Press release: ENVIRONMENTAL AND FAITH-BASED NGOS CALL ON MINISTER OF ENERGY AND ESKOM TO HALT THE NUCLEAR DEAL TENDER PROCESS

SAFCEI and Earthlife Africa, 9 November, 2017.

Yesterday, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA-JHB) issued letters to the Ministers of Energy and
Public Enterprises, Eskom and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA). The
organisations have called on Minister Mahlobo and Eskom to immediately halt the nuclear
tender process, as outlined by the judgement decided in the Western Cape High Court in
April 2017.
This urgent call is underlined by the High Court judgement, which holds that any decision
made by South Africa’s Minister of Energy about new electricity generation, must be done
in conjunction with NERSA, through a lawful and procedurally fair Section 34
determination. This determination would have to specify why new nuclear energy
electricity generation is needed so urgently and what percentage of South Africa’s energy
mix it would fulfil.

According to Liziwe McDaid of SAFCEI, current news reports which highlight the Minister of
Energy David Mahlobo’s unexplained fast-tracking of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) by
4 months at the expense of clarity and certainty exacerbate concerns about the process.
In circumstances where the Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba stated that that the South
African economy cannot afford nuclear currently, nor does the country need new intensive
energy production, Eskom’s readiness to commence the nuclear tender process
immediately upon IRP approval is cause for alarm.

“We cannot ignore the many serious allegations of state capture and irregular
procurement processes by senior Eskom officials at the parastatal which is currently under
scrutiny by Parliament’s Public Enterprises Committee,” says McDaid.

Makoma Lekalakala of ELA–JHB says that the High Court decision emphasises public
participation as part of the Section 34 determination processes. “Clarity and transparency
is needed with regard to procurement of energy and its related processes, including the
negotiation or renegotiation of International Governmental Agreements (IGAs).”

Should Eskom not provide this undertaking by Monday 13 th November 2017, SAFCEI and
ELA-JHB will assume that Eskom is determined to go ahead without following legal and
constitutional Section 34 determination. An urgent application to the High Court may be
sought as urgent relief to ensure that the High Court judgment is respected and that
government acts openly and transparently. Both SAFCEI and ELA-JHB are members of a
Campaign for a Just Energy Future, a national movement geared at mobilising South
African citizens to hold government accountable for its energy decisionsENDS

Issued by Erna Curry and Natasha Adonis, on behalf of SAFCEI and ELA-JHB.
For more information and interviews, contact:
 Liz McDaid 0827315643 /liziwe@mweb.co.za
 Erna Curry SAFCEI 0744-661- 238 / erna@safcei.org.za
 Natasha Adonis 0797-999- 654 / adonisnatasha@yahoo.co.uk

Amendment to the SA Electricity Regulation Act – 10 November, 2017

Government Gazette, 10 November, 2017

(Ed. note: with thanks to EGSA contributors, James Reeler, Robyn Hugo and others)

Basically, it allows certain installations under 1MW to connect to the grid (or to operate off-grid) without need for a licence under a set of circumstances, which include:

  1. Registration with NERSA, and
  2. That the minister has not declared that the IRP requirement for embedded generation of the specified type has not been reached.

So all embedded generation, small and large, is linked directly to the IRP, and will make any grid-connected SSEG dependent on the total amount detailed therein.

Exemptions from the requirement to be licensed with NERSA:

Exempt from a licence:

– Generators Less than 1MW that don’t wheel, or wheel, or off-grid
+ Must have a Needs use-of-system agreement with grid operator
+ Will have an IRP allocation and minister can cap (not applicable to off-grid)

– Demonstration facilities
+ But may not operate for longer than 36 months

– Generators who produce from waste products (eg sugar bagasse)
+ but must be on-site

– Facilities for standby / backup during a grid interruption (eg diesel gensets)

– Existing facilities

– Distribution facility exclusively for wheeling

– Electricity resellers
+ where tariff is same or less than what would normally be
+ and there is an agreement with the local distribution company
+ and is approved by NERSA

Note that:

1MW projects were previously not capped, they are now capped by IRP determination (except off-grid)
1-10MW category is gone

Here is a link to the gazetted amendments

RE transition is feasible and cheaper than continuing to use fossil fuels

Energy Watch Group , November,2017

A report by the Energy Watch Group (Lappeenranta University of Technology), explores the implications of meeting the PAris Agreement 2C target. They argue that this will require us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions down to zero, AND to remove surplus CO2 from the atmosphere. The report investigates the technical feasibility and the socio-economic impact of this. The conclusion is that such a strategy is feasible and is more cost-effective and will lead to greater economic growth than a fossil fuel plus nuclear strategy would. In fact, the study estimates that 100% RE will create 19 million additional new jobs by 2050.

See the full report here

 

 

Joint media release: What we expect from SA’s Integrated Resource Plan for electricity

Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), 9 november, 2017

Media reports indicate that the Minister of Energy has instructed the Department of Energy to publish the long-overdue update to the crucially important Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010-2030 (IRP) within the next week.

Energy Minister David Mahlobo (as at 13 November, 2017 anyway). Image: moneyweb

At this critical juncture in South Africa’s energy future, our choices have to be based on sound, accurate, current, and accepted energy policy that will benefit all South Africans. The Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle Campaign (made up of groundWorkthe Centre for Environmental Rights and Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg) and Greenpeace Africa would like to reiterate our position on what we expect to see in the IRP.

 

We also express our alarm that, despite earlier  statements in Parliament by the Department of Energy that there would be provision for further consultation on the draft IRP, the Minister has since suggested that a final policy-adjusted IRP will be promulgated without further public participation. To date, stakeholders have only had an opportunity to consider and comment on the draft IRP base case and assumptions published a year ago in November 2016. An open and democratic IRP process requires first, a new base case taking account of those comments, and then open discussion of any variations that will be taken into account in the drafting of a policy-adjusted IRP.  A policy-adjusted IRP without further public participation can only be viewed as illegitimate.

Zuma’s last ditch effort to ram through a nuclear power deal

M&G, Hartmut Winkler, 9 November, 2017

President Jacob Zuma’s term of office has been characterised by an absence of vision and associated initiatives. Zuma is instead known for his inaction and overt stalling tactics. Examples include delays in setting up the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, announcing a new board for the state broadcaster, and delaying the release of a report on the future of university fees.

His recent dramatic push to fast-track an expensive and highly controversial nuclear power station build is therefore very much out of character. But Zuma’s advocacy of the nuclear build needs to be understood in terms of another hallmark of his presidency – state capture. This expression refers to the systematic takeover of state institutions by presidential allies and the resulting exploitation of institutions for commercial advantage and profit by his benefactors.

It’s already become clear who is likely to benefit from South Africa pursuing the option to build nuclear power stations. The list includes the Gupta brothers and Zuma’s son Duduzane through their links to the Shiva uranium mine.

And then there’s Zuma himself. Speculation about why the president appears to be favouring a deal with Russian company Rosatom ranges from allegations of grand scale individual kickbacks to alleged commitments linked to funding for the African National Congress.

The controversy around the nuclear power option was precipitated three years ago when it emerged that the government had signed an agreement with Russia that paved the way for the use of Russian technology in planned new nuclear power stations. The problem was that there’d been a complete lack of due process – no costing, no public consultation, no proper proclamation and no competitive bidding. It was no surprise that the courts declared the awarding of the nuclear build to Russia illegal.

On top of this a very strong case has been mounted against South Africa pursuing nuclear power. Reasons include the fact that it can’t afford it, and doesn’t need nuclear in its energy mix.

Despite all of these developments, and the growing controversy and mounting opposition to the deal, Zuma appears determined to get it done before his term as president of the ANC ends in December. In the last of the reshuffles he appointed one of his closest allies, David Mahlobo, to the energy portfolio. This is generally seen as a last ditch attempt to roll out the nuclear build in the face of now massive opposition.

Reports suggest that this reshuffle was occasioned by Russian displeasure over what they see as a broken promise to award the building contract to Rosatom.

The energy minister’s next steps

Mahlobo appears to have devoted his first few weeks in office entirely to furthering the nuclear project. He has been active in the media declaring the nuclear build as a given – and necessary.

Mahlobo’s next steps are likely to be:

  • He is reported to be planning to release – in record time – a new energy plan. This, some suspect, will be biased towards nuclear.
  • Heightened public lobbying. This could include verbal attacks on nuclear critics as already initiated by the President.
  • The issuing of a request for proposals to build the nuclear plants to potential developers like Rosatom. Most observers expect the evaluation to favour Rosatom regardless of the merits of the other bidders.
  • Signing an agreement with Rosatom. This could mirror the USD$30 billion deal Russia signed with Egypt which, on the surface, will appear attractive because it would offer favourable terms such as annual interest of only 3% and the commencement of repayments after 13 years. But when scaling the 4.8 GW Egyptian agreement up to the 9.6 GW envisioned for South Africa, the total cost then already exceeds R1 trillion. Annual repayments from year 14 to year 35 then amount to about 5% of South Africa’s annual fiscus. Any cost overruns, which are common in many other nuclear builds, would vastly increase the debt further.

What’s changed

The global energy landscape has changed dramatically since South Africa first mooted the idea of supplementing its power mix with more nuclear. Major developments and changes include:

Not even government’s own recent energy plans have promoted nuclear.

A 2013 draft energy plan argued against immediate nuclear growth. (The plan was never formally adopted).

The last draft plan released in 2016 went as far as declaring new nuclear unnecessary until 2037.

Will it happen?

Nuclear plants are major long term investments, and these projects will not survive lengthy construction and operation periods without broad public support. There is definitely a lack of public support in South Africa.

The Zuma-Mahlobo work plan will face major opposition by other parties, civil society and even critics within the ruling party. Lengthy court challenges will query the validity of the energy plan process, the public consultation, the regulatory aspects, the site selection and the constitutionality of the entire process. Public protests highly effective in other spheres would now be directed against the nuclear build. The ruling party would probably abandon the scheme if it proves politically costly.

The danger is, however, that huge funds will have been wasted in coming to this realisation.

The stakes are high. Zuma’s efforts to promote this unpopular nuclear project are weakening him politically. Even party comrades perceived to be in his inner circle – like newly appointed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba – recognise that going ahead with the programme at this stage would cripple the country economically. Repeated ministerial reshuffles to sideline his critics has further damaged Zuma’s standing in the ruling party and in broader society.

Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.