Tag Archive | SALGA

SA’s COP21 climate change paper debated

sent to clients 13 October….

All on climate change but not cost…

cop21 logoAlmost always ignored at the recent parliamentary public hearings on the SA COP21 climate change submission was the issue of finances, probably the essential ingredient that should have been debated as part of South Africa’s position in the forthcoming  conference in Paris on intended targets for reduction of greenhouse gases.

After two full days of submissions, with no time for committee member questions from MPs in the light of time restraints and the re-presentation of papers in Xhosa, an impression was gained that there remained the same sharp divide between the providers of statistics that clearly showed what a future world would look like if South Africa and other countries continued on existing paths and those who called for reality in the light of the fact that South Africa is a coal-based economy and will remain so well into the mid-century.

State developmental call only

Surprisingly costs to the tax payer and to business and industry featured little in the proposed department of environmental affairs (DEA) COP22 submission, other than by emphasing the point by investing sooner was a more advantageous position to be in than later, when the cost of “catch up” would be far greater.

The submission is to be South Africa’s call on implementing their portion of 2015 COP agreement from its Green Climate Fund and which reserve fund is supposed to be capable of mobilising $100bn from 2020 onwards.  Also to be resolved is the issue of the immediate sources of funds and to capitalize into reality for use what already exists in the fund.

Maverick viewpoint

The one person who did approach the issue of funds but who fell into the category of a “denialist”Phillip lloyd according to environmental observers, was Prof. Phillip Lloyd of the Energy Institute, Cape Peninsular Institute of Technology, a known detractor of climate change. 

He claimed that in fact climate change issues represented a massive multi-billion industry with a potential turnover of R1,174bn. It was staffed by thousands of NGOs around the world, he said, employees of sensitive international companies, whole government departments and enormous amount of diverted funds that could be put to better use.

He claimed that the current warnings on climate change and “doomsday scenarios” were largely based on unsubstantiated statistics, or at the very least, exaggerated claims. Such funds should be diverted to development, not wasted on pointless conferences, he stated, and technologies that could not hope to meet the demands of growing populations.

Fact or fiction

He showed a graph of rainfall records for England and Wales going back to AD 1750 which indicated a mere 4% rise over the entire period and whilst indeed CO2 emissions , according to him, had increased alarmingly affecting health this was in no way connected to climate change because temperatures had only increased 1%, part of a long process of global warming that went back to the globe’s emergence from the last Ice Age.

Similarly, he noted, rising sea levels had been going on for “thousands of years” but the current level of annual sea rise was dropping in terms of archaeological and geological studies conducted, again over the centuries. He said that the current spend globally on the whole so-called climate change awareness programmes and infrastructure spend amounted to some R15,500 per person globally and “sooner or later this hype had to come to an end”, he concluded.

The chairperson thanked Prof. Lloyd with a sense of amusement.

Developmental help

gridsAnother issue raised regularly regarding the DEA COP 21 submission hearings was the call for capacity building to handle new clean energy resources, a major problem in many developing countries. Financial and technology mechanisms had to be shared and adapted wherever possible, particularly in countries where forced change would stunt economic growth, the paper before them stated.

Most submissions focused on the fact that the two issues had to be in harmony but few could expand how this could be achieved successfully, some submissions just taking the “green at all costs” approach. Nevertheless, in broad terms, all submission except the one acknowledged the urgent need for some sort of structured approach to the agreed need for climate change programmes.

Most submissions also made reference to the activities of Eskom or Sasol in one way or another, referring to such in one case as “the primary polluters in the South African context”.  Subjects brought up varied from fracking to small enterprise farming and renewable energy supplies to carbon capture.

In the one corner….

Greenpeace maintained that listing nuclear energy as “low-carbon” option was disingenuous in that Greenpeacenuclear life cycle in itself was carbon intensive and should not be referred as an energy component for clean renewable alternatives and preferably removed altogether.  

Other predictable submissions came from such bodies as Earthlife Africa and the World Wildlife Fund, who specifically named fossil fuels as the major problem, one of the few times vehicle fuel emissions were mentioned in the two days.

COSATU complained that the use of nuclear energy did not create jobs and would not help the economy in any way but did raise the issue that the effect of global warming was a fact and would be ”devastating as far as employment was concerned”.

The legal view

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) stated that South Africa’s negotiating position at COP 21 should succeed in giving effect to section 24 of the Constitution regarding the right to health but they complained that DEA’s long term plans, which included accommodating coal-fired power generation and its highly water-intensive processes had no hope of meeting constitutional requirements unless urgent changes were made.

They pointed out that aside from Medupi and Kusile, the Minister of Energy’s plan to procure an additionalmedupi 2500MW of coal fired power included seven further coal-fired plants yet to be built and which were in the planning stage, mostly in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Both these provinces, CER said, were highly water stressed areas and had zones already declared as health priority areas due to poor air quality.

Even the right of access to drinking water was threatened in these areas, they pointed out, both issues, air pollution and lack of drinking water in their view representing potential breaches of constitutional privilege.

Top down problems

A number of interesting submissions were made on the problem of local government implementation of climate change mitigation plans.    A particularly important submission came from SA Local Government Association (SALGA), who pointed to the fact that whilst climate change was a national issue and called for a national approach, this did not change the fact that implementation and controls, regulations and planning mostly had to be done by cities and municipalities.

SALGA said there seemed to be no cohesion either in funding or in policy between national government and to some extent provincial government, but certainly not with local governmental authorities. They called for an “enabling framework” that could be adopted in key localised areas and so that “the voice of local government could be heard” by those paying for it.

Methane and fracking

A scientific paper known as the Howarth Report, emanating from Cornell University, was presented by a private individual, Marilyn Lilley, which focused on hydraulic fracturing and the greenhouse gas footprint left by this fracking drilling, the Howarth Report specifically focusing of fracking in the United States of America. Ms Lilley related these findings in her presentation with that of the 200,000sq km area released for fracking ventures in the Karoo.

A quick read of the Howarth Report indicates that in the US during the life cycle of an average shale-gas well 3.6 to 7.9% of the total production of the well is emitted as methane gas. This is at least 30% more and twice the harmful effect as gas extracted from conventional oil wells, the report says.

Also there is a 1.4% leakage of methane during storage and transmission of shale gas. This is the far the most dangerous component of greenhouse gases, the average black smoke emitted from a factory containing on the whole mainly harmless soot, the report concludes. Ms Lilley said that methane was “enemy number one”, adding again that methane had a far greater effect on global warming than any amount of coal fired energy generation.

Methane spouts

Fracking_GraphicShe also said that during the hydraulic fracturing stage of a drilling, which would go to at least 3-4kms vertically to a shale layer and then for approximately 2kms horizontally along the seam, fracturing then takes place with explosives and some 20 million litres of water with silica sand and chemicals pumped in to cause the methane gas to return to the surface with the then toxic water.

She said well pads are usually built 3-4 kms apart in a grid formation and each pad can have up to 30 wells, each being capable of being fracked a number times and each frack taking about 20 million litres of water.

She concluded that fracking whilst be making an unpleasant major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, the process rather contributed more to global warming which was the actual root problem. She called for fracking and consequent methane gas emissions to be accounted for in South Africa’s COP 21 submission as a subject in itself and for a moratorium to be declared on fracking exploration and subsequent gas extraction.

She also pointed to the fact that disposing of the then toxic water extracted, in some cases needing irradiation, would become an immense and unmanageable waste problem and the light of the distances involved in the South African scenario.

Agri-plans and consequent food processing development

farmingA considerable number of submissions focused on the importance of establishing viable small farming units and a completely self-sustaining mini-agricultural food industry in specially located zones. The proposers suggested suitable cropping of vegetables and staple foods in order preserve the food chain for poorer communities under climate change conditions, the zones themselves contributing to healthier emissions with normal synthesis.

Carbon capture investigation

The South African National Energy Institute (SANEDI), reporting to the Central Energy Fund, gave a report- back on their work in the South Eastern Cape where a pilot drilling project, carried out on-shore for reasons of cost, was exploring the possibility of large-scale carbon storage at sea.    Prof. AD sanedi carbon capSurridge described carbon emissions capture as part of the “weaning off process necessary” whilst the country moved slowly from a fossil fuel based economy to a renewables/nuclear mix.

This pilot storage plant should be running by 2016, SANEDI said, and “commercial rollout possibilities concluded by 2020”.

Marathon run

In closing, Jackson Mthembu, chairperson of the Environmental Affairs Parliamentary Committee, said that “in South Africa, we are known for differing with respect”. This had been the purpose of the hearings, he pointed out.

He concluded by saying that climate change, as an issue, cut across all facets of government and consequently the parliamentary submissions collective summation would be shared across the desks of all Ministries involved.

Other articles in this category or as background

Environmental pace hots up – ParlyReportSA

Tougher rules ahead with new evironmental Bill – ParlyReport

Electric cars part of climate change response – ParlyReport

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Infrastructure Development Bill possibly to be altered

Infrastructure Development Bill gets SALGA, BUSA criticism….

The Infrastructure Development Bill, tabled in Parliament during November 2013 just before Parliament closed, has had three days of public hearings, the Bill being an empowerment document for the presidential office to realise the New Build programme for South Africa.

The Bill was published for comment and the hearings over three days represented by an early opening of parliamentary portfolio committee activity. The Bill was tabled by minister of economic development, Ebrahim Patel.

The majority of those presenting before Parliament with submissions regarding the Bill, mainly state utilities and entities such as the Institute of Municipal Engineers, pointed to what many realise is the actual crisis facing South Africa – that of lack of skills at local government level and a lacking of will to get projects even underway, let alone completed, being the main hurdles.

Objectives of Bill

According to the cabinet statement released at the time, the Bill aims to:

•    Implement integrated projects of significance for South Africa and the region
•    Promote public-private partnership making use of private sector skills
•    Set up steering committees for each project
•    Put in place time frames for implementation of strategic integrated projects (SIP)
•    Address project management and regulatory delays challenges
•    Ensure coordinated issuing of permits and licences

The Bill pledges support for the Presidential Coordinating commission (PICC) set up by cabinet in July 2011 to bring together the three spheres of government to drive increased levels of infrastructure development. A number of bodies presenting gave examples of the complete lacking of any knowledge of the maintenance of national assets, particularly an infrastructure project was completed and handed over.

SIPS are to be driven by PICC

PICC interventions will be carried out, it is planned and a number of the presentations to Parliament will go to the PICC as examples of where cross-cutting and mobilisation across all levels of government is badly needed with specific regard to the 18 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) identified by the Commission.

Each SIP comprises a large number of specific infrastructure components and programmes. Such infrastructure development is seen as a key jobs driver in the new growth path planned for the country. The new Infrastructure Development Bill is thus the anchor document behind the presidential process, even as far as allowing for the acquisition of land where an SIP may require this option.

Environmental issues “ignored”

In contrast, the constitutionality of, and the need for the Infrastructure Development Bill was questioned in a presentation by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) who clearly felt “toes were being trodden upon”. University of KwaZulu Natal warned that a clause in the new Bill imposing that any delay process that goes over 250 days will be over-ridden was totally discounted on the basis that an environmental impact assessment cannot be completed within 300 days.

Also Business Unity South Africa (Busa) whilst agreeing with the whole idea of the need to get projects going expressed the view that rather than trying to ‘cut through’ through bureaucratic problems that might be causing delays, the new Bill may add yet another layer of red tape on government project managers and confuse the roles and responsibilities of the three spheres of government.

They cautioned that the department of economic development, with all the goodwill in the world, may add confusion and further congestion and that no amount of legislation could add value to the actual problem; lack of skills at local government level and an inability of one department to talk to another.

Bill driven by ANC to empower PICC

Lack of consultation in the preparation of the Bill was also cited as having been insufficient on the bill but the Bill is known to have the support of the ANC, service delivery and infrastructure build projects that create jobs being their manifesto promise.

COSATU, Telkom and Transnet were all in favour of the Bill in broad principle but most expressed concern that the Bill might add rather than detract from bureaucratic delays and great care that this did not happen, they said.

Telkom also raised queries with regard to the granting of rights to PICC to expropriate land but minister Ebrahim Patel, minister of economic development who was present for most of the submissions, chose not to debate the issue presumably because such matters were separately under debate with other legislation.

There was little disagreement amongst opposition members that minister Patel would have to make considerable revisions to the Bill as presented, particularly on the issue of land acquisition in terms of existing law.

Further reports on this Bill in later meetings have been published for clients and will be posted on this website in due course
Previous articles on this subject
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/infrastructure-development-bill-legislates-growth-path/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/infrastructure-development-bill-to-cut-red-tape-2/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/global-shockwaves-must-not-stop-infrastructure-programme/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/president-zuma-calls-for-2012-as-year-of-infrastructure/

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Port charges and inefficiencies leaving SA behind

Transnet port charges far too high…..

portsharboursEscalating administered prices in SA’s manufacturing system including port charges that were amongst the highest in the world were amongst the subjects discussed during a colloquiun called by Parliament’s portfolio committee on trade and industry.

The meeting was called by Joan Fubbs, the PC trade and industry’s chair and in responding director general of department of trade and industry (DTI) Lionel October said these high costs pointed at Transnet were undoubtedly coupled with “significant logistical inefficiencies” to form a major reason for the country’s inability to compete in global export markets.  Transnet’s tariffs were far too high, he said and were contributing to high import costs in most sectors.

The good and the bad

He said there were some successes recorded recently, such as South Africa being high on the list of best places to invest in automobile assembly plants, but decreased demand from traditional trading partners, coupled with the fact that “container and automotive cargo owners faced price premiums of between 710% and 874% above the global norm. “Such facts were leaving South Africa as an uncompetitive nation”, he said.

During a rigorous and frank debate on the multiple shocks facing manufacturing in South Africa, which were stated as ranging from rising electricity prices to the costs involved as a result of unstable labour-relations, a gathering of Eskom officials, Transnet executives, South African Local Government (SALGA) representatives, the electricity regulator NERSA, and the department of trade and industry (DTI) gathered to debate the current picture facing the SA manufacturing sector under the chairmanship of Parliament’s trade and industry portfolio committee.

Electricity charges vary from one to another

In addition to existing other and well established problems in the electricity transmission and generation area, DTI’s deputy director Garth Strachan, weighed in saying that there were complete anomalies in tariffs charged either to members of the same sector of industry and to manufacturing plants existing next door to each other.

Strachan said DTI had examples where one manufacturer was facing certain price increases in electricity and another factory “right across the street” was paying a tariff more than double.

He said that whilst global recession might have played a part in the current negative situation mostly arising from “bunched up” administrative prices from state utilities, some thinking “outside of the box” was now called for if South African manufacturing was to gain any traction and contribute to growth in a meaningful manner, thus creating more jobs.

Next to New York comes SA

marineReturning to the high port cost issue, Strachan said that Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban port terminals had the dubious honour of following Charleston, Baltimore and New York, as the top high-cost terminals worldwide, mainly as a result of excessive cargo dues charged.

Returning to electricity charges, he concluded by saying that one of the biggest problems facing South African consumers was the considerable publicity given to the NERSA announcement that Eskom had been restricted to an 8% hike, which had given the impression to consumers that “this was the end of the story”.

Yet manufacturers still had to face up to municipal mark-ups, he said, both in the case of urban and peri-urban situations, a matter which had not been discussed on a national basis nor any guidelines established.

Dry bulk goods to be target

On the matter of port charges, Transnet’s Mohammed Abdool said Transnet was applying to the ports regulator for a complete re-structuring of tariffs applying to containers, dry bulk goods and manufactured and beneficiated goods.

He said a complete “rethink” on the objective of encouraging the export of beneficiated goods had taken place, coupled with the principle that Transnet would move from becoming one of the lowest rental charging landlords in the world by re-aligning its land based rentals by upwards of 46%.

Abdool said the new suggestions would result in up to 43% reductions in total port revenues for containers, whilst dry bulk exporters would go from a current 18% contribution to about 33%. All this from April next year which was given as a possible starting date.

NERSA will control municipal incenses

Still on price hikes and specifically on electricity mark-ups, NERSA responded to DTI comments and confirmed that it was obligatory for Eskom not go above the 8% allowed but that agreed limits would be allowed for each municipality or local authority as per agreement made or being made. No deviations would be tolerated and the case brought forward by DTI of two adjacent manufactures with vastly differing electricity rates would be investigated.

Touching up the recent decision to fix the Eskom price at 8% increase, NERSA said that in their view it was not correct for South African consumers to pay for massive reserves and financial safety margins on Eskom’s balance sheet and that Eskom should be run like any other state utility in an atmosphere of total adherence to the principle that where costs are concerned the interests of the consumer must be borne in mind.

SALGA must be committed

Joan Fubbs, chair of the committee, then sought a verbal pronouncement by SALGA to all present into Parliament, both stakeholders and members, that no deviations from the NERSA allowances to be agreed as reasonable mark-ups by their members would be accommodated by SALGA.

SALGA spokesperson, Mthobeli Kholisa, in charge of infrastructure development,  said there was no other system in place in most local authorities to pay for such items as street lighting, pumping of water services or handling of waste facilities. However, such an undertaking was  given by him.

Eskom chips in

Eskom presentations added little that was new to the situation, other than spokesperson for Eskom, Hillary Joffe, said that Eskom was “reserving its comments” on the situation until it had re-studied the entire financial situation but asked for an inter-governmental task team to be set up to align municipal tariffs and called for a plan to ensure that municipalities had sufficient fiscal support to maintain infrastructure and essential social services in the long term.

DOE warns on China

On the rising costs of fuel prices, department of energy’s deputy director general, Tseliso Maqubela, said  that oil and gas exploration would play a large part in South Africa’s energy future but that the unseen and hidden player in South Africa’s structural and economic future remained the economic giant China.

With vast reserves of cheap coal, China had not yet entered the market, he said, and when this occurred it would amount to a “game changer” in every respect, affecting not just the energy scenario for South Africa.

April looks better

On prices generally, he said that things were looking better for April but that oil and gas prices were long-term issues in general and current factors at play would not affect the situation in the short term.

He said exploration would probably would remain, by and large, in the hands of private ventures for years to come. He said that the costs of exploring for oil using one rig could amount to US$1m to 3m for one day alone and “that kind of money does not come easily to a state utility”. Maquebela said that the country owed the present private owned refineries much as they stabilized the chemical industry and saved much in imports but warned that they also faced enormous recapitalization costs in the near future.

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OUTA goes to supreme court of appeal on Bill

OUTA seems to have forgotten Parliament….

The decision by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) to spend many hundreds of thousands of rands of public money to obtain a judgement from the North Gauteng High Court to set aside e-tolling on the basis that legislation making e-tolling possible was not debated in the proper manner seemed at the time a little odd when OUTA did not  itself  make a submission to Parliament on the legislation or accept a  debate with portfolio committee on transport when invited to do so.

The fact that the decision by the Gauteng High Court has been reversed still excludes Parliament which seems to be yet another example of living with the belief that the world ends at the Jukskei River.

OUTA seems to be unaware of the fact the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill is a national Bill which has been tabled; the matter is a national issue and that Parliament is the home of an independent parliamentary debating process surrounding the anchor legislation, whatever inputs may come from SANRAL, OUTA, the minister of transport or threats from COSATU.

According to the records produced at a meeting of the portfolio committee on transport to finally debate and approve the Bill, the committee spent nearly R200,000 on advertising the request to “Have Your Say” on the Bill, the normal insertions for a Bill known to be contentious.  The record also shows that most of this spend was on national dailies and the weekend press, as it so happens mostly printed in Gauteng.

The scurrilous suggestion by COSATU that no such advertising took place was a lie, possibly placed by COSATU to influence OUTA, and reflects the fact that COSATU  knows full well that Parliament was the home for such debate.

That’s why COSATU was there in full strength, one of two parties who bothered to appear in Parliament.   BUSA failed to appear in person, submitting comments in writing, which kind of submission becomes a very watered-down affair.

The fact that the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) did make a full submission (and a very good one) and succeeded with an effective amendment that whenever and wherever a toll is built a full debate must take place with the municipality or local authority, was accepted by Parliament. Which seems to prove a point.

Also the Bill was re-worded to the effect that alternative routes around the affected toll road are to be demarcated. Well done SALGA.

COSATU’s own suggestion to stop e-tolling on the basis of selection against the poor with no constructive suggestions as to how national roads were to be future-funded led to a rejection by members of the transport committee.

SALGA concluded in their submission that a lot more work needs to be done on advising the public how e-tolling  works; advertising on why it is necessary; pricing structures to be seen visually on approach; what any alternative routes are; what the discounts are about and how and when to buy an e-tag and if it is always necessary.

SANRAL, who were present at both the hearings and subsequent debates accepted privately this advice given by SALGA to the satisfaction of the portfolio chairperson and although SANRAL had no speaking role in the subsequent legislative debate, once again their presence was felt.

Even the parliamentary portfolio committee admitted in conclusion when the Bill was approved that nobody really wanted e-tolling but were clearly angered by the OUTA and COSATU suggestion that “nobody was informed on the Bill” and even more curious to know why OUTA itself was nowhere to be seen in Cape Town.

Presumably the Bill will go to the National Assembly now that Parliament is re-assembling and concurrence eventually sought from the National Council of Provinces. Presumably also OUTA is hoping that the Supreme Court of Appeal, where the matter is now headed, will instruct the minister to withdraw the Bill.

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Major metros clarify picture on electricity tariffs

Metros confirm adherence to NERSA rules….

In an important meeting with the portfolio committee on trade and industry under the chairmanship of Bheki Radebe, South African Local Government Association (SALGA) gave its views on recent and forthcoming hikes on electricity tariffs and confirmed that  none of the major metros, constituting more than 80% of municipal electricity distribution, ever imposed tariffs that had not been approved by NERSA, the regulator.

Although it was acknowledged that there could be isolated cases of smaller municipalities not complying with this principle, Mthobeli Kolisa, executive director, municipal infrastructure services, SALGA, said there was an overlap between the provisions of the Electricity Regulation Act dealing specifically with tariffs charged by its licensees and the Municipal Finance Management Act dealing generally with municipal tariffs but any problems and most conflicts were overlooked in the national interest.

NERSA’s word was final, he said.

Local government reports for three major cities

SALGA, with input also from representatives of the eThekwini, Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg Metros, briefed the committee on the breakdown of municipal electricity tariff charges.  When determining the municipal increases, in line with the NERSA guidelines, the municipalities would take into account the costs of bulk purchases, repairs and maintenance, salaries, interest charges and other cost, and then would have to justify their requests for increases to NERSA, Kolisa said for SALGA.

eThekwini municipality said that electricity purchases made up the largest percentage of the budget of the metro.   For a municipality whose electricity purchases constituted 64% of its budget, Eskom would charge a percentage increase of 13.5%.    This would contribute 8.6% to the total average increase of 11%, which was a direct pass-through cost for the municipality.

They said that even if the municipal cost did not go up, the increase would still be 8.6% to the end customer, as a direct result of Eskom’s increase.   As a result of the municipal cost increases, a further 2.4% was added onto the total increase for the year, as a result of the increases in salaries and wages, repairs and maintenance amongst other cost items.

Sticking to the rules, they say

City of Ekurhuleni said that when Eskom was running short on generation capacity, which happened during the winter months of June, July and August, there was a strong signal during peak hours and although it might cause customers to complain, municipalities would not work against the national objective.

They said that an analysis of the Eskom “Megaflex” tariff indicated that energy was 90% of the cost in Ekurhuleni and demand constituted 10%, with the mark-up at zero (as Eskom was the baseline tariff for a municipality). The Tshwane tariff, on the other hand, indicated that energy was 62% of the cost, demand at 38% and mark-up at 9% which was known to be the case..Should Eskom run the lot?

Should Eskom run the lot?

Kolisa commented, in response to a question whether Eskom should distribute all electricity, that cutting municipalities out of the distribution lines and the equation generally would not be feasible.   It was still necessary for them to distribute electricity.

They only, and only they, had the infrastructure in place in their areas, he said, and the suggestion of separate re-distribution zones, or REDS, was an issue of the past.

However, municipalities and metros, said SALGA, faced a generalised critical shortage of skills in the engineering sector and were unable to attract and retain specialist skills, particularly since they also faced competition from private industries.    The idea of “adopt a municipality” inviting participation by industry was now being promoted to re-gain some of the lost territory.

City of Johannesburg explained that Eskom tariffs to municipalities included a 4,17 c/kWh (cents per kilowatt hour) cross subsidy towards Eskom’s residential customers, and a cross subsidy for electrification in Eskom supply areas (3,59 c/kWh) and said that the general idea of one rate or one tariff would not fit all municipalities mainly because of their disparate size, different services and different demographics.

Hope that independents might make common tariffs possible

City of Johannesburg said the government initiative to establish the ISMO system where Eskom and municipal distributors would be treated as peers and all distributors would be purchasing from the ISMO at wholesale rates would make some form of tariff alignment possible.   But this was well into the future.

SALGA said that a tariff design plan was in process by the five main metros which took into consideration the principles of the cost of supply and this co-operation accounted for the current compliance.    Metropolitan distributors and a significant portion of the larger municipal distributors, it was said, were working towards detailed cost-of-supply analysis.

In conclusion, SALGA noted that it might be possible to set a uniform tariff structure but such a move to make it viable would require financing.  Generally, part of the problem, it was said, was that there was a strong need to move towards more advanced technology.

Inevitable coal question

In reference to the control of cost inputs in energy supply, SALGA said it was interesting to note that China relied on coal that it imported at very low cost and countries like South Africa were exporting to China at cheap prices to get their business. Local government could not regulate on such issues as coal exports, which were an issue for debate at Eskom and national level, but SALGA could see perfectly well what some of the problems were.

SALGA finally noted that education campaigns to promote energy efficiency were not as effective in the field as they might be and SALGA would work with the Department of Energy to try to correct this.

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e-tolling Transport Bill held over

Changes made after parliamentary hearings.

Department of transport spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso told a media briefing on e-tolling ecently that the portfolio transport committee was to completed two days of public hearings on e-tolling and the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill in Parliament.   As  a result Parliament has given notice for the matter to be brought before National Assembly with certain further changes scheduled.

In hearings that took place within the portfolio committee on transport under Adv Johnny de Lange as chair the Bill was adopted in debate, although opposition members abstained from voting in favour since caucus support on what was considered by them as possible and reasonable  could not be approved in the light of time restraints, this being the reason given.

The Bill, subject therefore subject to final approval by Parliament still stands, as does the issue of e-tolling on a national basis.

“The matter has been postponed for for further discussion”, Rikhotso said, referring to the fact that the NA had yet to agree or not to the withdrawal of the Bill or whether more changes were to be accepted brought forward by the portfolio committee as a result of public hearings which took place and further possible debate.

SALGA agreeable in part

Issues at the public hearings with regard to e-tolling mainly involved the practical application and whether SANRAL was exceeding its mandate. Only two oral presentations were heard although some ten papers or submissions were circulated, including one from Business Unity SA.     What is clear, however, is that despite all the argument and debate, the actual process of e-tolling will be hard if not impossible to undo.

The oral hearings included a South African Local Government Association (SALGA) submission presented by Mthobeli Kolisa, executive director of municipal infrastructure services, South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and also from Ms Jane Bennett, affiliate support coordinator, COSATU. No oral submissions were received from OUTA, although it was unclear if written submissions were made.

SALGA said its association of 278 municipalities was primarily trying to achieve the objective of ensuring that the legislation would provide for studies on the impact of the diversion of traffic from proposed urban tolled roads into local roads. These studies must address the likely congestion and resultant costs of road maintenance and traffic management, and access to opportunities for life on the part of affected communities.

The studies, they said, must form the basis for decision making regarding whether or not to toll a road, and to determine what mitigating measures were needed to address the negative impacts if the tolling was to go ahead.

Whilst SALGA supported the proposed bill it wanted to see additional clauses that also affected the mandate of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) and National Roads Act which called for the minister’s approval for any declaration in partnership with affected municipalities.

These had to include in their view studies on the likely impact of the contemplated road tolling on communities’ access to livelihood opportunities; local roads in terms of diversion and related maintenance and traffic management costs and for such studies to be used as a basis for public consultations and such conditions had to be written into the proposals, SALGA said.

Bennett of COSATU was of the opinion that without the Bill, the e-toll would not be able to proceed and suggested strongly to parliamentarians to take the decision to reject the Bill. She said the issue of a Bill to make e-tolling possible had been rushed through as an afterthought, just to make the matter legal and that it ran counter to a number of basic principles of law, not the least the National Credit Act.

COSATU maintained there had been “little sincerity in the consultation” and tolls like the Gauteng Highway Project and others in the country, no doubt to follow, would add a huge burden to the already impoverished poor. There was also a suggestion of profiteering, she said. However the overall feeling of the portfolio committee was that the COSATU suggestions were insufficiently persuasive to halt national road development on a user pays basis.

COSATU raised issues surrounding the application of the provisions of the Cross- Border Transport Road Agency and the lack of restrictions on how tariff increases would be applied in future. COSATU strongly objected to the parliamentary procedure involved and which had excluded input from the provinces, meaning that the Bill had been tabled as a section 75 Bill which does not call for provincial hearings and mandates through the NCOP.

At the hearings, both the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) and the Department of Transport (DOT) questioned the amendments sought by SALGA. They stated that the SANRAL Act already required SANRAL to inform all affected municipalities about the tolling of a section of national roads, and that this already catered for SALGA’s request.

From parliamentary papers it appears that the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill could have been withdrawn from the National Assembly order paper at the last minute before the discussions but despite this fact, subsequent debate did in fact take place place and approval by the portfolio committee on the Bill was obtained by a majority vote. This means  that whilst the legislation may be amended, e-tolling itself as a process will probably roll on providing concurrence of the National Council of Provinces is agreed in early 2013.

Parliament’s deliberations on the bill in the NA will continue in the New Year it is presumed  after Parliament reconvenes on February 10, and the future of the legislation as it stands then debated further. In the meanwhile the debate will no doubt rage on at community level.

The difficulty could well be that the amendments sought by SALGA and perhaps by the portfolio committee after deliberations could affect the anchor legislation itself and more than one piece of law.

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Land,Agriculture, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Downwards spiral in electricity distribution can be reversed, say energy leaders

The tone was set for a three day series of public hearings amounting to a public workshop on the electricity distribution industry (EDI) when department of energy (DoE) confirmed that the rehabilitation of the industry needed R27.4bn to reverse a downward delivery spiral, bearing in mind the need for skills generally and the inability of municipalities to execute to deliver in terms of strategy.

However, the main players in the industry, including Eskom, were convinced that South Africa had the skills and ability to effect proper change.

Willie de Beer of Sanedi opened the meeting and warned that unless there was a satisfactory distribution and supply system, any amount of power stations and electricity generation programmes would be pointless if the electrical distribution industry, one of the largest employers in the country, did not revolutionize itself from within and carry out an overhaul.

The entire industry needed to be re-configured, he said, and the whole issue of the current developmental restraints facing the country needed to be looked at.

Firm management and leadership remained a key need, with effective controls in the revenue cycle being an essential requirement. Consolidated funding schemes for all parties, large and small, who are participants in the industry, had to be set up enabling the industry as whole to catch up technologically, de Beer said.

“It is within South Africa’s ability to carry out such an exercise”, he said, and added that the country “had the necessary years of experience and the people present to succeed.”

Prof. Nic Beute of Cape Peninsula University said a survey conducted on the EDI indicated that most planning had been done to develop the industry when the regional electricity distributor (RED) areas plan was mooted and the major requirement was then only the initiative to act and provide the finance and technological knowhow at lower levels at municipal distribution points to take the path forward.

Prof. Beute concluded by observing that DoE appeared to be “stuck in an analysis mode” and what was needed was a financial plan involving National Treasury and possibly Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) to meet an already defined path and for them to come forward with the wherewithal to make past planning during the REDS exercise a reality.  Little had changed, he said, except time had been lost.

Ongama Mahlawe of the dept. of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (COGTA) said much of the problem lay with rural municipalities who had the biggest backlogs: the highest degree of finance gaps; lowest technical ability and were unable to attract and retain skilled personnel.

This was unlikely to change unless the economic picture changed, he said. “We have a situation where R49bn of the uncollected R76bn in rates taxes, including electricity fees, is owed by households.”

“With government deciding not to implement the REDs plan, Eskom remains servicing 46% of domestic customers, which revenue is lost to municipalities in any case.”  Last year, he said, only a certain number of municipalities had adequate budgets and maintenance came under the heading of discretionary expenditure.

GOGTA had, in the meanwhile, established a dedicated unit focusing on supporting municipalities on energy matters and had prioritised 108 “low capacity” municipalities. Under questioning, Mahlawe confirmed that no practical implementation had yet been carried out.

In an initial paper, DoE reminded all parties to the hearings of the legislative environment which stated that a municipality has the executive authority in respect of and has the right to administer local government matters regarding electricity and gas matters and that only NERSA could issue licences for the operation of generation, transmission or distribution facilities……and regulate prices and tariffs.

Ayanda Noah, head of distribution at Eskom said Eskom had adapted itself after the shutdown of the REDs approach. It currently had 311,831km of reticulation lines, 47 509km of distribution lines and 11 415km of underground cables and was working with a number of smaller municipalities’.

The group, she said, had broken itself into nine provincial offices and the record was that over the years since 1991, Eskom was now providing electrification to 4 million homes throughout South Africa since the inception of the electrification programme.

Going through a long list of problems that exist at municipal levels and despite their instituting recently a successful  “adopt a municipality” programme, Noah said that industry issues hampered Eskom’s ability to maintain and upgrade its own infrastructure programme given the wider industry issues and the many problems at national level, all of which eventually translated into major risk factors for Eskom.

She said that an approach had to be adopted, nevertheless, where Eskom had to consider its own interests as suspended and the national industry to dominate, she said. An approach had to be found where “the industry heals from within”, she commented. In Eskom’s view, transfer of assets was a last resort measure, Noah said

Looking back, the act of creating REDs Noah said this concept would not have really solved any of the underlying problems facing the industry.     The answer, she said may lie in “active partnering” such as was being instituted by Eskom and now being carried out with municipalities, since there were in fact only two players in the industry who could participate in the restructuring physically, that was Eskom and the municipalities themselves.

“Active partnering” was in her view a non-threatening approach, as opposed to the trauma of forced intervention to address service delivery issues. “There is no need for the industry to become paralysed since the answers lies within the industry itself”, she concluded.

NERSA, the electricity regulator, called for an alignment of financial year ends between all municipalities and the state departments involved: a central data system to gather all matters involved in generation, transmission and distribution and a multi-party agreement between state departments and all municipalities on compliance and audit issues.

DBSA said it had “huge” exposure to the electricity industry, particularly distribution, amounting to some R5bn. It called improved revenue collection and suggested pre-paid meters; that all revenue from electricity sales be “ring fenced” for maintenance and transparent tendering processes instituted with centralised controls.

Renewable energy sources as an alternative had to be focused on, DBSA said, and tariff structuring by municipalities needed to be reflective of the long-term picture in order to attract investment.

The present picture was “characterised by many of the municipalities having insufficient infrastructure to deliver energy services and a deteriorating quality of supply due to ageing equipment which required rehabilitation or replacement.

They quoted Dr W de Beer of Sanedi who had pointed out the fact that the infrastructure backlog is moving from not only a need for R27bn for maintenance but complicated an annual growth need of R2.5bn per year.

Capacity and skills in municipalities had to be strengthened by participation with a government programme, DBSA said. This must urgently involve a DoE-led rehabilitation plan of an immediate pilot programme; a project finance agreement for municipalities and the involvement of a detailed funding model between DBSA and National Treasury with COGTA, NERSA, department of public enterprises and DoE itself. A formal financing programme should be commenced at the soonest.

The South African Local Government Association echoed this call, pointing to the debilitating effect of electricity theft in informal townships and the need for meters to be installed on a user-pay basis in all households. SALGA said a “transmission group|” should be formed as a public resource to bring all stakeholders together and new electricity management systems by municipalities “conceptualised” immediately.

Not all municipalities were failing they said, and the plan called “ADAM” (whereby municipalities were re-capitalised on the basis that there was certainty in the future of any investment in them) should be re-vitalised and adopted with strong leadership from central government and the support of National Treasury.

A National Treasury spokesperson, in their paper, referred to the constitutional right of municipalities to apply surcharges in the form of a tariff base plus “a reasonable rate of return”.  A portion of this had to be set aside for repairs and maintenance (R&M), they said, but it was not prudent for government to legislate on the whole of the surcharge in the light of the law and also its use was known to be an important form of general revenue. Nevertheless, there had to be changes on this critical issue.

Currently, said Treasury, the integrated national electrification programme (INEP) amounting to grants to municipalities to create new connections and was primarily for poor households. The concern was that this was being diverted to refurbishment that could have been avoided if normal maintenance were undertaken.

A way had to be found, said Treasury officials, to ensure that R&M was undertaken on a programmed basis, that skills training programmes were brought to the all municipalities, both large and small and that the profile of the need for constant R&M from the funds generated by the sale of electricity became a high profile issue with both councillors and residents.

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Finance, economic, Land,Agriculture, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments


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