Critical facilities will get electricity, says Gordhan
Parliamentary CorrespondentPublic enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan says technical assessments are being made of critical establishments to determine whether they can be connected to the grid during load-shedding, and if not then alternative measures will be sought to provide them with electricity.
He stressed when answering a question by IFP MP Elphas Buthelezi in the National Assembly on Wednesday that there was no lack of willingness on the part of the government or Eskom to ensure that critical facilities received electricity as required, but there were technical and practical impediments that had to be overcome.
The universal application of a recent court judgment was, however, not technically possible, he said.
"Eskom intends to find solutions to exempt schools, hospitals, clinics and police stations where this is feasible. At present Eskom is engaging with these entities regarding their points of supply.
"Once this engagement has been completed and where possible, measures will be implemented to mitigate the impact of load-shedding as far as is practically possible," Gordhan said.
His comments follow last month’s judgment by the Pretoria high court that ruled that load-shedding constituted an infringement of constitutional rights.
The court application was brought by 19 applicants led by the UDM and including other opposition parties, NGOs and individuals.
In terms of the interim order handed down by the court, the minister of public enterprises was given 60 days to "take all reasonable steps ... to ensure that there shall be sufficient supply or generation of electricity to prevent any interruption of supply as a result of load-shedding".
This applied to public health facilities, schools and police stations.
Gordhan said the government was appealing against the judgment as it was impractical to implement in the way it was enunciated.
The government said shortly after the judgment was handed down that it posed a risk to efforts to stabilise the grid.
The minister told MPs that Eskom has concluded preliminary assessments of establishing dedicated feeders to critical infrastructure.
This assessment has been shared with the relevant departments and implementation is under discussion with them.
It was envisaged that implementation would take between 12 and 24 months after the investment decision.
Other factors such as the type of solution, environmental approvals and land acquisition would have to be taken into account.
"We will continue as a government to ensure that these essential facilities for students, for our patients in hospitals and other important service centres are supplied with electricity wherever it is possible either today or in the near future in one form or another," Gordhan said.
"The key factor is where exactly is the connectivity of electricity to these particular facilities happening and is it possible to isolate the facility from the remainder of the grid.
"Those are technical issues that need to be worked through carefully without damaging the supply to the clinic or the school or the hospital on the one hand or damaging the grid on the other hand.
"Where facilities are deeply embedded in the network, partial exemption at lower stages of load-shedding has been granted to some of the facilities," the minister said.
In certain instances other types of assistance would have to be offered to these institutions in the form of generators and other forms of equipment if they could not be isolated from the grid.
Gordhan said Eskom exempts or partially exempts more than 70 public health establishments and was looking at another 200 of them.
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA/BUSINESS DAY