The government is expected to appeal the recent Gauteng High Court, Pretoria judgment which directed it to halt load shedding at schools, hospitals, and police stations by the end of January, on grounds that it will be impractical, say energy experts.
On Friday, the court ordered Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to take all reasonable steps by no later than January 31 to ensure police stations, public hospitals, clinics, and schools were not affected by load shedding.
The court also declared that load shedding breached the rights to human dignity, life, freedom, and security of the person, to an environment that was not harmful to people’s health and well-being, the right to access to health-care services, food, and water and the right to basic education.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was studying the judgment with the affected departments and will soon “pronounce on further steps on the matter”.
Energy expert Professor Wikus van Niekerk said the requirement was not practical nor affordable and he did not see how the government will be able to implement the order, even if mandated by the Constitutional Court to do so.
“Schools, clinics, hospitals, and police stations are usually embedded in the local grids of towns and cities and can therefore not be provided with electricity from the grid without also energising the surrounding communities.
“The only way to provide these entities with electricity while still load shedding the surrounding areas will be to provide them with generators or by installing another form of back-up such as battery systems where they could add solar PV modules.”
He said the option of generators would only work if there were funds available to pay for petrol and diesel for the generators.
“I don’t believe there are funds for this so I don’t see that option working.
“The second option will be very expensive because of the required upfront capital investment, so I don’t see that option working either,” said Van Niekerk.
Another expert Ruse Moleshe said the government was likely to appeal the high court decision as it was practically impossible to exempt the public facilities before the end of next month, or even in the next three to six months.
“These facilities are interconnected and interwoven in communities and there are operational issues to consider, like how a school affords the fuel to run a generator.”
Moleshe said another issue with the judgment was that it was directed at the minister of electricity Ramokgopa, who has no procurement powers.
“Ramokgopa can only determine the need for generation against the Integrated Resource Plan.
“Procurement falls under the Independent Power Producers’ office, which resides under the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy headed by Minister Gwede Mantashe,” said Moleshe.
In Friday’s unanimous judgment with three judges concurring, Judge Norman Davis said the order was just and equitable, once the court had determined that load shedding breached several constitutional rights.
The same bench had granted a similar order in May, but it was directed at the minister for public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan.
“We find no cogent reasons why those orders, albeit slightly modified, dealing with immediate relief cannot and should not be granted.
“To do so would at least provide relief for learners going into the new school year,” Judge Davis said in his ruling.
The government was taken to court by the UDM and Build One South Africa movement leader Mmusi Maimane to stop it from implementing load shedding at public facilities.