Call for more public participation in SA’s energy policy

Posted by Laura Grant on December 17, 2008
Posted in Business

The government has failed to respect the right of the South African public to participate meaningfully in the country’s future energy policy, says the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM).

Its committment to a long-term strategy that involves nuclear plants generating up to a quarter of the country’s total energy output in the coming decades has been made without any meaningful public participation, the Rhodes University-based group says in a press release.

The energy policy implemented in South Africa will have a major impact on efforts to eradicate poverty in the country. To do this it needs to maximise job creation and enhance opportunities for the improvement of the quality of life of the poor majority, it says.

“Nuclear power is enormously expensive and there are coherent arguments that it is not cost effective, does not create the kind and number of jobs that our country desperately needs and poses unacceptable environmental risks,” the PSAM states.

There have been some encouraging signs that the government is looking at ways to introduce more renewable energy. For example, Nelly Magubane, deputy director-general of the department of public enterprise, said recently that “renewable energy is definitely on the cards…we are actually looking at ways of making sure that we get even more renewable energy in the system”, notes the PSAM.

Although Eskom recently shelved plans to build a new power station, Nuclear One, because it could not afford it, the PSAM notes that the electricity utility has made it clear that nuclear power remains firmly on its long-term agenda.

Eskom is negotiating a $5-billion dollar (about R50-billion) loan from the World Bank to help fund its expansion and has already secured a $500-million dollar loan from the African Development Bank.

The PSAM is urging both Eskom and the World Bank to conduct its negotiations openly and transparently. “After all, what is being considered is essentially a loan to the people of South Africa, and we have a right to know what the conditions of the loan are, since we will be repaying it,” it says.

The PSAM wants the World Bank and on the government to make any loan to Eskom conditional on guarantees of meaningful public participation in the formulation of South Africa’s future energy policy and to ensure that the terms and conditions of any loan are transparent, allowing both parliament and the public to hold Eskom accountable for its use of the funds.

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