Letters to the editor: November 6 to 12 2015

Winds of change: Despite some hitches, Eskom has not abandoned independent power producers. (Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

Winds of change: Despite some hitches, Eskom has not abandoned independent power producers. (Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

White privilege is a myth

  The notion of “white privilege”, as discussed in Simon Hartley’s article (Use your privilege to destroy privilege) is an all-round bad idea.

To say that all whites are privileged is a massive and inaccurate overgeneralisation that ignores how many whites live. It implies that, if you are white, your alleged privilege has been earned at the expense of others or is unearned and, therefore, unfair.

This accusation is inaccurate from a historical point of view, and is only true of a very small minority of whites alive today.

Many of the developments that led to whites having, on average, higher living standards than blacks were already in place prior to colonisation, such as the growth of industrial development and the growth of literacy and a public school system.

The statement that inherited privilege is unearned and thus unfair is silly and unrealistic. How is it unfair to inherit the fruit of your ancestors’ hard work, particularly when for most people that work did not actually detract from other people’s living conditions? It is not unfair.

“White privilege” arguments apply moral standards to people based on their race, not what they actually do; this is simply another form of racism.

In addition to this, the idea that, if you are white you are privileged and will, therefore, not be able to understand what other people go through, and have no place in saying anything about it, is ludicrous; it grossly underestimates how much people can imagine and the degree to which they can view things from another person’s perspective.

This argument is simply a way of trying to invalidate what someone says because they are white and of silencing debate that is not welcome.

It has the effect of shutting down any meaningful discussion and simply creates a discourse of “I am right and you are wrong, regardless of what we say or do”.
This is unproductive and racist.

Lastly, if the doyens of “white privilege” are so intent on improving people’s lives, why is there such an absence of practical advice about how to help the poor and downtrodden?

  These “white privilege” arguments offer nothing of practical value and are designed to make whites feel ashamed and bad, and to stop them from engaging in any meaningful way in debate. They need to be discarded. – Richard McCalloch, Johannesburg

Eskom backs independent green power

There was some wilful misrepresentation in your editorial It should be eco, not ego, for Eskom. The department of energy issued a media statement on April 16, stating that a total of 4 322MW (not 3 800MW) had been procured since 2011. With the issuance of confirmation letters to 13 preferred bidders for the fourth bid submission, the department said the number of renewable energy projects rose to 79, representing a massive investment of R168-billion (not R168-million as stated in the editorial) in infrastructure, which will contribute to economic growth and job creation, in addition to the contribution it makes to security of electricity supply.

The editorial says Eskom has failed to connect renewable energy projects to the national grid “despite the fact that the utility recently secured a development loan of R4-billion to connect new projects to the grid”. On April 9 this year, the government, Eskom’s shareholder, stated: “The money will be used to build the Kiwano solar thermal power station in Upington, Northern Cape, and the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme in Braamhoek, KwaZulu-Natal.”

Eskom fully supports the department of energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme and acknowledges the role independent power producers must play in the South African electricity market.

Eskom is committed to supporting the grid integration of independent power projects: 43 have been connected since the procurement programme began in 2011. Eskom has spent R2.4-billion on the backbone infrastructure at both transmission and distribution level to enable a power feed from the independent power producers.

Eskom believes that the nonissuance of budget quotes is a temporary situation and that a lasting solution will soon be found to rectify this.

By March 31, Eskom’s financial year-end, a total of 1 795MW of renewable energy generation capacity had been connected to the national grid, with an average load factor of 30.85%. Short- and medium-term contracts expiring at the end of March 2015 were renewed for another year.

Two weeks ago, Eskom said the decision to halt the issuance of budget quotes temporarily was taken to protect the financial sustainability of the utility because there was no capital allocation in the current multiyear pricing regime for independent producers beyond bid window three. In essence, Eskom’s current financial plan cannot support any new independent connections or energy purchases.

Despite this, Eskom will continue with network integration studies, and develop and cost the appropriate solutions for independent connection applications received for bid window four and the expedited programme. Once the financial situation is resolved, budget quotes can be issued without delay.

Eskom believes its application for exemption from the grid code was correct because issuing binding budget quotes without guarantees of how it will source the funding would be akin to reckless trading. An application for exemption is allowed in the South African grid code.

It is also disingenuous to say that the independent power producers envisaged in the 1998 white paper were “abandoned” because of “the mess at Eskom and increasing power supply problems”. The government waited nearly 10 years for interested private investors to buy 30% of Eskom’s generation business. In 2001, Eskom received the Power Company of the Year title at the Financial Times Global Energy Awards in New York. It can’t be true that Eskom was in a mess.

  It is true that Eskom’s new build programme has been delayed and that there will be cost overruns. The Mail & Guardian and other commentators forget that, when construction started in May 2007, Medupi was meant to have only three power-generating units. The plan was later revised and three extra units were added, which changed the scope of the project. Construction work at Kusile was at one point halted because of lack of funds. – Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom spokesperson

  •The M&G acknowledges the “R168-million” error in a correction. The figure of 3 800MW is taken from Eskom’s press release of two weeks ago, quoting a March 31 figure.

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