there was not enough production and import storage facilities and it was a question of short supply therefore to the market – a problem especially in winter.

Both propane and butane, the main constituents of LPG are used in the refining process in the far more complicated process of straight petroleum fuel production and with the economies of scale that have to apply to South Africa, this resulted in a high market gate price and insufficient quantities, he said.

Unfortunately, LPG was becoming very much the energy source of preference with householders,especially poorer homes, hence the pressure on government to find some way of introducing LPG on an a far larger scale and at a lesser price. The impression was given that LPG “got the short straw” in terms of production output numbers.

Nuclear non-starter

Again when the subject came round to nuclear matters, no officials present from DOE were in a position to answer MPs questions on why eight nuclear power stations should be necessary, if nuclear was indeed a necessity at all, and whether the affordability had been looked at properly – the chairman again suggesting that the matter be put off until reappearance of the Minister of Energy in the New Year.

Gas on back-burner, as usual

Finally, on questions of gas and fracking, DG Tseliso Maqubela said that government “was takingmozambique pipeline a conservative approach” inasmuch that any pipeline from Northern Mozambique to South Africa was not under consideration but that plans were afoot to expand existing pipelines from that territory in the South.

On fracking, as most knew he said, a strategic environmental assessment had been commissioned, basic regulations published and also the question of waterless fracking was a possibility, now being investigated.
Previous articles on category subject
MPs attack DPE on energy communications – ParlyReportSA
Eskom goes to the brink with energy – ParlyReportSA
South Africa at energy crossroads: DOE speaks out – ParlyReport
Gas undoubtedly on energy back burner – ParlyReportSA
SA aware of over-dependence on Middle East, says DOE – ParlyReportSA

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Fuel price controlled by seasonal US supply

US refinery shut downs affect fuel price…..

US refineryThe current spike in the price of petrol is due of a number of international issues  compounding together but the primary cause is that at this time of year in the United States, a number of major US refineries close down for maintenance in order to prepare for the US summer surge in fuel sales.

This was said by Dr Wolsey Barnard, acting DG of the department of energy (DoE), when he introduced a briefing to the portfolio committee on energy on its strategy for the coming year.

In actual fact, the meeting had been called to debate the promised “5-point energy plan” from the cabinet’s “war room” which did not eventualise, the minister of energy also being absent for the presentation as scheduled. It appeared that the DoE presentation had been hastily put together.

“Price swingers” make perfect storm

Dr Wolsey BarnardDr Barnard said that it could be expected that the price of fuel would be extremely volatile in the coming months due in main “geo-political events” affecting the price of oil, local pricing issues of fuel products and possibly even sea lane interruptions. Price would always be based on import parity and current events in Mexico, Venezuela and the Middle East would always be “price swingers”, he said.

On electricity matters, his speciality, he avoided any reference to past lack of investment in infrastructure, but said that he called for caution in the media, by government officials and the committee on the use of the two expressions “blackouts” and “load shedding”.

Same old story

“Over the next two years”, he said, “until sufficient infrastructure was in place, there would have to be planned maintenance in South Africa” and referred to the situation in the US as far as maintenance of refinery plant was concerned. He said that also “unexpected isolated problems” could also arise with ageing generation installations, during which planned “load shedding” would have to take place.

He said he could not imagine there being a “blackout”.

Opposition members complained that the whole electricity crisis could be solved if some companies would cease importing raw minerals, using South African electricity at discounted prices well below the general consuming manufacturing industry paid, and re-exporting smelted aluminium back to the same customer. They accused DoE of trying to “normalise what was a totally abnormal position for a country to be in.”

Billiton back in contention

One MP said, “Industry was in some cases just using cheap South African electricity to make a profit”. Suchaluminium smelter practices went against South Africa’s own beneficiation programme, he said, in the light of the raw material being imported and the finished product re-exported. “It would be cheaper to shut down company and pay the fines”, the DA opposition member added, naming BH Billiton as the offender in his view.

Dr Barnard said DoE could not discuss Eskom’s special pricing agreements which were outside DoE’s control  and “which were a thing of the past and a matter which we seem to be stuck with for the moment.”

High solar installation costs

Dr Barnard also said that DoE had established that the department had to be “cautious on the implementation of solar energy plan” as a substitute energy resource in poorer, rural areas and even some of the lower income municipal areas.  DoE, he said, “had to find a different funding model”, since the cost of installation and maintenance were beyond the purse of most low income groups.

In general, he promised more financial oversight on DoE state owned enterprises and better communications.   There were plenty of good news stories, he said, but South Africa was hypnotising itself into a position of “bad news” on so many issues, including energy matters. He refused to discuss any matters regarding PetroSA, saying this was not the correct forum nor was it on the agenda.

Still out there checking

On petroleum and products regulation, the DG of that department, Tseliso Maquebela, said that non-compliance in the sale of products still remained a major issue. “We have detected a few cases of fraudulent fuel mixes”, he said, “but we plan to double up on inspectors in the coming months, especially in the rural areas, putting pressure on those who exploit the consumer.” The objective, he said was reach a target of a 90% crackdown on such cases with enforcement notices.

Maquebela added that on BEE factors, 40% of licence applications with that had 50% BEE compliance was now the target.

Competition would be good

On local fuel pricing regulations, Maquebela said “he would dearly like to move towards a more open and competitive pricing policy introducing more competition and less regulations.”

fuel tanker engenOn complaints that the new fuel pipeline between Gauteng and Durban was still not in full production after much waiting, Maquebela said the pipeline was operating well but it was taking longer than expected to bring about the complicated issue of pumping through so many different types of fuel down through the same pipeline. “But we are experts at it and it will happen”, he said.

Fracking hits the paper work

On gas, particularly fracking, DoE said that the regulations “were going to take some time in view of all the stakeholder issues”.

On clean energy and “renewables” from IPP sources, DoE stated that the “REIPP” was still “on track” but an announcement was awaited from the minister who presumably was consulting with other cabinet portfolios regarding implementation of the fourth round of applications from independent producers.

Opposition totally unimpressed

In conclusion, DA member and shadow minister of energy, Gordon McKay, said that the DoEgordon mackay DA presentation was the most “underwhelming” he had ever listened to on energy.   Even the ANC chair, Fikile Majola, sided with the opposition and said that DoE  “can do better than this.”

He asked how Parliament could possibly exercise oversight with this paucity of information.   DoE representatives looked uncomfortable during most of the presentations and under questioning it was quite clear that communications between cabinet and the DoE were poor.

When asked by members who the new director general of the department of energy would be and why was the minister taking so long to make any announcement on this, Dr Wolsey Barnard, as acting DG, evaded the question by answering that “all would be answered in good time”.

Other articles in this category or as background
Energy gets war room status – ParlyReportSA
Medupi is key to short term energy crisis – ParlyReportSA
Integrated energy plan (IEP) around the corner – ParlyReportSAenergy legislation is lined up for two years – ParlyReportSA

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