President Cyril Ramaphosa has issued a gazette indicating a key section in law – which will allow the long-awaited Integrated Energy Plan to be developed – will come into effect.
This comes after civil society groups lodged a legal application to compel him to do so.
Earlier this year, environmental justice group The Green Connection and the South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) filed an application calling for the Ramaphosa to bring into operation section 6 of the National Energy Act.
This section allows for the development of an Integrated Energy Plan (IEP), to be overseen by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.
The IEP is the country’s overarching energy plan, from which others, like the Integrated Resources Plan, should follow. It guides proposed energy projects and deals with the security of supply, the use of economically available energy sources, and the universal accessibility of free basic electricity, among other things.
The development of the IEP requires public input or consultation, where concerns can be raised over matters like climate change, according to The Green Connection and SAFCEI. It is also to be reviewed annually.
But since the National Energy Act (NEA) was first assented to in 2008, section 6 still had not been brought into operation.
The Green Connection and SAFCEI had then lodged the legal application following two years of unsuccessful correspondence with the president and ministry of mineral resources and energy regarding the IEP. They believe the lack of an IEP is at the root of the country’s power crisis.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the organisations indicated that they were notified by the State Attorney that the president would bring section 6 into operation, but from 1 April 2024. Last week, Ramaphosa also published a government gazette making it clear that section 6 would be brought into operation.
While this is a breakthrough for them, the organisations are concerned that it will take a year before the section will be effective. The Green Connection and SAFCEI said:
They added that amid a “crippling” energy crisis, it means that only in a year’s time will Mantashe be legally required to “get the ball rolling” in developing the IEP.
“As South Africa limps through the energy crisis, it is very confusing why the president would delay the process to start proper energy planning – and in essence, extend the people’s suffering – by another year,” said the Green Connection’s advocacy officer Kholwani Simelane.
“It is very difficult to understand why there are now further delays because we are living in an electricity crisis right now.
“People are suffering now,” Simelane reiterated.
“It is good news that the president has capitulated and that he has already made public his intention to bring section 6 into operation, but 1 April 2024 to start the IEP process … seems to be kicking the can as far down the road as possible. And we have not seen real commitment from the government to do what is needed for the energy crisis to be addressed,” said SAFCEI’s executive director, Francesca de Gasparis.
De Gasparis stressed that the power crisis is an incredibly “urgent” matter, with South Africans facing a cold winter. Power cuts are already over six hours per day.
“Why does the government need so much time to start the overarching plan for energy? Why plan for the IEP for next April 2024 when the energy crisis should be their top priority? This is not even the bare minimum of what is needed. Government must act faster!” she said.
The legal challenge falls away, but there are still matters like the costs to settle, said The Green Connection’s strategic lead Liz McDaid. – NEWS24