Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson, Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan, together with Eskom Chief Executive Officer Brian Molefe and Johannesburg City Power Managing Director Sicelo Xulu were invited to address the “South Africa’s Electricity Constraint and its Impact on the Economy” session of the conference – and all of them declined the invitation.
The session went on with business and Democratic Alliance leaders addressing it, but delegates resolved to make known their bitter disappointment at the failure by the Ministers and the two power utility companies to be part of the discussion.
At the request of one of the delegates, the conference adopted a resolution saying: “We are bitterly disappointment that Eskom, Johannesburg City Power and the Ministers of Energy and Public Enterprises could not make themselves available to brief us, the business and labour communities, on efforts to contain the power crisis, the one thing currently posing by far the biggest threat to the economy.”
Speaking at the conference, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises Natasha Mazzone said that secure energy supply was the lifeblood of any economy and that South Africa’s current energy situation could be described as “utter chaos, born out of a lack of proper maintenance and further exacerbated by the utility’s current financial constraints”.
Meanwhile, energy expert and EE Publishing Managing Director Chris Yellend said South Africa needed to move away from being solely dependent on State-owned utility Eskom for electricity provision if the country is to overcome the current electricity crisis.
Mr Yellend said it was of critical importance that South Africa not only moves away from relying on a single monopoly (Eskom) for electricity provision, but also that the country moves away from depending on coal as a single source of energy.
“In the current economic environment, where levels of uncertainty related to demand and rates of exchange, among other things, is high, South Africa needs to manage risks by, among other things, improving technologies that would see the country move away from coal as the only source of energy,” Mr Yellend said.
Mr Yellend said that the country also needed to move away from an old model which revolved around central command planning. The old model, Mr Yellend said, was failing South Africa and the country needed to build smaller electricity generating units instead of massive power stations that are difficult to manage.
“Smaller units are much more efficient because they are much easier to manage,” Mr Yellend said.
He suggested diesel, oil, wind energy, gas, nuclear and waste heat as alternative energy options. He also suggested that the private sector play a more prominent role in electricity provision.
The Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba, organized and hosted by the Steel and Engineering Industries of Southern Africa, is attended by policy and decision makers, business owners, senior executives and other stakeholders in the metals and engineering sector from across the SADC region.