File photo: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency (ANA).

Cape Town - Cape Town's acting executive mayor, Ian Neilson, said on Tuesday that the city would seek permission from the judge president of the Gauteng High Court for an expedited hearing in its energy case, given that the country this week moved to stage six rotational blackouts. 

Cape Town wants the country's energy minister and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to allow it to purchase energy from Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The original hearing date is scheduled for May 2020.  

"The city is fighting for the right to buy cleaner energy directly from IPPs and to improve energy security. This move comes as the energy crisis in South Africa has reached a new peak. The city’s legal team is liaising with the legal teams of the other parties to the matter with a view to approaching the judge president with mutually agreeable dates for an earlier hearing," said Neilson. 

He said the matter turned on the inability of the minister and Nersa to reach an agreement on the legal framework that would allow the city a licence to purchase energy directly from IPPs. Should an agreement be reached between the parties before the hearing date, said Neilson, it would enable the city to expedite its plans and would also mean litigation would not be necessary.  

"Metros simply must be the energy champions of their residents and of their commercial sector players. The city maintains that it will be vital for the national government to open up the electricity generation environment if we are to restore security of power supply. We simply cannot afford the devastation that load-shedding has had on our economy as a city and as a country," said Neilson. 

The city wants a Section 34 determination in accordance with the New Generation Capacity Regulations in the Electricity Regulation Act to allow it to procure 150 MW of solar energy and 280 MW of wind energy from IPPs. "While it will take time to procure this new capacity, the city wants to begin working on these alternatives as soon as possible," said Neilson. 

If successful in its court challenge, the city would opt for a public tender and solicit proposals from IPPs, he said. 

"For the sake of our country’s economy, the entire electricity regime urgently needs to be restructured. The city is ready to be part of that change and move towards a low carbon, diversified and decentralised and secure energy system."

African News Agency (ANA)