Power firms await end to Eskom’s monopoly

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Cape Town - It was a “great tragedy” that a bill that would break up Eskom’s monopoly on electricity and allow partial privatisation of the utility – particularly of the grid – had not been considered by Parliament, the chairman of the SA Independent Power Producers’ Association, Doug Kuni, said yesterday.

Parliament, which rises today, failed to debate the Independent System and Market Operator Bill, designed to level the playing fields between independent electricity producers and Eskom.

“This bill started in 2010 and went through many iterations and ministers, and it is a great tragedy that politicians have not been able to get it through Parliament.

“Ministers and institutions don’t want to give up their monopoly,” Kuni said.

The bill would remove operation of the electricity grid from Eskom and place it in an independent entity.

The purpose was to foster competition.

Lance Greyling, the DA’s spokesman on energy, said yesterday that the bill “is gone now, finished”.

Greyling said that when he had asked ANC chief whip Stone Sizani during a meeting of the National Assembly programming committee why his many motions to have the bill debated in Parliament had been blocked, Sizani said the bill had not been considered because Energy Minister Ben Martins had not wanted it to be debated.

Greyling said this contradicted the minister’s claim that he would fast-track the legislation.

Martins had said at the African Energy Indaba that Eskom could no longer be “player, referee and linesman in the energy sector”.

Greyling said the bill would have reduced Eskom’s “inefficient and monopolistic stranglehold” over electricity.

“It would result in real job creation, allow businesses to source stable power from a wider range of producers and reduce electricity costs through improved competition,” he said.

Yesterday Martins denied he caused the bill’s delay.

“Anyone who avers or alleges that I stopped the passage of the bill through Parliament is a liar and stranger to the truth,” Martins said through his spokesman Robert Nkuna.

No minister had the power to stop parliamentary processes, he said.

Saliem Fakier of the South African branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature, said the bill’s failure was not a “train smash”.

While he agreed the electricity sector needed transforming, he believed the bill in its current form, coupled with the electricity crisis, would have resulted in greater disruption in the electricity sector.

“In principle it’s the right thing to have some sort of independent systems operator, but the bill needs far more thought, broader discussion,” Fakier said.

“The last time we had a paper on electricity reform was in 1994. We need to ask what our goals with electricity are, and then work out what framework we need to get there.” - Cape Times


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