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    Red tape blocks energy solutions


    January 19, 2023 - Business Day

     

      Red tape blocks energy solutions

      Presidency director-general tells of efforts to speed up action on crisisDirector-general in the presidency Phindile Baleni says bureaucracy is making it difficult for the government to respond in an "agile manner" to the energy crisis.

      "The regulatory framework was not designed to deal with an energy shortfall," said Baleni.

      The government is under mounting pressure from opposition parties, business, civil society and lobby groups to sort out the energy problem, which has often seen load-shedding ramped up to stage 6.

      Many businesses are being forced to close and other companies to absorb extra costs as they search for alternative energy to operate.

      To solve the problem, the national energy crisis committee (Necom), which Baleni leads, is working on emergency legislation to allow energy projects to proceed quicker and enable co-ordinated and decisive action.

      Work is being done to urgently implement President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national energy plan unveiled in July 2022, she said.

      The crisis committee, which is made up of cabinet ministers and Eskom officials, has the task of implementing the plan. The structure reports to an interministerial committee led by Ramaphosa.

      On Sunday, Ramaphosa cancelled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to hold crisis talks with Eskom, labour and business.

      This is not the first time Ramaphosa has interrupted his overseas trips to deal with the energy crisis. In September, he cut short his trip to the UK and US.

      Baleni said load-shedding was not a result of "inaction by the Necom".

      Since July 2022, the committee had been working with Eskom to provide support to improve plant reliability, she said.

      As Eskom steps up its maintenance programme, it has to take more units offline. "The complexity of this challenge means we will continue to have load-shedding in the short term," said Baleni.

      "Work is under way to accelerate procurement of additional capacity and overcome constraints with grid capacity. Another priority is to support and encourage the rollout of solar in homes and businesses."

      A team of independent experts is working with Eskom to diagnose problems at poorly performing power stations and take action to improve plant performance.

      Baleni said that six power stations have been identified for particular focus to recover additional capacity.

      "Eskom is also working to connect Kusile unit 5 to the grid by July this year and restore other units at Medupi, Kusile and Koeberg with significant capacity. As these measures take effect, the supply will significantly improve."

      Ramaphosa’s plan is focused on fixing Eskom, improving performance of power stations and adding new generation capacity as quickly as possible.

      Regulations have been amended to remove the licensing requirement for private generation projects. "Since we raised the licensing threshold in July 2021, there are more than 100 projects in the pipeline with more than 9,000MW of capacity. We expect the first of these projects to connect to the grid by the end of this year.

      "We have signed project agreements from bid windows 5 and 6 of the renewable energy programme, which will together generate about 2,800MW. These projects will soon proceed to construction.

      "Since the announcement in July last year, an additional 300MW has been imported through the Southern African Power Pool and negotiations are under way to secure a potential 1,000MW from neighbouring countries starting this year."

      Eskom has also launched a programme to purchase up to 1,000MW of surplus power from companies with existing generation capacity for three years, said Baleni.

      Work had been done to cut red tape and streamline regulatory processes, including reducing the time frame for environmental authorisations to 57 days from more than 100. "We have reduced the registration of new projects from four months to three weeks and are working to ensure grid connection approvals are provided within six months."

      Criminal activity, including theft and sabotage contributing to the poor performance of some power stations cannot be ignored, she said.

      "In addition to deploying the military at a number of power stations, law enforcement agencies have been directed to ramp up efforts to disrupt criminal syndicates and arrest perpetrators," said Baleni.

      "Already several companies and individuals face prosecution for allegedly defrauding Eskom." TimesLIVE

      Emergency legislation: Presidency director-general Phindile Baleni says work is being done on emergency legislation to allow energy projects to proceed quicker. Masi Losi

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