By: Tebogo Mokwena
Following the release of the sixth-month update of the Energy Action Plan, Business Unity SA’s environment and energy manager Happy Khambule said that the country did not need a new plan, but should instead focus on implementing programmes that already existed. He also noted that even if the plan showed that there was progress in regulating energy, things would get worse before they improved.
According to the report, some of the work achieved through the plan included amending Schedule 2 of the Energy Regulation Act in order to remove licensing requirements for generating SMMEs. The report also pointed out that work was currently underway to develop legislation for municipalities to regulate solar energy production for residents and, by extension, small businesses. The plan was implemented in July last year by the government in an attempt to address the country’s energy crisis.
Khambule said that the report gave the country a good sense of the work that has been done by the National Energy Crisis Commission (NECOM) since its inception. “My initial thoughts when the six-month update came out were that we all need NECOM to implement the plan and for the government to implement the Integrated Resource Plan,” he said. “When the July 2022 plan was announced, it was clear from the president and Eskom that as we implement the plan, things will get worse before they get better, and I hope that this is the worst.”
Commenting on the regulation of solar energy by municipalities, Khambule pointed out that for SMMEs to play a role, they required a degree of protection by being enabled to produce power to attain security of supply. “We must develop the necessary policy instruments to encourage and incentivise SMMEs to access energy generation and energy storage opportunities,” he said. “In instances where they can dispatch excess capacity beyond what they have for their own use, then we will have resilient SMMEs against power insecurity whilst remaining productive and competitive.”
Khambule also said that municipal distribution companies have a great deal of expertise and capacity to facilitate the shift from electricity to solar energy. “Municipalities, in this case, distribution monopolies, are key in regulating solar production and distribution because distribution network integrity and stability are paramount,” he said. “To have a functioning distribution network, norms, standards, and rules are necessary.” Thandolwethu Malindi, who is a solar panel installer and owns MMM Solar Energy SA, said that the Energy Action Plan was an attempt for the government to get the country accustomed to load-shedding as an everyday feature.
“At the moment the regulations are still just talked about, and we have not seen any concrete action,” she said. “However, it will have an impact on those that are not registered with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA).” The City of Cape Town announced on Tuesday that it would pay businesses cash for selling their excess power and feeding it to the grid. This comes after the city was exempted by National Treasury from competitive bidding processes.