Chris Yelland, investigative editor at EE publishers. Image: Supplied.
Chris Yelland, investigative editor at EE publishers. Image: Supplied.

Outa uses self-proclaimed energy expert Chris Yelland to advance their agenda against Karpowership

By Opinion Time of article published Aug 25, 2021

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By Hoosain Padayachee

On Thursday, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) used self-proclaimed energy expert Chris Yelland to advance their agenda against Karpowership, a power-producing company that has been selected as a preferred bidder by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to provide a gas-topower energy solution.

Should the contract go through, Karpowership SA would provide 1.2GW of electricity to South Africa within 12 months – a solution that no other independent power producer currently has the capacity to provide in South Africa.

This is the group that once called itself Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance. It has reinvented itself to oppose all progressive projects that do not benefit its funders. Still led by Wayne Duvenhage – who once famously defended his decision to accept R1 million in funding from the DA to fight the ANC-led government on e-tolls in Gauteng – the group now wants us to believe their motives to oppose powerships are not political. This is despite them having been previously exposed as a DA project by their former executive member, Makhosi Khoza.

In a slanted presentation, Yelland talked down to the National Energy Regulator’s (Nersa) members, instructing them on how to adjudicate Karpowership’s energy generation licence. Among his arguments were that some permits had not yet been obtained.

He implied that the regulator has no business making a decision independently of other bodies – when this is exactly what it is supposed to do.

What I find hard to believe about this “expert” and some of his allies arrayed against Karpowership, is that they have not familiarised themselves with the National Energy Regulator Act of 2004.

This is the law that determines the powers afforded to Nersa in making decisions to give out generation licences to applicants (TS2), and says that Nersa is an independent body.

One of the Nersa representatives went to great pains to point this out after several anti-Karpowership presenters erroneously asserted that the body cannot decide.

Yelland then went on to question the integrity of all other departments that have a say in the project, casting aspersions on their ability to meet their respective compliance regulations. Even with his overt attempt at manipulation through half-facts and carefully curated disingenuity, the bottom line was that his presentation was not evidence driven.

His attempts to shoot into the sky in an effort to throw Nersa off the evidence showed a complete disrespect of the panel’s expertise, sector knowledge and position of authority on this matter.

It wasn’t just Yelland, however. His cohort of allies, like the environmental lobbyists Green Connection, advocated for other bidders in a coordinated attack.

A handful of other hired guns also regurgitated each other’s presentations by pointing out the same tired issues they have been advancing in their media attacks.

While this crowd may have gained traction with those who like to hide behind a journalist’s pen, in time this clique of media flunkeys will surely start to understand the impact on the integrity of their own reputations should they continue to mindlessly echo this invested and elitist agenda.

I come from one of the communities where the ships are proposed to be harboured. We, more than anyone, have a vested interest in ensuring that our environment remains protected and pristine. For many of us, it’s where our livelihoods come from. We did our research. The information is out there.

We heard the concerns the green lobby raised and we have engaged with Karpowership directly on the environmental impact of the projects. We have asked questions about their plans to protect the environment, challenging them on all aspects, and we are satisfied the necessary mitigations have been put in place. And we did this face to face, because they had the respect to come and speak with us on our own doorsteps – not from a newspaper filled with half-truths and staged “demonstrations”.

On the other side, as a community we haven’t seen or heard from many of these organisations that claimed to be speaking on our behalf at the Nersa hearing. That in itself feels telling: if these critics have such a compelling case in defence of our homes, why would they not come to talk to us about it?

The refusal of Karpowership’s application would have a detrimental impact on an already dire situation. We must be frank and honest about where we find ourselves as a nation: in the midst of a serious crisis with regard to power generation.

We face continued blackouts that have already cost the country’s economy hundreds of billions of rand. Now is not the time to be blocking desperately needed projects that could ease this dreaded load shedding.

The rampant power outages affect the poorest of the poor. Stats SA recently announced that the unemployment rate has reached 32.6%, or 7.2 million people. Many people have resorted to self-employment, but rolling blackouts stand in their way as they cannot afford alternative power sources when Eskom is unable to supply power.

Karpowership’s ability to mitigate one stage of load shedding would go a long way in addressing this problem.

The solution being offered here is proven to work across the world. This technology can be deployed as and when required, and is in line with South Africa’s commitments contained in the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019. The electricity that will be provided from three regions will result in businesses being able operate without the fear of outages. Reliable power supply means we have a chance of encouraging international investors back to South Africa.

With new jobs in our communities, reliable electricity for growing businesses, keeping the lights on in our homes, improving our schools and hospitals, and new opportunities from the optimisation of two new industries – marine and gas – communities and business will directly benefit, regardless of what anyone says.

That may not make sense to the elitist naysayers, but to South Africa’s everyman and woman, it’s as simple as ABC. Stop standing in the way of our survival, start contributing to moving our country forward.

*Hoosain Padayachee is the secretary of Al Ansaar Saldanha. Al Ansaar is an NPO operating across many local communities.

**Views expressed here are not of The Star or IOL.

The Star

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