Tag Archive | energy portfolio committee

Parliament set for tough questioning

Editorial…

…..Busy session to get some answers

….  In the absence of any move by the National Prosecuting Authority, particularly the somnambulant National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams whose department seems confused as to whether 100,000 leaked Gupta e-mails constitute prima facie evidence of fraud or not, it falls to a parliamentary committee in Cape Town once again to be the first official venue for any debate of consequence on the State/Gupta corruption scandals.

In one of the first meetings of the recently re-opened Parliament, the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee is to receive a report back from legal experts on the setting up of the Eskom enquiry.

Party vs the Church

Oddly enough, it was in also Cape Town, at St George’s Cathedral, in early June, where the fight first began.    Later, the venue was room 249 in the National Assembly, where the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee was addressed by Bishop of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). He had then just released a report on corruption by the SACC Unburdening Panel.

It fell to the Bishop the first shot and there was a sobering moment of silence in parliamentary room 249 when he finished talking. It felt like a small moment in South African history.  What came after that seemed like a little bit of a parliamentary let-down in the following weeks but it is important that what the Bishop had to say is further reported for the record.

Take that

Bishop Mpumlwana reminded all present, and particularly parliamentarians who claimed that the Church should not be “fiddling in politics”, that the same politicians had repeated the phrase, “So help me God” when taking office.

He said that the Church had no intention of ignoring the evil that was being perpetrated on the people of South Africa and asked all to note that the Constitution ended, “May God bless South Africa.”

He also said that systematic looting of resources had created a crisis for South Africans, particularly the poor. He called upon all parliamentarians to look to their consciences and assist with “the righteous cause of tracking down all those involved” in what was now an obvious state capture plan hatched during President Zuma’s watch in which the President himself, he said, was involved.

Cry, the beloved country

In a particularly moving address, he reminded all that SACC had come out in vocal support of the ANC during the apartheid years when President PW Botha was in power.   Now was the time to speak up again on the unbridled abuse of power by an ANC Cabinet and a President “who had lost his way on moral issues.”

The Church, he said, must intervene and as a result of the SACC “unburdening” process which had been conducted some months ago, he now knew that “mafia-style control” was being exercised by a political elite in Eskom, Transnet, Denel, and other government agencies.

Ignored

An attempt was in process to gain control over public funds destined particularly regarding rail, arms and nuclear projects, the last being a totally unnecessary burden placed upon the country, he said.    He concluded with an appeal to parliamentarians present to expose the crimes committed and “restore the dream that had built a rainbow nation admired the world over.”

It was gratifying to hear in following days that the Public Enterprises committee, under chairperson Zukiswa Rantho, had instituted an enquiry into Eskom’s accounts (and also Transnet and Denel it turned out) with legal opinion to be discussed in the in the next session of Parliament.

That time has now arrived and one hopes that a lot of explanations will emerge and a lot more untruths discovered in meetings with the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and its apparently confused but certainly compromised leader responsible, Minister, Lynne Brown.

Looking ahead

Parliament has now a busy schedule in August to catch up on lost time with delays incurred by staging a “secret ballot” on the no-confidence in President Zuma vote.

One issue will involve the passage of the contentious Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, scheduled for a meeting with the Select Committee again towards the end of August; the Expropriation Bill; and the implementation of all Twin Peaks regulations – including those for the Financial Intelligence Centre to operate in terms of the “money-laundering” changes.

This last-named body is quoted as having handed over some 7,000 cases of suspicious money movements to SAPS/Hawks and Themba Godi, chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), has made the public comment that any parliamentary finance joint meetings must see such matters on oversight resolved in the short term, preferably immediately.

Energy up and down

Minister of Energy, Mmamaloko Kubayi, was to be informing her Portfolio Committee on the can of worms opened with her suspension of the board the Central Energy Fund stated by her as being in connection with the suspicious sale of South Africa’s oil reserves held by the Strategic Fuel Fund.

Past Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, seems to have possibly lied earlier to Parliament over the sale of these assets and she, in her subsequent silence, appears to be joining what is now a whole roomful of past ministers and director generals involved in the tangled web of deceit and manipulation at the edge of business and commerce  – some of it linked to Gupta e-mails, some just motivated by plain criminal greed.

But all Energy Portfolio Committee meetings on any subject have now been abruptly halted in the light of matters involving the possible suspension of the DG of Energy Policy and Planning, Omhi Aphane, (a long-time and experienced government staffer) on on an issue regarding of nuclear consultancy fees, according to the media.   It would appear a whistle blower is at work in DoE.

Minister Kubayi is certainly causing waves and many hope that the responsibility for Eskom is to be handed over to this Minister from the DPE, back to where it was originally rooted with all other energy resources.

Untouched as usual

The issue of debt relief legislation under the aegis of Chair Joan Fubbs of the Trade and Industry Committee will be important as will meetings on energy involving electricity, IPPs, nuclear and clearing up the PetroSA mess.   But first, this committee should sort out what is to be done with a draft Copyright Bill amending and updating anchor legislation, laws that have not been touched since 1976.

What DTI have so far come up with has legal experts in complete confusion since there appears no understanding by DTI in their draft of the difference between paintings, works of art and the high-tec world of data authorship which underwrites commerce and industry and on which depends a massive IT industry both here and mostly abroad.   Fortunately, with a person like Joan Fubbs in charge, basic misunderstandings such as this will get sorted out.  However, that such unintended consequences might have occurred worries many.

The various Finance Committees will meet for joint sessions for a number of tax and money Bills and amendment proposals and Posts and Telecommunications will hear its Department’s comments on public hearings, all regarding the ICT White Paper Policy.

Posted in cabinet, Communications, Electricity, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Nuclear partner details awaited

DoE gives update on SA nuclear plan….

russian nuclearThe Department of Energy (DoE) says it is the sole procurer in any nuclear programme and that “vendor parades” had been conducted with eights countries, the results to be announced before the end of 2015. To give cost details, they said, would “undermine the bidding process”.

The situation regarding South Africa’s current intended nuclear energy programme was explained during a parliamentary meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Energy, DoE confirming that a stage had been reached where nuclear vendors had been approached and DoE staff were being trained in Russia and China.

Eskom not involved

Neither DoE, nor the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who was also present would givetina-joematt cost estimates nor speak to the subject of financing other than the fact the minister admitted that the idea of Eskom being involved in the building programme in the style of Medupi and Kusile was a non-starter.

At the same time Minister Joemat-Pettersson announced that a new Bill, the Energy Regulator Amendment Bill, was to be tabled that would give Eskom the right to appeal against tariffs set by the National Energy Regulator (NERSA). This followed upon the news that Eskom would be given powers to procure, which must lead to the assumption, said opposition MPs later, that Eskom will recoup costs of financing through electricity tariffs.

The Minister said the renewable IPP programme involving the private sector had included multinationals and had been “hailed as a success” and the deal that would be struck with nuclear vendors would be on best price in terms of the end price for the consumer. Any bidding would be conducted in the “style of the IPP process”, which included support of the process of black procurement and skills training.

Contribution to grid still “theoretical”

modern nuclear 2Deputy Director, Nuclear, DoE, Zizamele Mbambo, explained to opposition members that whilst government had in principle decided to include nuclear energy in the energy mix for the future, DoE itself was still only at the stage of establishing all costs involved to the point of actual connection of a theorised figure of nearly 10GW to the national grid. To disclose costs at this stage would undermine the bidding process, he said.

The main purpose of the costing exercise still remained the final cost the consumer, he said, in terms of the NDP Plan 2030, a phased decision-making approach over a period of assessment having been endorsed by the Cabinet in 2012. The whole exercise of deciding what the costs would be was therefore relevant to how much coal sourced power would contribute to the baseload of the energy mix by 2030.

Deal or no deal

Zizamele Mbambo confirmed that in 2013, DoE had been designated as the sole procurer of the nuclearsmall nuclear reactor build programme and “vendor parades” had been conducted with Russia, China, France, China, USA, South Korea, Japan and Canada. The strategic partner to conduct the next stage, the New Build Programme itself, would be announced before the end of 2015, Mbambo said, by which time costs would have been established and treasury consulted.

At this stage no deal had been struck, he confirmed.

As distinct from the actual vendors per se, and any deals, Mbambo said that international agreements had been struck with interested counties on the exchange of nuclear knowledge, training and procurement generally.

DoE trainees already in China

chinese sa flags“Fifty trainees already employed in South Africa’s nuclear industry had already gone to China for ‘phase one’ training with openings for a further 250 to follow”, he said, noting that the Russian Federation had offered five masters degrees in nuclear technology.

The New Build nuclear programme was at present based on providing eventually 10GW of power to the grid but DoE confirmed that the indirect effect on the economy from “low cost, reliable baseload electricity is logically positive but difficult to assess”.

Zizamele Mbambo showed a graph of the possible integration of energy from coal, nuclear, hydro (imported), gas and renewables over a period, stating that nuclear was clean, reliable and would ensure security of supply with “dispatchable power.”

Opposition Members complained that the process seemed likely to make the price of electricity unaffordable to the poor and have a major impact on the cost of doing business in South Africa.

Nuclear vs. coal

Mbambo was at pains to explain that in the long term, the cost of nuclear energy was considerably lessgrids than coal and this was the reason that, for future generations, South Africa had to embark on a course that not only lead to cleaner but cheaper energy.

As a final issue, DDG Mbambo touched upon the question of approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and explained that any relationship with this UN body was on the basis of a peer review.

This covered nineteen issues from nuclear safety management to radioactive waste disposal and was not an audit, he explained, South Africa already having been an experienced nation in nuclear matters from medical isotopes to nuclear weapons. It was pointed out to members that that IAEA merely carried out reviews and made input.

Up to speed or not

IAEAIt was during the response to the budget vote speech on the subject of the IAEA, that Opposition Shadow Energy Minister, Gordon Mackay said that the agency had found South Africa deficient in more than 40% of its assessment criteria.   In response, DDG Mbambo did not refer to the current state of the country’s nuclear readiness at any point but confirmed there was a great need for training and this was now the emphasis.

He said the relationship with the IAEA was in three phases covering purchasing, construction and operations and although it was thirty years since South Africa had a nuclear building programme at Koeberg, the current contribution to nuclear technology was recognised.    The programme now was to create a younger generation of nuclear experts, the main issue being to build technology capacity and train trainers in the state nuclear sector.

Reactor numbers

Mbambo concluded his presentation by stating that DoE was in discussion with treasury specifically on this issue of funding training, Minister Joemat-Pettersson adding that some six to eight reactors were planned  but a this was very early, the weight that “price” would carry in determining a strategic partner was not decided.

Other articles in this category or as background
Nuclear goes ahead: maybe “strategic partner” – ParlyReportSA
National nuclear control centre now in place – ParlyReportSA
Energy plan assumptions on nuclear build out in New Year – ParlyReport

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Enviro,Water, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Global Finance Needed for Renewable Energy

If carbon emission targets are to be met, department of energy (DOE) told Parliament, then countries needed effective international finance instruments put in place to assist in creating renewable energy source industry infrastructure. The department was reporting back on the recent international global warming conference held in Durban.

In the absence of the minister of energy and most senior (DOE) officials due to the presentation by the president Jacob Zuma of the infrastructure plan announced in his SONA address earlier during the week, Mokgadi Modise, chief director, clean energy – DOE,  presented a departmental oversight on the Durban COP17 conference.   She noted that “bottom up” solutions were needed in all countries including South Africa to achieve advancements in the renewables clean energy with the appropriate solutions, if carbon emissions were to be reduced worldwide. There was too much “top down” application at present.

Modise said that that most countries had already indicated their un-willingness to answer key political, questions on the Kyoto Protocol, well before the Durban conference and that the hosting of COP 17 for South Africa, presented considerable problems for the country as hosts if a better outcome was to be achieved than the multitudinous disappointments experienced at the Copenhagen COP 15.

Focus at Durban was also on the “operationalisation” of the Cancun agreements at COP 16.

Modise outlined the “side event” on 26-27 November in which DOE participated and co-hosted with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat to present the 12th Designated National Authority (DNA) in order to crystallize common views and communalize information before the main conference. Challenges at the DNA were that certain countries, such as Italy, were notable for the lack of data provided on their domestic energy statistics, rendering it difficult to obtain overall global factors and make proper conclusions.

Later in the meeting she said that the UNFCCC was working on sector-specific “data templates” and those countries would have to align themselves to data delivery protocols. These were to be delivered to all in the course of time. However, much was overcome at the DNA meetings, Modise said.

Other “side events” at COP17 in which DOE participated were many, including an SA energy oversight presentation and the launch of a pilot solar energy project at ILembe municipality by the president of SA, demonstrating South Africa’s keen interest in renewable energy as a practical issue on the ground.

A factor that emerged from COP17, Modise said, was that considerable advances had to be made urgently as far as international access to financial resources investment in renewable energy projects were concerned in order to “scale up” progress in this area.  Finance structures with international sourcing had to be put in place, she said.

Also, improved incentives to energy participants were needed in both the renewables and electricity energy fields in order to encourage different forms of energy creation.

For clean energy solutions to work globally there had to be an improvement in the support by governments generally.  However, she said, in terms of local business and industry in SA, DOE was convinced that both BUSA and commerce generally “had come to the party” on targets and their participation in DOE objectives within the framework of what South Africa had agreed to internationally” and that this was understood generally by the SA industrial and commercial community as a result of publicity.

Modise singled out wind and solar issues for discussion and told parliamentarians that DOE was working very closely with DTI on this subject but under questioning, was unable to provide any targets in terms of both energy figures or give timeframes.

On the subject of research and development in various energy sectors, she admitted that in South Africa there was little in the way of a sufficient base of technology on all forms of renewable energy but that much of this could, and would have to be, outsourced. Hence the plan to involve PPIs.   Whilst Modise drew no specific references to biofuels, she did note that the “way forward for DOE” was to apply “rigorous monitoring, reporting and verification on carbon mitigation effects”. She said domestic outcomes from the National Climate Change White Paper, approved by cabinet last October, were now going forward for conclusion by May 2012.

Seven projects on renewable energy had been approved and a further 21 were under investigation, she said.    These were to provide some 1 415.52MW of power representing the first IPP phase and other “windows of opportunity” for IPPs would occur in March and August this year.   She said she would supply the committee separately with lists of successful bidders and those being seriously looked as a separate exercise, in the light of time constraints in the particular meeting.

The White Paper on Energy Efficiency was still at the stage of “engagement with the department of the environment on how to unpack what energy sectors were responsible for what and what target applied to each and what the contributions expected were to be.” All stakeholders were involved, Modise said.      The final date for the country’s energy strategy as a finished document remained as May 2012, she noted.

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