Tag Archive | energy strategy

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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