Civil society groups to President Cyril Ramaphosa: Act immediately on energy crisis

An urgent call by 16 civil society organisations to Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe to immediately issue a determination to allow for additional renewable generation capacity to be built to alleviate the energy crisis has been met with silence.

Nearly two weeks ago, the groups, which include the Centre for Environmental Rights, Centre for Child Law, Section 27 and the South African Climate Action Network, wrote to Mantashe urge him to promptly issue a determination for the procurement of 13 600 megawatts of renewable energy and 1 575MW of storage. 

Section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA) provides for the minister to issue a determination for large-scale new electricity-generating capacity that can be built. 

While the groups gave Mantashe until 17 July to issue the determination, they are yet to receive an acknowledgement of receipt. They have now written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking him to instruct Mantashe to issue the determination “without delay”. 

“Given the ongoing human suffering and costs to the economy from load-shedding, and the clear responsibility of the minister of mineral resources and energy ‘to ensure the continued uninterrupted supply of electricity’ as specified in Section 34 of the ERA, we believe that this minister should be instructed to immediately issue a determination in terms of Section 34 of ERA,” reads their letter to Ramaphosa.

“We have asked Minister Mantashe to act, but to date, have had neither an acknowledgement nor a response, which is why we are appealing to you now.

“In that letter to the minister we listed the reasons why we wanted him to issue a determination, and also the amount of renewable and storage capacity that should be included, which is in line with the amounts indicated in the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity of 2019,” the letter to the president said.

The signatories urged Ramaphosa to consider the additional benefits to local manufacturing and jobs that such a determination could make, by “creating confidence in future demand for the construction of renewable energy capacity”.

They called on him to instruct Mantashe to act by 29 July. If no action was taken by that date, they would “reassess their options to drive action to end the energy crisis”.

Peter Becker, a spokesperson for Koeberg Alert, one of the signatories, said the lack of response from the minister’s office and the “vague announcements” of a second state-owned enterprise to generate electricity, are an indication that there is not yet a concrete plan. 

“It is becoming clear that the minister does not understand what is needed to solve the energy crisis,” he said. “We do not need an energy emergency to be declared and we definitely do not need another state-owned electricity company, or Eskom 2.0.

“We need everyone working around the clock, including the department of mineral resources and energy and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, to use existing regulations and processes to fast track approval of new generation applications and get large-scale wind, solar and storage capacity online in record time.”

Mantashe’s failure to timeously fulfil this responsibility had caused the load-shedding crisis, he added.

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Sheree Bega
Sheree Bega is an environment reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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