Tag Archive | Eskom

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

Parliament embroiled in state capture

State capture emerges as a fact  …

An impression might have been given recently that parliamentary meetings only occur as and when e-NCA cherry picks a meeting for the evening news on the subject of state capture.   Therefore, one might think, every parliamentary meeting is either about the SABC or Eskom, Transnet or Denel.   Nothing could further from the truth.

Although the perverse facts behind the carefully planned act of state capture, involving Bell Pottinger, the Gupta family, their friends and associates, the actual crime in parliamentary terms  is non-disclosure to Parliament committed by public servants in the name of the same “prominent” persons, plus lying and falsification in terms of an oath taken to serve the nation.

Parliament, as a structure, has remained untarnished as the second pillar of separated powers. It is the players who have broken faith.

Hundreds of meetings

This is not to say that truth has always been exercised in Parliament in the past nor to claim that from the President down to backbenchers, all have been unaware that fake news has been fielded in parliamentary meetings.  But what is heartening is that the parliamentary process has been an enormous hurdle for the crooked to overcome.

In any one of the four sessions a year, each roughly equating in timelines to the terms of a school calendar, there are some three to four hundred committee meetings in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

The subject matters covered represent the activities of forty seven government departments, literally hundreds of SOEs and all legislation which is tabled for the Statute Book must be debated.   All this is conducted with two audiences. It is a daunting programme.

Standing out

But soon it was noticeable that it was the meetings on SOEs, particularly those with their own boards and where tender processes were involved, that there was  a common theme emerging.   In each case it was a matter of strategic decisions not being taken to Parliament for approval; balance sheets not squaring up to meet the requirements of the Auditor General and the sudden arrival of newly appointed board members with little or no experience of matters under discussion.

It all stood out like a sore thumb.   Meanwhile, investigative journalism was to become a major force in parliamentary affairs.

In fact it was the parliamentary system that began slowly to reject  the manipulative processes being fielded.  Many an MP started demanding investigative reports from Cabinet ministers with cross-party support;  parliamentary rules were enforced in order to restrain the passage of  mischievous legislation and the pointing of fingers and the use of the kind of language that is only allowed under  parliamentary privilege contributed to the wearing down of the cover-up machine.

To the rescue

Eventually, between the AmaBhungane team and the BDFM team and others such as City Press, investigative journalism saved the day.   It could then be seen in writing that many of the issues so slowly being uncovered in Parliament, where nobody could pierce the web of intrigue and see the picture in its entirety, the full story was beginning to  take shape.

The extent of the theft is still not known and still emerging are new players in the list of “prominent persons”.  There is also still no apparent follow up by either SAPS or the Hawks, nor matters acted upon by the National Prosecuting Authority.

Worse, many do not expect this to happen – so cynical has the taxpayer become and so deep are the criminal waters.  But, as the saying goes, “every dog has its day”.

In the engine room

Despite the bad publicity for Parliament and the institution itself being under fire as to whether or not Parliament is a reliable democratic tool, a good number of MPs, especially opposition members, have been slaving away.     This is despite the appointed Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, going on “special leave” whilst allegations into his possible violations of the PMFA are investigated.

Mgidlana was appointed as “CEO” of Parliament by the Presidency.     His jaunts overseas accompanied by his wife are the subject of investigation and have been the cause of strike action by parliamentary staff for nearly a year, whilst their own pay packets are frozen.

This matter seems to have mirrored the very issues being debated in Parliament.   Fortunately and most responsibly, the strikes have been orchestrated so as to have little major effect on the parliamentary schedule

Top heavy

Meanwhile, despite the top guy being a passenger in his own system, notices are going out on time, the parliamentary schedule is available every morning and the regular staff are hard at it. Now is the time in the parliamentary diary when the April budget vote is activated; money is made available and departmental programmes initiated.    Hearings have been conducted on many important pieces of legislation.

There is an extraordinary team in Cape Town which runs Parliament, especially researchers and secretaries to committees.

Train smash

Added to this, if it was not enough, a normally busy schedule was further complicated by urgent meetings on poor governance; tribunal findings; briefings for new members of Cabinet and the fact that to match President Zuma’s ever-expanding Cabinet with appropriate government departments there were some fifty portfolio and select committees all being served by a reduced Parliamentary staff.

The extent to which corruption is embedded into government’s spending programme makes parliamentary oversight a difficult and lengthy task, especially when under performance or poor governance matters are involved.   It all reflects the times we live in. In one day alone there  is not enough parliamentary time for a whole range of public servants to be “in the dock” to answer questions on matters involving millions of rand.

No court of law

To be fair, it is often as difficult for the respondent to get around to answering as it is for parliamentarians to get to the truth.  When you know the boss is on the take, how does one answer?   Issues tend to go around in circles.

Sifting out the rhetoric when the truth is shrouded in political intrigue is no easy task in Parliament especially when people are frightened of losing their jobs.

As the millions of rand stolen turn into billions of rand during the early part of 2017 and parliamentary committees were introduced to new “acting” directors in charge of government funding, TV cameras popped up in all corners of the parliamentary precinct.    One was constantly tripping over metres and metres of black cable to caravan control rooms enabling the public to watch the latest saga.

Camera shy

At the same time, Parliament is clearly now being side-lined by members of the Cabinet or avoided by Directors General and this maybe because of this new found public form of entertainment of spotting the good guys and shaming the captured ones.

In the past, the abuse of parliamentary rules by the incumbent President used to be considered as country-boy innocence but now the position has changed.     As any election approaches, parliamentary rhetoric always descends into low grade babble in the National Assembly but this time it is very different.  there is a clear disconnect between Parliament and the President.

With the addition of the now infamous “white minority capital” campaign to the debate, orchestrated ostensibly as we now know from London (as probably was the over employed expression of “radical economic transformation”) most of the forty-seven ministers and deputy ministers hammered out the same slogans in their budget vote speeches 9r at any given opportunity to speak, as if orchestrated.

Looking back: 2nd session

Going back to the beginning of 2016/7, Parliament has ploughed through the Nkandla mess; the SABC crisis; the Eskom governance exposures; the troubles at SAA; the failures and manipulations at Denel; crookery at Transnet; the PRASA scandals and in the losses at PetroSA, the latter being just sheer bad management it seems driven by political desire.

All of this has involved a lot of committee time far better spent on enlightening issues to assist the economy and create jobs. The “blame game” simply led to a jungle of write offs with no explanations but, suddenly, an ill-timed series of cabinet re-shuffles rattled a hundred cages.

D-day

Friday, March 31, 2017 will always be remembered following a period of stun grenades and parliamentary brawling in the House as President Zuma announced yet another set of choices to make up his Cabinet.  In committee meetings, in no less than eight portfolios, new or changed Ministers and Deputy Ministers appeared at meetings with little background.

The second session of the 2017 Parliament had this extraordinary start and on it ending, the arrival of the Gupta emails has now confirmed and named many involved in the whole issue of truthful depositions before Parliament.  No doubt a lot more shocks are yet to come.

The next session of Parliament will represent one of the arenas where the gladiatorial challenge will be played out on state capture together with the battle to avoid fusion in the separation of powers.

It is to be hoped that spring at the end of the third session will herald more than just another summer.

 

Previous articles on category subject
Zuma vs Parliament – ParlyReportSA
Parliament awaits to hear from Cabinet – ParlyReportSA
Parliament goes into Easter recess – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Carbon tax offsets on the way

Tax offsets plan almost ready for Parliament

sent to clients 12 Aug     Only a little reminding is needed that 29 July 2016 was the deadline for comments to carbontax1Treasury on the forthcoming carbon tax offsets plan which Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, has promised will come into effect 1 April 2017 with some saying it might even be as early as 1 Jan 2017.

It was in 2014 that National Treasury published the first carbon tax discussion paper for public comment. It was agreed the that such a tax would be phased in over a period of time, the first phase running up to 2020. The marginal rate was the envisaged at R120 per tonne of CO2 and during phase-one, a basic percentage based threshold of 60% will apply for tax offsets below which tax is not payable in order to assist with transition into the new scheme.

SARS as usual

Everything has been based on South Africa’s commitment to the Copenhagen agreement signed in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025 – below the “business as usual” scenario.   The motivation provided for the tax remains as “so the cost of climate change an be reflected in the price of goods and services”.

sanedi carbon capIt was agreed that the tax would be administered by SARS.    Since that date, whilst the pro and cons of such a tax caused heated debate in some circles as to whether an introduction of a price mechanism could influence consumer and producer behaviour, the inclusion of Eskom in the tax net left many feeling somewhat helpless due to the utility’s enormity.

Eskom maybe dictates

OUTA complained that “Eskom’s various electricity tariff increases of almost three times the rate of consumer price inflation over the past eight years has become a tax of its own on society.”

They added that the electricity increase impact had resulted in fact to a reduction in electricity and energy as a result and this, which coupled with reduced production and consumption, had inadvertently caused a reduction of greenhouses gases having already taken place, OUTA said.   Of course, this remains totally unproven.

Neither Cabinet nor Treasury/SARS have replied to OUTA’s call to note “unintended consequences”.  No Treasury official it appears has felt that the Copenhagen Agreement can be dis-respected and have presumably felt that OUTA’s platform that a drop in national growth, due to global events and construction problems, has had little to do with the actual design of an overall process to cut carbon emissions over the next period of fifty years or so. The argument continues.

Quantifiable is the word

Now the first phase of the tax offsets are being set in concrete with Treasury having called for comment on theemissions final formula for the first phase of tax proposals, proposing, as before in the draft, that companies can reduce their liability for carbon tax by up to 5% or 10% of their total greenhouse gas emissions, depending on their sector, by investing in qualifying projects that result in quantifiable greenhouse-gas reductions.

Treasury says that the qualifying investments and offsets are likely to be in sectors such as agriculture, public transport, forestry or waste management and the accompanying documents note…“The proposal to use carbon offsets in conjunction with the carbon tax has been widely supported by stakeholders as a cost-effective measure to incentivise GHG emission reductions.”

How not to pay tax….offsets

“Carbon offsets involve specific projects or activities that reduce, avoid, or sequester emissions, and are developed and evaluated under specific methodologies and standards, which enable the issuance of carbon credits”, SARS concludes.

It is worth noting that tax legislation usually comes in the form of a “money” Bill which Parliament can debate butgreen scorpion not amend. Should the debate raise issues, then Parliament can address Treasury who will, according to their dictates, reconsider and change if they alone see fit.  

The general feeling seemed to be from hearings was that this event had to happen in line with other established economies, although OUTA has remained strong on its views that Eskom as a major player in the energy mix is distorting the situation.

The Treasury website has all the details of rules on which tax regulations will be based.
Previous articles on category subject
Treasury’s plan for carbon tax – ParlyReportSA
Carbon offsets paper still open – ParlyReportSA
Carbon Tax under attack from Eskom, Sasol, EIUG – ParlyReportSA
Treasury sticks to its guns on carbon tax – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Energy, Enviro,Water, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Minister Brown wants utility shareholder management 

Shareholder Management Bill could kill cosy jobs…. 

sent  to clients 20 Dec…..Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, reports that she is to introduce, as aLynne Browndraft, the Shareholder Management Bill as part of a plan to introduce more leadership ability and some form of continuity for the state owned enterprises (SOCs) under her control. This includes Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SA Express, Alexkor and Safcol.

Maybe start of something big.

Whilst troubled SAA is now an independent, falling under National Treasury for the moment. Providing President Zuma makes no more changes, Minister Pravin Gordhan is set to sort out National Treasury itself and challenge the management style of his old stomping ground, SARS.. How much come out of the Cabinet Lekgotla is critical.

The problem children

PetroSA logoMeanwhile, PetroSA is in real deep water, the entity falling under Central Energy Fund (CEF) and which reports itself to Department and Energy (DOE). But at least the PetroSA problem is now in the open with somebody obviously having to take over the reins and sort the mess out, probably CEF itself.

Oddly enough there are people in CEF who know exactly what the problem is but once again politicians pushed experts in the wrong direction, it appears.

In addition, the Passenger Rail Association (PRASA) is very much on the slippery slope and, together with SANRAL, both present highly contentious transport issues, are now in the hands of to untangle

Public Enterprises comes to the party.

Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown appears to be getting the senior management of her portfolio undereskom control and whilst there could possibly be power supply problems at Eskom she says, because “machines can break down unexpectedly”, the leadership is there, as is the case with Denel.

Minister Brown recently reported at an AmCham meeting in Cape Town that there are around seven hundred SOCs, an extraordinary fact, but bearing in mind the fact that South Africa is reputed to have the largest head count in public service per population count, this would appear quite probable.

On the road again

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing an Integrated Marketing Committee, which will hopefully designate which entities should remain SOCs and those which should be absorbed back into their relevant departments, there appears some hope with regard to containing the ballooning public service machine which has characterised President Zuma’s presidency.

Hands off appointments

An essential element of Minister Lynne Brown’s plan is to remove the appointment to the boards of the entities under her domain away from Ministers, including herself, to a shareholder management team that creates a leadership operational plan for all SOCs and appoints, through due process, a tightly run appointment system.
A brave proposition indeed but it does indicate that Minister Brown is her own person.

Whilst the proposals might look like state control, in fact it is a clear signal that government may have heard the message that the current system of Ministers appointing board members is not working and is one of the reasons leading to what the auditor general calls “useless and wasteful expenditure”.

On the drawing board

The Shareholder Management Bill, Minister Brown said subsequently in Johannesburg, will first need a concept paper (perhaps she means a White Paper) and such could be released after the Cabinet Lekgotla in February, with an intention of introducing such as system by the end of 2016.

Minister Brown said that she herself as a Minister would therefore be excluded from making appointments in her own SOCs for a start. Perhaps this system can be applied to all forty-seven government departments and agencies, suggested a questioner bu the Minister would not be drawn into matters outside of her brief.

Leadership needed

During the same address, she added that Eskom was “not out of the woods” yet and there was still not sufficientlyne brown 2 electricity to facilitate economic growth but this would change. Minister Brown said none of the entities under her control “would be approaching the National Treasury with begging bowls.”

One small step

No doubt, as far as confirmation of an appointment is concerned, the Minister involved will still have to “approve” any selection decision by the independent team of specialists but it is worth watching the outcome of the debate on the shortly-to-be tabled Broadcasting Bill, if only to see if the appointment of inept senior appointments can be halted or reversed.

What has come out of the Eskom, PRASA and PetroSA issues is that a person who has no right to be in a position of leadership, or worse one who has supplied fraudulent qualifications, leads to frustration and anger by those with genuine skills and high academic qualifications lower down the ladder and at the coalface.

This is in the space of government service where technical skills are located and badly needed and it is hoped that Minister Lynne Brown has more of these “eureka” moments.

Previous articles on category subject
PetroSA on the rocks for R14.5bn – ParlyReportSA
Central Energy Fund slowly gets its house in order – ParlyReport
Shedding light on Eskom – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Electricity, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Transport0 Comments

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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The big SA cabinet crunch

Editorial….

Cabinet hopes are Brown, Ramaphosa, Gordhan…..

Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, reports that she is to introduce as a cabinet draft, the Lynne BrownShareholder Management Bill as part of a plan to introduce leadership ability and some form of continuity for the state owned enterprises (SOCs) under her control.   This includes Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SA Express, Alexkor and Safcol.

We hope this is the start of something big.

The last few weeks have been an exercise in disaster, so let’s try and take a positive spin on things from a parliamentary viewpoint. Whilst troubled SAA is now an independent, falling under National Treasury and if President Zuma minds his own business, Minister Pravin Gordhan is to sort out National Treasury itself and also the troubled SARS, which he re-designed in the first place and which became such a success working with Trevor Manuel.

More problem children

Meanwhile, PetroSA is in real deep water falling, the entity falling under Central Energy Fund (CEF) reporting to Department and Energy (DOE). With Minister Joemat-Pettersson not back from COP21 or wherever, the country still faces some serious energy issues. But at least the PetroSA problem is now all in the open, with somebody obviously having to take over the reins and the mess, probably CEF itself.
Oddly enough there are people in CEF who know exactly what the problem is but once again politicians pushed experts in the wrong direction, it appears.

In addition, the Passenger Rail Association (PRASA) is very much on the slippery slope and, together with SANRAL, both present highly contentious transport issues which are now in the hands of Minister Cyril Ramaphosa to untangle. Troubling times indeed.

Public Enterprises comes to the party

lyne brown 2Now Minister Lynne Brown appears to be getting the senior management of her portfolio under control and whilst we could still have shutdowns at Eskom she says, because “machines can break down unexpectedly”, the leadership is there she says, as is the case with her Denel.
Lynne Brown recently reported that there are around 700 SOCs, an extraordinary fact, but bearing in mind the fact that South Africa is reputed to have the largest head count in public service per population count, this would appear quite possible.

On the road again

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing an Integrated Marketing Committee, which will hopefullyramaphosa designate which entities should remain SOCs and those which should be absorbed back into their relevant departments, there appears some hope with regard to containing the ballooning public service machine which has characterised President Zuma’s presidency.

Hands off appointments

An essential element of Minister Lynne Brown’s plan is to remove the appointment to the boards of the entities under her domain away from cabinet and Ministers, including herself, to a shareholder management team that creates a leadership operational plan for all SOCs and appoints, through due process, a tightly run appointment book.

A brave proposition indeed but it does indicate that Minister Brown is her own person.

Whilst the proposals might look like state control, in fact it is a clear signal that government may have heard the message that the current system of Ministers appointing board members is not working, is open to abuse and what is worse, the consequent “jobs for the boys” system results in taxpayer’s money being thrown away through bad management, corruption and what the auditor general calls “useless and wasteful expenditure”.

On the drawing board

The Shareholder Management Bill, Minister Brown said in Johannesburg, will first need a concept paper (perhaps she means a White Paper) and such could be released after the February Cabinet Lekgotla in February, with an intention of introducing such as system by the end of 2016.

Whilst it is pretty obvious who should not be on such an appointment team, the plan begs the question of will be chosen to occupy such critical posts but it is far too early to cogitate on this one. With Ministers changing their portfolios as if it was a game of musical chairs, there is reason to congratulate Minister Brown on the statement that she herself as a Minister would be excluded from making appointments in her own SOCs.

Leadership needed

During the same address, she added that Eskom was “not out of the woods” yet and there was still not sufficient electricity to facilitate economic growth, but the leadership issue was being addressed satisfactorily with the right people being appointed. Brown said none of the entities under her control “would be approaching the National Treasury with begging bowls”.

Perhaps this is the principle being adopted behind the scenes with the SABC, which whilst not affecting business and industry other than travel costs, unlike trade and investment hurdles and industrial strategic changes, SABC is threatened by the possibility of being returned to its parent government department which at first glance appeared to be a move by President Zuma to gain control of state financed media, Mugabe style.

However, in a broad sense it seems to be Minister Brown’s idea that appointments to the top echelons running the country should be as a result of finding those qualified to do so rather than being handled by totally unqualified persons, some with solicitous intent, and others trying to retain power with dubious appointments such as having friends, in the case of the SABC, to broadcast “the truth” to specific rural audiences.

Unprincipled governance remains the one of the biggest problems facing South Africa, intrinsically coupled to (and in some cases causing} lack of growth and lack of jobs.

Croneyism

Bad appointments by Ministers and of Ministers has been the cornerstone of control by patronage, the route for corruption and the reason for sheer bad management, a practice now openly exposed but not yet controlled by any means. From a parliamentary viewpoint, let us leave it there. The rest is being said by the media but most MPs when they return to Parliament in late January 2016 will have realized that sheer stupidity can ruin their own futures and their pensions.

But if Minister Lynne Brown, in her practical and down to earth manner, can come up with the remarkable idea of Cabinet Ministers, hopefully including the Presidency as well, not interfering in who does what as far as expertise is concerned, then perhaps this can be applied to all 47 government departments and agencies.

One small step

No doubt as far as confirmation of an appointment, the Minister involved may still have to “approve” such a decision but it is worth watching the outcome of the debate on the shortly-to-be tabled Broadcasting Bill, if only to see if the appointment of inept senior appointments can be halted or reversed.

What has come out of the Eskom, PRASA and PetroSA issues is that a bad leader with no qualification or right to be in a position of leadership, or worse led by one who has supplied fraudulent qualifications, leads to frustration and anger by those with genuine skills and high academic qualifications lower down the ladder at the coalface. This is in the space of government service where technical skills are located and badly needed.

We hope Minister Lynne Brown has more of these “eureka” moments.

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Expropriation Bill phrases could be re-drafted

Most countries have forms of expropriation…..

As a result of three full days of public hearings on the new Expropriation Bill,  Deputy Minister of croninPublic Works, Jeremy Cronin, confirmed that in a number of aspects, notably on issues of arbitration and definitions of “the public interest”, the Bill as tabled needed re-drafting considering certain constitutional aspects.

He was adamant that a Bill of this nature was needed, a fact not disputed by many in submissions, but the wording of the Bill at present certainly seems to have raised the spectre of a constitutional challenge if the hearings were anything to go by unless considerable alterations take place.

Expropriation definition will trump all

Whether the Expropriation Bill is land reform in disguise or a genuine attempt by the Ministry of Public Works to unlock mechanisms that are preventing infrastructure development became the kernel of discussion and debate. This was after some twenty five submissions by various parties across the entire business, political analyst and land ownership spectrum.

Clearly opinion is still divided but the motives for dissension and the subject of the submissions put to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works were as varied as the arguments put forward by the department itself in the need for such a Bill.

Eskom used as reason

The worry behind any disagreements with the wording of the new Bill appeared in question time. Would the Department of Public Works (DAPW) seriously put forward an ANC Alliance proposal for “land grabbing” under the simple guise of a platform of argument such as that Eskom needed to resolve land issues to extend electricity grid installations or that the N2 was held up in the Eastern Cape?

Anything else in the “public interest” including “property”, as yet undefined, would be unconstitutional, said many of the submissions, whether agreeing to the basic need to alter the anchor Act by amendment or not because the ‘willing buyer, willing seller” principle was clearly “out of the window”.

How close is Constitution on “expropriation”

Minister Cronin The Bill tabled clearly states that it “seeks to align the Expropriation Act, 1975, with the Constitution and to provide a common framework to guide the processes and procedures for expropriation of property by organs of state.”    This, the Bill says, would be in the “public interest” but again and again the query arose as to what the “public interest” might be.

Throughout the entire round of submissions, the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin, was at pains to express the benign in nature of the proposed Bill insofar as plans to expropriate land. The intention of the Bill was merely to speed up processes that hindered development in the “public interest”, he argued.

He admitted that in some cases this might include “land development” but denied that the Bill was in fact a pre-cursor to the proposed Land Reform Bill and the recently tabled Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, where the issue of land in the one case and “property” in the other case arose.

CCCI attacks whole raft of Bills

ccci logoSuspicions in respect of this were strongly expressed by Ms Janine Myburgh of the Cape Chamber of Commerce (CCCI) who claimed to represent also the views of SA Chamber of Commerce, in completely rejecting the Bill as a flagrant attempt to undermine the Constitution.   She thus brought CCCI to a great degree into contradiction with Business Unity SA (BUSA) and even Agric-SA, both of whom agreed that such a Bill was in order but that the wording need much attention on the issues under debate.

In some respects the CCCI presentation, as lodged with Parliament and subsequently circulated, differed in basic content from the speech actually made, which was particularly vehement in its rejection of the Bill and which, Ms Myburgh said, flew in the face of the Constitution. She linked the Expropriation Bill with the Promotion and Protection of Investment and other land reform legislation from the Minister of Rural and Land Development together.

Coming round the corners is more…

CCCI was convinced that the Expropriation Bill was the first of more legislation to come that could damage any investment in the South African economy; was an attempt to provide precedent for expropriation at “any price”; and should be the subject of a constitutional challenge. The need for the Bill in totality was rejected.

The chairperson, Ben Martins, complained that the CCCI submission brought “nothing to the party” with no alternative suggestions, “nor an attempt to understand the processes involved”. They should only discuss the Bill before them. The UDM stated that they doubted whether Ms Myburgh, an attorney, “had even read the Bill” and Minister Cronin, said that the input by CCCI was an embarrassment and a waste of the committee’s time. There would be a Bill tabled eventually, that was a fact that seemed to be accepted, but to contribute nothing was a pointless exercise, he said.

He expressed his view that Ms Myburgh should not even be allowed to respond to these different criticisms since her organisation either had not read or did not understand the Bill. He asked how the Bill could be “unconstitutional” when it directly enforced the “public interest”. What was being discussed, he said, was to define this with wordings necessary to resolve issues, achieve this, and move forward.

Minister Cronin said that CCCI had adopted an alarmist attitude, which he was continually at pains to oppose, and added that a wide majority of stakeholders who had intervened in the public hearing thus far, including Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), Agriculture South Africa (Agri-SA) and the Banking Association South Africa (BASA) amongst others, had raised useful contributions which had to be considered.

Minister Cronin said that he hoped that the media present would have the intelligence to understand the processes envisaged by the amended Bill and the suggestions that had so far come forward were part of a process that all countries had.  He condemned the attitude of CCCI towards an Act that had been in place but needed revision because of circumstances.

Institute of Race Relations

anthea jeffriesRight from the start of hearings, the first being from the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) represented by Dr Anthea Jeffrey, the point was that in the case of poorer folk the whole question of court litigation costs was not only a dubious issue but the time frame for lodging an appeal had to be extended from 60 to 120 days.

When asked why SAIRR should become involved in land issues, Dr Jeffrey replied that it was just a question of the unconstitutionality of the issues and for many years SAIRR had been involved in discrimination against black land ownership.

She said that under the present Act the validity of any expropriation could be challenged, whereas under the new proposals it could not; SAIRR was deeply concerned that all types of property could be expropriated; property that was expropriated “in the public interest” should be better defined and she asked that the new Bill should trump all other Bills.

She complained that Bill in no way assumed responsibility for loss of livelihood; loss of property and the unintended consequences of taking land. She reminded MPs that over 8.6m black people owned their own homes in South Africa.

Dr Jeffrey was asked what she meant by making the remark that “a number of interested organisations would be taking the current wording to the Constitutional Court if the wording should stand”. Would SAIRR really appoint silk and go to the Court, they asked.  She replied succinctly, “It totally depends what you put in the Bill”.

Earlier, Ms Vuyokazi Ngcobozi, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, reminded the Portfolio Committee that it needed to be mindful of Section 25(2b) of the Constitution which states that if parties did not agree on compensation, they should approach a court.

People could not afford to take the route of going to court, she said, and arbitration was expensive. However, this was a right which is provided for in the Constitution. Alternative approaches had to be considered, she said. There was, throughout the hearings, much debate on which courts should be used.

Eskom goes up front as reason

eskom logoEskom in its presentation said that it was currently experiencing significant delays in acquiring servitudes for the construction and installation of its infrastructure and this was largely due to an “ineffective expropriation process”. They quoted one essential transmission line to the Western Cape which had been held up for six years and one even more critical line to the Vaal Triangle industrial area held up for four years.

When asked why the land had to be bought, Eskom said in many cases this was the only route to acquire rights. At this point, the Deputy Minister responded that there was absolutely nothing against the acquisition of servitudes in the public interest but the issue remained the market value for such rights, whether ownership or servitudes, and the Bill itself therefore remained a Bill about expropriation of such rights.

SA Institute of Valuers

This point was made by Saul du Toit of the SA Institute of Valuers (SAIV) in urging both the committee and the department not to leave the notion of value as openly definable and to align it with market value for purposes of fairness and constitutionality and the rights of a property owner.

He found himself answering provocative questions from EFF members who stated the land was not the property of the current owners in the first case so the question of rights did not apply.

Mr du Toit urged members of the EFF to obtain a copy of “Grundrisse” by Karl Marx, in which Marx explained how “labour” actually allocates a certain value to land.  He again confirmed that it was highly doubtful whether some magistrate’s courts, which had to take a fair share of the load of expropriation cases away from costly High Court actions, had the experience but not necessarily the competence, to deal with expropriation matters.

One submission, from a valuator, Mr Peter Meakin, suggested that that all land, as in Hong Kong, should become state land and leased back to owners, thus completely changing the structure of taxes and rates into rent and leasing costs, making expropriation a much easier matter, providing just compensation for property only as the main issue. The impracticality of this suggestion led to very little debate.

Agric-SA- “process must totally protect”

agri-saMs Annelise Crosby, parliamentary representative for Agri-SA, said they “supported orderly land as a prerequisite for rural stability and inclusive rural development.” She stated that “expropriation should only be used as a last resort where negotiations had failed”.

Agri-SA had been totally opposed to the original 2008 Bill on the basis that it restricted access to the courts and was not in line with Section 25, 33 and 165 of the Constitution and she said that government “should be applauded for the extensive and inclusive consultation process which it undertook on the 2015 Bill before the showed significant improvements”.

However, expropriation without compensation, she said was traumatic, causing financial loss, emotional stress and suffering.  Agri-SA proposed that the full 100% of compensation offered be paid to the owner on the date which the state took responsibility of the property. Under no circumstances should an expropriation lead to insolvency on the part of the land owner because the compensation was not sufficient to settle the loan secured by the mortgage bond and settlement paid in time.

Claimants, she said, should as far as possible be placed in the same position as was the case before the expropriation. The definitions of “expropriating authority” and “public interest” were broad and left a lot of room for uncertainty.

Also Ms Crosby said, “due regard must be given to the owner’s right to privacy and these should therefore be resolved in the wording, submitted by Agric-SA, before the Bill was finalised if it was to be acceptable.”

Banking Assoc: Expropriation should only be for land

basaThe Banking Association of SA (BASA) went a stage further, stating the whole preamble to the Bill and the Constitution should be altered to state that the Bill be restricted to land, water and related reform as opposed to “other types of property”.

BASA noted since the instigation of the original Act the word “property” had become a debatable issue at law. This was agreed later by Minister Cronin and not even the Constitutional Court had been able to rule on this.  BASA pointed out that the Bill had to be aligned to the Constitution which called for “just and equitable” access to land which was missing in the proposed Bill, thus there being no adequate safeguard against abuse of the power to expropriate.

BASA stated that the new Bill left out the previous expression of “consequential loss” contained in the original Act and any replacement or amendment should be aligned to relevant international norms and standards. In terms of global regulatory requirements, they said, lenders are required to make use of market values against which mortgage loans are made and they could see “no valid reason” for leaving out the relevant clauses as contained in the original Act.

“Expropriation is a drastic measure which places an inordinately heavy burden on the shoulders of particular individuals. The full extent of their consequential loss must be taken into account, not disregarded”, BASA emphasised. They disagreed with the concept that any property that had been “taken without the consent of the expropriated entity or person” should not be taken into account.

BASA set out a full alternative set of wordings and concluded by urging government use caution and act in strict compliance with the Constitution, especially in cases when a heavy burden on the expropriated person became apparent. They concluded with the comment that South Africa could ill afford to have an Expropriation Bill that works against investment growth and the creation of jobs. This was not conducive to a satisfactory international business environment, they said.

Taking bits out of land destroys values

The South African Institute of Valuers (SAIV) further said that land assets should be considered as holistic units and should not be divided up by any expropriation process since the units thus divided, they argued, become non-viable and lost their use or value. The expropriation process, they argued, had to be related to market value for purposes of fairness and constitutionality.

Discussion again centered on what courts should be used, SAIV sharing its experience with the Gautrain expropriation where some 1,400 cases of expropriation were satisfactorily concluded by arbitration before the necessity of going to the courts arose.

SAIV called for privacy on compensation agreements, for if the amounts paid, the Institute said, were to become public, landowners could rely on data from previous cases and play these off against each other as well as against the state.

Minister Cronin’s consistent assurances throughout the hearings that the amended Bill was benign on the issue of expropriation and mainly for state utilities to complete infrastructure projects was challenged after a submission on the third day by Prof. Ruth Hall for Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

She said the amending Expropriation Bill highlighted “the necessity to bring expropriation laws and theirRuth hall compensation components into line with the Constitution in order to remove the ‘veto power’ of landowners in relation to land reform and to ensure consistency in expropriations undertaken by the different arms of government.”

Prof. Hall said that the proposals, for the first time, properly phrased historical factors into a Bill, particularly regarding the shaping of compensation in order to address the apartheid legacy and the necessity for redress. She said a state “advisory panel on expropriation” could provide all citizens with a cost free framework for negotiations and arbitration in order to address the costly and “intimidating” court system.

Minister Cronin hastened to assure Prof. Hall that this legislation, like much of South Africa’s current legislation, had the main purpose of addressing improprieties of the past and was designed to continue the process of redress.

sapoaThe South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), represented by Adv. Gerrit Grobler, felt that in broad terms the Bill conformed to international standards and the department was to be commended. “It is workable, practical and constitutionally sound but there were a few outstanding matters needed to be attended to and that the Bill could not go forward as it was.”

Originally only the High Court where the property was situated could determine compensation for all instances of expropriation, Adv. Grobler said, but in 1975 the Expropriation Act provisions allowed for compensation to be decided by a magistrate but subsequently were deleted from the Act because compensation mostly fell outside the experience of magistrates.  This had to be cleared up and decided upon, he said.

He advised that the 60 day notice of expropriation was too short and felt it would not meet constitutional muster.   It could not be expected that property could be valued and a claim for compensation prepared in such short time. He suggested 6 months in the light of court rolls being overloaded.

Mr M Ndlozi (EFF) said that SAPOA represented land and property of capitalists, some of whom were the main beneficiaries of the policies of a criminal government. SAPOA needed to have a conversation around the criminal acquisition of land, he said.

Adv. Grobler, when replying, said if a property owner who had paid full value for the property, whether in 1960 or 1975 and the property is taken away, then the owner would lose the market value which he or she had paid for the property. That was a fact. If the land was acquired for nothing, then this would be taken into consideration.

gerrit groblerAdv Grobler said he was not a politician but a lawyer and therefore could not discuss any member’s personal ideologies. He followed only the Constitution which outlined the principle that compensation for expropriation be paid.

However, SAPOA continued with the proposition that High Courts, or preferably arbitration beforehand, had to take place first in terms of the Constitution but the argument remained, as had been stated from the start of the hearings, that these costs were too high and the period in which a defence could be prepared before expropriation took place was too short. This had to be reconciled, he said.

Adv Grobler again repeated that the Bill was a good piece of legislation which needed a few technical adjustments. Magistrate courts were specifically good in matters relating to criminal law but not to expropriation. However, he stressed that the proposals would “not serve the bottom end of the market”.

Deputy Minister Cronin thanked the presenters for providing clarity on the jurisdictional areas of the High Court and the Minister notably remarked that it made sense to begin assessing things from a market value point of view.

On the Eskom matter, he said the problem with Eskom was that the entity was pursuing the “willing buyer, willing seller” approach and a couple of landowners held out to drive up prices. Therefore such a Bill as tabled was important to tackle land acquisition although it had to be in line with the Constitution.   Adv. Grobler was thanked by the chairperson, Ben Martins, for his thoughtful observations.

cosatu2The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) submission descended into an argument between their need for an answer why land restitution had “failed so far” and the fact that the land was “stolen” in the first place. A response was made by FF+ member, F Groenewald, that most of the land referred to had been stolen from the Khoi-San by such historical parties as King Shaka in the first place.

Chairperson, Ben Martins, called for order and asked both parties to continue their debate “at another timeBenedict Martins in a different place” since the issues were irrelevant to the meeting.

However, Mathew Parks, parliamentary coordinator at COSATU, submitted the view that government should never compensate theft and emphasised that arbitration should be able to take place prior to referring to a court at low cost. The present process was, moreover, described as long, costly and intimidating. This could be sorted out without changing the Bill.

He suggested as a solution the development of an advisory panel on expropriation which would provide actors in a dispute with a comprehensive framework, enabling the development of fruitful negotiations.

He described the recent criticisms directed against the Bill in the media as attacks lacking any foundation. He urged members of the committee to vote in favour of the Expropriation Bill as it stood.

In conclusion, Deputy Minister Cronin said that Department of Works and his Ministry Department had much benefited from the general support and advice contained in the majority of the submissions. It was a Bill which was now perceived as a nearly completed and was now a working document which any government needed to bring matters in line with international practice.

He added that the Freedom Charter “did not contain any reference to the possibility of nationalising any land” and this was a “red herring”.

Other articles in this category or as background
Expropriation Bill has now to be faced – ParlyReportSA
Zuma goes for traditional support with expropriation – ParlyReportSA
Expropriation of land stays constitutional – ParlyReportSA
Amended Expropriation Bill returns – ParlyReportSA

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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

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MPs attack DPE on energy communications

DPE has a tough time on energy issues…

business-communicationsPoor communications with the public on the energy crisis and the limited ability of the ministries involved to communicate with state owned companies (SOCs) were issues raised during a report on SOCs falling under control of the department of public enterprises (DPE) during a meeting of the relevant portfolio committee.

The meeting was called to respond to the AG’s report on the performance targets of the DPE.

One opposition member complained that all bonuses paid to Eskom executives should be keyed to whether the lights stayed on or not. Despite there being six state utilities being reported on, it was questions on Eskom that occupied most of question time.

AG report about targets only

AGSA logoWaleed Omar, audit manager, auditor general’s office (AGSA), indicated to Parliament that no significant findings representing failings on issue targets were identified in their review of the DPE annual performance plan for the 2015/16 financial year.

It was explained by Sybrand Struwig, manager of AGSA, that any annual audit of actual performance period was prepared against pre-determined objectives, coupled with indicators and targets as contained in the annual performance report of a department.  Such confirmed compliance with laws and regulations.

The usefulness of this performance information against targets and the reliability of performance reporting enabled AGSA to compile an audit of a department or SOC to reflect an opinion or conclusion on performance against predetermined objectives and how risk had been managed.

DPE met standards set

Ms Matsietsi Mokholo, DPE acting DG, expanded on this by saying what in fact AGSA was saying to parliamentarians was that the exercise had been to assess DPE’s compliance according to AGSA’s matrix; how it aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP); and how issues were dealt with in terms of the medium strategic frameworks report (MTFs) made regularly to Parliament over the given period 2014 -2019.

She said the auditor general had confirmed that DPE was on track with regards to this alignment.  Indeed, she said, DPE had identified its key challenges and the risks which “could materialize” if measures within state owned entities under their control were not taken.

Eskom the only real SOE problem

In answer to MPs questions on Eskom, Ms Mokholo said that DPE has identified that the tense situation of load shedding needed to be carefully managed and monitored in order to avoid a blackout.   Currently the country has moved towards stage three of load shedding in order to avoid a blackout.

The issue was the only matter in the DPE portfolio of state owned companies (SOCs) that had major problems; otherwise DPE had a good record. However, she said, there were questions still being asked about how Eskom would prevent stage four which would apply in the case of a total blackout. This issue was now being addressed in its strategy plan and, consequently, the AG was satisfied that issues had been addressed not ignored. That was what the report was all about.

Medupi on or off

Other issues addressed were the unrest at the partly constructed Medupi power plant, which was difficult because the workers involved were not public servants, but the matter had been addressed and a resolution hoped for.   Another issue covered was a strategy to how further avert any downgrading of Eskom from a shareholder perspective, again most difficult because much was outside of DPE’s control.

DPE’s control over SOEs limited

Other matters being discussed were the whole issue of the reliance of SOCs on government guarantees and the reliance SOCs on road transportation.   It emerged during the discussion how little DPE could intervene in SOC management and parliamentarians said that thought should be given to this as the success of an SOC was imbedded in a minister’s performance agreement.

Ms Mokholo concluded that DPE currently was responsible for six SOCs. She said, “The challenges currently faced by Eskom should not be seen as a reflection on the performance of the entire portfolio. Eskom was the only SOC which was facing serious challenges”.

She repeated the fact that the others were doing well. AGSA confirmed that the corporate plan of any SOC was audited consistently throughout the portfolio of DPE’s SOCs and, as was reported in October 2014, the current portfolio at that time, with the exclusion of SA Express, did not have any material findings that worried AGSA.

Financials to come at end of year

Waleed Omar, audit manager, explained that AGSA did not wait until the end of a financial year to audit a department or entity’s financial plans. Financial audits were a completely separate issue. AGSA would provide input before the end of the financial year.

In this case, internal auditors of each SOC looked at the reliability of the information reported and whether the quarterly results were supported by the matching documents. AGSA would then rely on the work of internal audits. He said there have not been any instances at this stage within DPE at this stage showed any material differences between the findings of internal audits and those of AGSA.

Mr Omar explained that AGSA has considered the work of internal audits for the first two quarters of the financial year for 2014/15. AGSA followed a process according to international standards but this particular meeting showed that DPE’s operational plans were compliant.

DPE admits private sectors skills needed

When the committee started to discuss the gradual development of DPE into commercial sectors, Mr Ratha Ramatlhape, DPE director, added that many of the new strategies being triggered in the core entities of energy, manufacturing and transport would require bringing in technical experts from the outside to deal with the challenges being faced within the DPE portfolio.

Ms N Mazonne (DA) raised the fact that Eskom had paid bonuses to executives, none of which had achieved 100% of their key performance indicators (KPIs) which were therefore far too easy to reach.  DPE needed to tell Eskom, she demanded, that executive KPIs had to be aligned to whether the lights were kept on or not.

This indicated, the DA said, what the minister of public enterprises had been telling Parliament for some time to the effect that the level to which the DPE could intervene with SOCs was far too limited.   DPE could only play an advisory role it seemed, Mazonne said, and there needed to be legislation in place urgently to resolve this.

Legislation expected on minister’s powers

Ms Mokholo responded that DPE has already started working on giving ministers the power to intervene based on the Companies Act.  For example, she said, the DPE had a meeting with the Eskom board to deal with interventions which were not necessarily based on legal prescripts, an example being the co-generation contracts. She confirmed legislation was being looked at.

Opposition members were of one voice that although it was unfair to blame DPE for the electricity crisis, nevertheless, with the country at stage three of load shedding, there was no way DPE could deny that the economy and people’s lives were being badly affected. Current communication with Eskom was very poor, they said, and a national broadcast was needed to allay the air of panic that existed in some quarters of the economy.

The DPE responded that it had advised the Minister and the war room to release such a statement or the President to make a statement in his budget vote speech.

Other articles in this category or as background

Public enterprises reports on controversial year – ParlyReport

South Africa remains without rail plan – ParlyReport

SA Energy gets war room status – ParlyReportSA

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Shedding light on Eskom

Editorial……  week ending 30 April 2015

Breaking up old empires……

Lynne BrownOne parliamentary meeting we did attend with anticipation in the last few days but have not reported to our clients , despite the media attention, was the appearance of minister of public enterprise Lynne Brown with her public enterprises team for the scheduled presentation of the department’s strategic 5-year and annual performance plan to the public enterprises portfolio committee.  A non-event if ever there was one.

Minister Brown is a hard working lady and managed to fit this in out of respect for Parliament.

Unfortunately, she had absolutely nothing to add to what has been said in the media, adding yet once again that depressing qualification made in every government statement that  “loading shedding will continue for the next two years in order to avoid a total blackout”.

Doors need opening

One comment she did make was worth noting, however,  She said on the Eskom issue, “I have a eskom logoresponsibility as shareholder representative but cannot interfere from a political level in the management and operations of the SOCs.   However, if matters go wrong, I have oversight responsibility.” 

In our humble view, oversight responsibility is not enough if action is called for, especially if every minister has to sign a performance agreement to deliver on his or her appointment.  She also bemoaned the fact that, as we write, that no definitive “war room” statement has been made to tell the country what is going on.

Going some…

The minister commented during the meeting, almost as an aside, that Eskom is and always had been the same animal for some 50 years now, employing at the moment some 42,000 people. Change had to come, she said.

We spot legislation in the making, in the same way that minister Gordhan Pravin must push his way into local government and make changes.  Management talent for a three tier government and six massive state owned utilities is running short.

Other articles in this category or as background
Energy gets war room status – ParlyReportSA
Eskom goes to the brink with energy – ParlyReportSA

Posted in earlier editorials0 Comments

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

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Enviro,Water, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Eskom goes to the brink with energy

Editorial…..

What war room?….

black bulbFor those who have been associated with a war, they will know that a war room is a pretty busy place. However, one gets the impression that the South African war room, mandated to sort out Eskom and energy planning, has no red telephone and little understanding of working overtime in a time of crisis.

Spokesperson, Mac Maharaj or his  replacement, has certainly issued no statements headed with such a title, the President being busy visiting Egypt, Algeria and Angola with the deputy president calling in on the Kingdom of Lesotho.  President Mugabe has come and gone, more presidential visits are planned…… and the World Bank report on South Africa has been published.

Teetering on the edge

Meanwhile, the Eskom issue is still boiling over, the question of the fourth round of IPP tenders and more to come has been announced by the minister of energy but little evidence exists that a war room exists, let alone a high powered advisory council to advise the war room.  Parliament was, of course, on Easter recess which added to the uncanny political silence on urgent matters, particularly the energy issue, although the story at Medupi with a return to work and the appointment of a new CEO at Eskom seems  calming.

At last public servants are re-appearing from extended Easter holidays but the so-called war room gives the impression of having bunkered down. Hopefully the report in the coming weeks on Eskom, as South Africa tackles some of the other serious matters facing the country, will not only show with what went wrong but what the war room intends to do about it.

Perhaps a picture of the war room sitting and debating might actually help us believe there is one.

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Energy gets war room status

Cabinet creates energy crisis committee…..

Editorial…….

eskom logoIn retrospect, for the cabinet having had to resort to establishing an energy war room is probably a good thing inasmuch that a meeting of minds appears to have taken place at all levels of the ANC Alliance on energy matters. The situation is indeed serious.

The message from business and industry that the “energy crunch” is not only immensely threatening to the economy appears to have got through, accompanied probably by the realisation that so many regular failures, power or otherwise, are threatening to the ability of the ANC to stay in power.

Foggy outlook

Perceived at first as an issue mainly affecting the rural poor, the failure of Eskom to deliver on most of its promises; the bumbling of the department of energy on independent power producer parameters and the to-ing and fro-ing of cabinet on the adoption of nuclear energy into the energy mix, has been somewhat of a pantomime.

For months we have been reporting from Parliament on the ambivalence of Eskom and the reluctance of the department of energy and public enterprises to chart a course on energy.

The whole truth…

NA with carsHowever, what is a matter of concern is the fact that in all those lengthy power point presentations and detailed reports to parliamentary committees that we have witnessed or read, the ball has been completely dropped on the energy issue and badly so.   At the very least Parliament were not given the full facts, particularly in the case of Eskom, thus threatening the parliamentary oversight process.

Deputy President Ramaphosa has now been designated to oversee the turnaround of SAA, SAPO and Eskom. The cabinet statement says regarding this, “Working with the relevant ministries, SAA will be transferred from the department of public enterprises to national treasury. The presidency will closely monitor the implementation of the turnaround plans of these three critical SOCs that are drivers of the economy.”

Maybe next year

It is comforting therefore to some extent to know that such a “war office” has been established and that cabinet has adopted a five-point plan to address the electricity challenges facing the country but it just seems incorrect that a relatively empty, tired statement such as “more cross cutting meetings to meet the challenges facing  the country will be adopted” was all that could be added in the form of action before ministers disappeared for the Christmas recess, including, we understand, the contractor’s staff at Medupi.

elec gridIt seems that nobody is in charge over the same period nor interested enough to be there and nobody is really looking much beyond January 15, when South Africa starts switching on again.

 

Perhaps in 2015, some reality will return to South African politics and amongst the governing party. They may learn that there is a direct relationship between being in power and keeping the power on and we foresee many more direct confrontations on this issue and others in Parliament during the coming year.

 

 

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Eskom crosses its fingers

Medupi:  Eskom on final run ….

eskomCollin Matjila, interim CEO of Eskom, told a joint parliamentary portfolio committee on energy and public enterprises that Eskom had learned a number of lessons in the building of coal-based power stations, probably the most important being the need for a suitably qualified and capacitated contractor oversight team to handle the complexity and extent of any project such as the construction of Medupi.

Although power from the new plant was to be introduced to the grid this Christmas Eve from Medupi, and incrementally more onwards, full power would only be happening at stable levels by winter 2015.

With both the boiler contractor and control and instrumentation contractor problems causing delays and a strike affecting between 40% -70% of the workforce, the 6-month delay had been recognised by both treasury and cabinet in financial re-calculations.

Minister notes….

Also addressing the committee, public enterprises minister, Lynne Brown, stressed that in her view “the corner had been turned at Medupi”.  She said that cabinet had approved a package to “support a strong and sustainable Eskom to ensure energy security”.   The inter-ministerial committee, which was comprised of finance, public enterprises and cooperative governance and traditional affairs, had now reviewed all options before them both on electricity and energy generally.

Eskom then stated that the second unit, Kusile would be added to the grid in a start-up process in the first half of 2015 and Ingula, the third and smaller hydro unit, in the second half of 2015.

No rest with summer

Matjila cautioned MPs that additional capacity would be needed during summer this year, despite any reduced seasonal demand.   This was because of the need to accommodate “planned” outages, which were set to take up 10% of full capacity being supplied.

By referring to full capacity, this was a theoretical maximum availability, Matjila said, subject to the reality of unplanned outages.  Eskom warned of a possible inability to meet demand throughout the remainder of the financial year, as distinct from seasonal timing, if it should be financially restrained in its use of it expensive-to-run standby open-cycle gas-turbines.

More price increases

Recovery of unbudgeted costs in this area for the year under review were part of the problem facing Eskom, Matjila said, and the recent announcement by the national electricity regulator, Nersa, of a rise of just short of 13% in electricity prices in April 2015 was no doubt motivated by this factor amongst others.

However, he said, Eskom may also have to deal with a higher maintenance in December, including half station shutdowns for three stations. He qualified this in a later Engineering News report which stated that 32 of Eskom’s 87 coal-fired generating units required “major surgery”, whilst four were in a “critical condition”.   November was also critical, he said, if all did not go as planned.

Despite continued questioning by parliamentarians on the state of progress at the second “New Build” power station, Kusile, no specific answers were provided by either Eskom or the minister other than the fact that Kusile had experienced “protected” and “unprotected” strikes in contractor workforces during the year.

Strikes

Matjila stressed that the workforce was back on site at both locations. “Additional resources had been mobilised to mitigate delays, he said, and additional shifts have been introduced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to accelerate progress on site.  Eskom was liaising with contractors to deal with any issues which had the potential of causing further delays, he said.

In his overall concluding remarks, Matjila said a five-point recovery plan had been introduced to improve the performance of the Eskom coal-fired fleet, with the utility having reaffirmed its objective of “returning to an 80-10-10 operating model, which implied 80% plant availability, 10% planned outages and 10% unplanned events across a period of a year.”

Outside inputs

On the situation with regard to the independent power producers (IPP) programme, Matjila said he was aware that the department of energy (DoE) had processed  over one thousand applications during the three IPP 3-stage bidding process and this had stretched DoE resources considerably.

He said it had been a complicated process to secure sustainable competitive prices in respect of the particular technologies involved. What had to be also factored in was the burden of hidden costs of storage and back-up which had to be borne by Eskom, not the IPPs.

Also the proximity and availability of energy supplies on the supply in providing the “appropriate infrastructure” was being dealt with and overcome.

It was important, Matjila said in conclusion, for Eskom to ensure that potential and online suppliers met grid code requirements and he was aware that some IPPs were struggling with this process.
Other articles in this category or as background
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/energy/medupi-key-short-term-energy-crisis/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/cabinetpresidential/eskom-says-medupi-and-kusile-will-have-great-local-benefits/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/energy/eskom-warns-on-costs-of-new-air-quality-rules/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/energy/dpe-reports-on-eskom-and-it-utilities-to-parliament/

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

Medupi is key to short term energy crisis

Eskom bogged down with Medupi …

medupiActing director general of the department of energy (DoE), Tseliso Maqubela, told Parliament before it went into short recess that once Eskom’s new Medupi power station starts supplying the grid the country would have “turned the corner”.

“It is well known we are challenged on electricity”, he said, adding that the fresh view is being taken on the independent system marketer’s operators (ISMO) system which would contribute to recovery in the medium term through the addition of independent power producers (IPPs).

DG of energy policy, planning and clean energy, Ompi Aphane, in his presentation told parliamentarians that, as per the State of Nation Address (SONA), “vigorous attention is now being given to the establishment of the operator’s office to implement independent power supplies.

Financial  certainty, they say

On the subject of infrastructure build generally in the electricity sector, financial certainty was now being restored in the energy industry, Maqubela said, with the result that R120m in energy investment is now planned, “some of which has already come in and projects started.”

The overall plan was to divide power supply between Eskom and IPPs on a 70-30 basis through the national grid by 2020, decisions on refining and gas replacing diesel also being necessary in the short term in terms of a revised energy mix to meet future demand.

Other immediate focus areas for DoE were to increase access to electricity; increase “the momentum” of the installation of solar units; finalise the integrated energy plan; address maintenance and refurbishment programmes; “strengthen” the liquid fuels industry and facilitate decision taken on the nuclear programme.

Interface problems

A major issue being tackled was the in the area of household connections, according to the DoE presentation. Dr Wolsey Barnard, in charge of energy projects and programmes, explained that whilst Eskom was often bringing power to an area, the municipal backbone installations were either not ready or municipal skills were lacking.  DoE had recognised the problem and was busy trying to bridge this gap, he said, with skills training or by working on temporary permissions from municipalities with Eskom assistance.

However, Dr Barnard said it was encouraging that whereas the position ten years ago could have been described as hopeless, the situation was now specific and targeted to small areas, in most cases the most difficult remaining.

At the moment, 1,5m additional households will be connected by 2019 but as this is still insufficient to meet the target of universal electrification by 2025, additional funds are now being allocated by the state and plans made.

Barnard calls for co-operation

In order to achieve this, it was essential, Dr Barnard said, that the modalities regarding national, provincial and local government powers be revised on the ability for Eskom to assist in view of the lack of skills and the handling of appropriation funding.

He called for urgent attention to the fact that power installation funding by DoE to municipalities should be “ring fenced” and accounted for. This area had to be focused upon urgently, he noted.

He said that too many times Eskom had supplied power to an area only to be told by a municipality that there were no funds for distribution boxes or no skilled persons available to connect lines.  Dr Barnard said he was aware that the economic planning department were “in the picture” and legislation was planned despite the constitutional barriers but again he wanted to emphasise that this issue had to be resolved urgently.

EFF members asked if there were plans to specifically assist the unemployed with electricity connections and wanted a list of all power cuts to the different areas and the reasons for these.

Priorities from both sides

ANC member Ms Makwbele-Mashele asked the DG that with all the emphasis on “greening”, the high cost of gearing industry to meet new emissions and pollutants standards and the recently introduced air quality regulations, whether in his opinion these issues were hindering the country’ energy and industrial development.  The ANC also asked, as the fuel price seemed to be “out of our hands”, whether Sasol could increase production locally.

The DA wanted more detail on the exact steps at present underway to increase co-generation of energy to solve the immediate energy crisis.   This was in the light of the fact that the ISMO process had initially failed simply because DoE could not foresee the end state of independent power production, they said.    They also felt that a paper was needed to get clarity on how the integrated energy plan and the integrated resources plan locked into the NDP.

The DoE promised to respond to MPs questions in writing through the chair as the minister of energy had taken up most of the debating time available.

Other articles in this category or as background

  • http://parlyreportsa.co.za//bee/electricity-connections-target-far-short/
  • http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/electricity-tariffs-billiton-tells-its-side/
  • http://parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/major-metros-open-up-on-electricity-tariffs/
  • http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-issues-alerts/

Posted in cabinet, Electricity, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, Special Recent Posts0 Comments

New minister focuses on Eskom strategy

Eskom strategy goes to economic cluster

In the light of recent Eskom rolling blackouts, new minister of public enterprises and past Western Cape premier, Lynne Brown,  promised that Eskom will have a “comprehensive sustainability strategy” submitted to the newly appointed economic cluster by the end of June, this cluster including new finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, and new energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

The arrival of such a report on his desk has not confirmed in any way by minister Nene in recent statements regarding the budget vote.

Despite the Eskom complaint that it is on the receiving end of a R225bn revenue shortfall for the current multi-year determination tariff (MYPD) for 2013 and 2018, fixed at 8% by the regulatory authority Nersa instead of the 16% asked for by Eskom, it might appear that the electricity giant has successfully prevailed upon Nersa for a further 5% effective after only one year of the new tariff structure from comments during portfolio committee meetings during the new Parliament’s first few weeks.

We told you so

Eskom’s new sustainability programme will include new funding options, acting CEO Collin Matjila has said, but funding aspects will no doubt be affected by the recent downgrade in ratings, a fear of this being expressed in the appeal against the Nersa award played out by past CEO Brian Dames in the parliamentary energy and public enterprises portfolio committees last year.

Fitch, as quoted recently by Reuters, noticeably excluded energy sustainability issues as the reason for downgrading but indicated that it was more the result of mining labour unrest and manufacturing index dips. Now, the IMF has commented unfavourably on SA’s economic growth and whilst again no fingers were specifically pointed at energy shortages, it is acknowledged by most commentators that international funding requirements will not benefit from such sentiments.

IEP needed

In addition to financial sustainability issues, Eskom says also it needs to know soon the final findings of the integrated energy plan being finalised so as to complete its own future strategies, some clue having been provided by the new Gas Plan recently published by DoE.

Minister Lynne Brown said the matter was indeed her priority to get such strategies to cabinet whilst at the same time she needed time to acquaint herself with all outstanding issues in her new cabinet post.

Other articles in this category or as background
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//parliament-sa-this-week/cabinet-fifth-sa-parliament/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-taking-sa-to-the-edge-eiug/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-the-elephant-in-the-room/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-determined-to-sustain-mypd-asking-price/

Posted in cabinet, Electricity, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Eskom issues alerts but worst over

Eskom tight on peak demand calls….

Energy utility Eskom just made the grade by opening its open cycle gas turbines, an expensive programme, to meet peak demands. A statement  regarding the fact that Eskom has re-entered  a period of emergency power plans was given out. Appeals were made to business and industry to cut back on peak time.

The current factor, stated as planned and necessary maintenance, had to be factored in, stated Eskom, saying that it had taken all of this into reducing total “capacity” by 5 800 MW and 4 500 MW whatever that might mean in savings. However, it said, “the system remained tight”.

“We urge all South Africans to partner with us to save 10% of their electricity usage, especially during peak periods between 17:00 and 19:00. This will make it significantly easier to manage the power system during this challenging time, while also enabling us to do planned maintenance to ensure the reliability of our plant,” Eskom stated.
Previous articles on this subject
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-taking-sa-to-the-edge-eiug/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-looks-cutbacks-maybe-rebates/

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Eskom looks at cutbacks, maybe rebates

Eskom reviews whole process of rebates…

eskomEskom has placed its energy efficiency rebates for businesses and homes on hold pending a review of financial constraints after being with left with , the spokesperson says, a shortfall of R7.9bn when granted the third Multi-Year Price Determination (MYPD) period until 2018. All this compared with the R13.09bn it sought.

The review to curb on costs would affect new projects that were to be implemented in the next financial year and a review is being conducted on present rebates.

Cannot maintain “aggressive” style

As part of a programme of cutbacks, new general manager Andrew Etzinger has confirmed that the lower-than-applied for funding meant that Eskom could not sustain such an “aggressive programme” at the same levels whilst, he said the group was in discussions with government on alternative funding models.

Etzinger stated that the benefits of current integrated demand management (IDM) programmes were obvious and such interventions had assisted with the country’s power situation. With savings of about 3 600 MW since inception, the IDM programmes have established capacity in megawatt equivalents, to an average power station. Without those savings, South Africa would have been in daily load shedding since 2008, Etzinger said.

Energy targets outlined

In the MYPD2 period, Eskom spent R5.4-billion on the current IDM interventions and achieved savings of 1 200 MW over the three-year period. For the current financial year, Eskom is aiming to achieve savings of 379 MW through energy efficiency interventions and is targeting 240 MW in the next financial year. Hence the cut backs, he said.

Eskom says, “The residential mass roll-out was the largest contributor to demand savings in the 2013 financial year. The programme is based on a free bulk roll-out of a “basket of technologies”, focusing on replacing inefficient lighting and implementing energy saving technologies and load control devices in the residential sector.”

Since inception in October 2011, about 245 projects have been registered for the standard offer, realising demand savings of 118 MW and energy savings of 478.6 GWh. More than 4 800 projects have been registered for the standard product programme, which started in January 2012, realising demand savings of 122.7 MW and energy savings of 555 GWh.

Presumably Eskom with its current statement means that any new programmes will not be started and it will review current arrangements.

Etzinger stressed, however, that while the IDM interventions were temporarily on hold, Eskom would continue to benefit from the savings achieved through the projects that are implemented on an ongoing basis with agreement with the parties involved.

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