WWF questions integrity of Nersa hearings
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in SA on Tuesday questioned the integrity of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa) public hearings into Eskom’s proposed tariff hike.
The WWF said it also questioned the intentions behind the energy ministry’s publication of a purported Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) on the last day of 2009.
“Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters has decreed, by way of the Government Gazette, the nature and timing of new electricity generation to be installed over the next five years. Such a decision potentially removes the prospect for meaningful consideration of stakeholder input and interests into Eskom’s controversial tariff increase applications,” the WWF said in a statement.
The nation-wide public hearings currently under way followed Eskom’s revision of its initial application for a 45% increase to an annual 35% increase, based primarily on the announced deferment of building the coal-fired Kusile power station and renewable energy projects.
“It is understood that this followed a Cabinet rejection of the draft IRP, prepared by Eskom on the instruction of the department of energy (DoE), which was submitted to DoE last October and was recently leaked to media and published by the Mail & Guardian.
“However, the three-page notice in the Government Gazette of 31 December, in which the DoE minister stated that new generation capacity must be met though the projects listed in the IRP, failed to take this into consideration.”
WWF said the notice—published in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act (2006)—contained new build plans as put forward in the leaked IRP, ignoring the delays upon which the current application was based.
“This gazetting of a so-called ‘Integrated Resource Plan’ makes a mockery of government policy and legislated requirements regarding integrated energy planning, in terms of both content and process,” Richard Worthington of the WWF said.
The plan for electricity supply until 2013 also claimed to give effect to policy objectives for renewable energy usage, of “approximately 4% of the energy mix” and for demand-side management, though it added nothing to the vague announcements for reinvigorated implementation made at last year’s Solar Water Heating Conference, Worthington said.
“Eskom is now claiming it will deliver on the promised one-million solar water-heating units, through the same subsidy programme that has failed to perform effectively since its inception.”
He said demand-side management was the one area where the IRP1 differed substantially from the leaked IRP proposal from Eskom.
Peet du Plooy, WWF trade and investment advisor, said that the “plan”, which effectively rubber-stamped the leaked IRP draft, consisted of little more than an extract from one of the tables in that document, with the addition only of modification to the energy savings expected under Eskom’s Demand-Side Management programme.
“If this is a cynical attempt to appear to comply with the requirement of the National Energy Act of 2008 requiring that the minister must publish an Integrated Energy Plan every year, the department would have done better to admit a failure to deliver,” Worthington said.
The notice also contained a token provision for “consultation with stakeholders”—not on the substance of the decreed build programme, but rather through a “process of developing IRP 2, which will commence in January 2010,” he said.
Neither Nersa nor the energy ministry could be reached for comment.
Re-evaluate Nersa’s role
The role Nersa in determining the tariff increases must be evaluated, the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) said on Tuesday.
“The role of Nersa needs to be redefined—it just does not seem as though enough research and facts are brought to the hearings so that the plight of the workers are more effectively addressed,” Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said in a statement.
“The hearings are suppose to be for public input ... but it seems as though the increase has already been decided and very little input by the public is considered.”
George said the proposed hike would be “too strenuous” for South workers and might even cause the unemployment numbers to increase should businesses not be able to cope with high electricity bills.
“Fedusa is of the opinion that Eskom is trying to build and increase the output of power stations with the consumer’s money, which is not fair.” - Sapa