Energy price outcry

Charmaine Pretorius, who addressed Parliament about the Integrated Resource Plan, stands at her electricity box in her home.

Help informal settlement residents keep their food cooking and the lights burning – that’s the plea of a Hillview activist who had the opportunity to speak in Parliament about what her community needed from the government’s energy plans.

The nation has responded to the national Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) draft plan 2018 and many have lobbied for alternative energy and for cheaper electricity costs.

According to several organisations, the IRP affects the poorest of the poor when choices are made about energy.

The IRP was open for comment in October by the Portfolio Committee for Energy (PCE) and many people and organisations have had their say on the draft plan.

The IRP 2010-2030 was put into effect in March 2011 and was to be revised by the Department of Energy frequently.

It requires the development of additional electricity capacity and will determine the cost of electricity for all South Africans.

Jeff Radebe, Minister of Energy, said it provides a path to meet electricity needs over 20 years, until 2030.

“It is used to roll out electricity infrastructure development in line with ministerial determinations issued in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act. The plan, together with ministerial determinations, are policy signals investors use to plan their investments in the country’s energy sector,” said Mr Radebe.

The plan itself has seven outlines from which the government can choose. Each outline has a mix of energy sources at varying quantity, cost and environmental impact. The variations between each scenario are dependent upon what the department of energy seeks to achieve.

While some organisations said the IRP is an improvement, others believe it should focus more on clean energy instead of nuclear energy.

On Thursday October 4, Project 90 by 2030, an environmental organisation, held public participation workshops with a group of concerned community leaders from Hillview, Nyanga, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha to discuss the draft IRP and how the various proposed scenarios could affect their daily lives.

Charmaine Pretorius, a community leader from Hillview 2, near Lavender Hill, attended the workshop and had an opportunity to speak at Parliament about her views on the IRP as well as how it affects those living in informal settlements and those affected by the rising cost of electricity.

She said everyday life is a struggle and many families are battling to put food on the table and keep their lights on.

In the letter she read out in Parliament she said people from her community buy R10 electricity and get 3 units.

“You can’t even make dinner with those units. It usually goes for keeping the lights on in the house. Our people have to go pick up branches at the nearby nature reserve to make fires to cook food and feed their families because the electricity is just too expensive.

“My question is where do we from the informal settlements fit in with the IRP planning for 2018? We in the informal settlements draw short straws, the shortest end. We have access to electricity but we can’t afford electricity.

“Our people are poor and we cannot afford to keep the lights on,” she said.

In the letter Ms Pretorius made a plea for the PCE to think of those in informal settlements when making decisions.

Natalie Geyser, communication’s manager for Project 20 by 2030, said it was clear from comments made at the workshops that the current and rising cost of electricity is unaffordable.

“It is a source of great hardship within these communities – some of whom are still completely without access to electricity,” said Ms Geyser.

Project 90 by 2030 aims to inspire and mobilise a low carbon generation. They work with organisations and decision-makers to identify actions that can reduce their impact on the environment and advocate for a transition to an equitable, low-carbon energy system.

South Africa produces abound 77 percent of its energy through coal.

Ms Geyser said this needs to change: “Climate change results from the warming of the earth, which is caused by the ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Coal is the main culprit. Coal also impacts on the people’s health and the lives of coal miners.”

She said the production of enough energy for all that does not harm the environment or the health of people should be governing any decision-making process by the PCE. “Sadly, this does not feature meaningfully in the draft IRP 2018 – bad news for citizens of this country. We also wanted to tell the story of countless South Africans who are being adversely affected by policy choices in how we source and procure energy,”said Ms Geyser.

PEC chairperson Fikile Majola said the committee noted the concerns and made a report. The report will go to the Department of Energy and then it will consider the inputs and possibly amendments to the IRP.

There will also possibly be further IRP hearings via the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA).