We all celebrated recently when we were informed that we would have a reprieve from rolling blackouts. That for now, our lights would stay on. But for how long?
The current energy crisis, according to Minister Gordhan, will take up to two years to ‘fix’, despite government not having a clear picture of what the problems are, nor how to solve them.
While government flails around in its self-made mess, our province’s businesses are being crippled, hospitals are unable to provide critical services and crime soars. The longer the uncertainty about energy supply continues, the longer it will take the economy to recover, if at all.
Although President Ramaphosa states that we should take ‘collective responsibility’ for a barely functioning Eskom, the reality is that this situation has been caused by corruption, mismanagement and sheer greed while Eskom languished in its monopoly status.
To add insult to injury, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) recently decided to raise the cost of electricity by an average of 3.5% above inflation for the next three years.
So, we are expected to pay for the decades of looting, which occurred right under the noses of Public Enterprise Ministers who were mandated to safeguard such a vital public service in the first place!
You would assume that such blatant dereliction of duty necessitates decisive action against these individuals, as well as the thieves who fed at the Eskom trough, yet, as has been seen time and time again, no one is held accountable, no one is jailed, no one is made to pay. Except us.
We have to take our ‘power’ back. We can no longer rely on government to keep the lights on, because clearly its priority is not service delivery, nor its tax paying citizens. Eskom needs to be privatized and its monopoly broken up by allowing private power utility companies to enter the market. This effectively means that the Eskom Fat Cats will no longer be fed.
I visited the Kelvin Power Station in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni on Wednesday 27 March. This power station is privately owned and is currently providing electricity to some of the municipalities in Gauteng, despite Eskom’s rolling blackouts.
This power station is one of the avenues that would enable us to bypass Eskom so as to make sure that the residents of this province have a reliable and sustainable source of electricity.
Part of our plan would entail leveraging Joburg and Tshwane’s existing generation licenses to bring more generation capacity on board through private power suppliers. Section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act 4 of 2006 empowers the Minister of Energy to allow municipalities to enter into a tender process which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective, with the private sector, to provide for new generation capacity.
Our plan also includes empowering residents of the province to generate their own power by exploring the viability and sustainability of adopting a by-law to regulate Small Scale Embedded Generation such as solar PV at businesses and residential homes.
This would allow individuals with the capacity to generate their own energy to feed surplus energy into the grid and in turn credit their account. At the same time, we would work with the metros to restore decommissioned power stations to lessen the province’s dependency on Eskom.
It’s clear that there is a myriad of options available to us to resolve this crisis, options that don’t involve continuing to prop up Eskom through bailouts, and increased tariffs. Yet for some reason, government appears to lack the political will to put South Africans first – despite Treasury admitting that opening up the energy sector would ultimately “improve business and consumer confidence, encourage private investment and reduce upward pressure on prices”.
The DA’s solution for #KeepingTheLightsOn makes sense. In fact, it is the only way to ensure Gauteng and its economy is no longer held to ransom by Eskom and the ANC government.