Municipalities get green light to make power

October 19, 2020

JOHANNESBURG - Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe on Friday gazetted amendments to the Electricity Regulations on New Generation Capacity to allow municipalities to embark on their own power generation projects.

The amendments were gazetted a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the government would prioritise the rapid expansion of energy generation capacity.

The amendment will enable municipalities in good standing to approach Mantashe directly to generate or buy new generation capacity, clarifying the regime applicable to municipalities when requesting determinations under section 34 of the Electricity Amendment Act.

“This will ensure an orderly development that is in line with the applicable Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and municipal Integrated Development Plans. Furthermore, the amendments will ensure that section 34 determination requests are from municipalities that are in good financial standing with feasible project proposals,” said the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

The department said it had put in place an internal standard operating procedure to ensure that the requests for section 34 determinations were attended to in the shortest possible time.

The amendment was broadly welcomed by role-players.

The Minerals Council SA said it welcomed the inclusion of interventions related to mining aimed at ensuring electricity energy security, and, in particular, the fast-tracking of applications for self-generation of energy supply, the separation and unbundling of Eskom to address structural challenges, and improving the operational and financial stability of the power utility.

Greenpeace Africa's senior climate and energy campaign manager, Happy Khambule, said that the amendment was overdue.

“It’s about time that a decision like this was made, which will lead to decentralisation and better penetration of renewable energy.

'But it is between the local and national government, and it doesn’t address the key issue: ordinary South Africans are still unable to meaningfully participate in energy democracy as pro-sumers,” he said.

Khambule said it was key that the power generation projects undertaken by municipalities were focused entirely on renewable energy.

“To make a decision like this and allow for new investments in fossil fuels will be another foolish waste on the government's part, as the climate crisis looms in the background and South Africans are still subject to breathing toxic air,” Khambule said.

Ramaphosa told Parliament on Thursday that the government was accelerating the implementation of the IRP to provide a substantial increase in the contribution of renewable energy sources, battery storage and gas technology. “This should bring around 11800MW of new generation capacity into the system by 2022. More than half of this energy will be generated from renewable sources,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the immediate-term agreements would be finalised with independent power producers to connect more than 2000MW of additional capacity from existing projects by June next year.

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