The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) has expressed frustration over a decision by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to postpone a hearing into its 11-month-old complaint into the refusal of Eskom to sign agreements to buy electricity from independent power producer (IPP) projects procured by the Department of Energy (DoE).
SAWEA also lambasted Nersa’s decision to hold the hearings, which were meant to begin on Thursday, behind closed doors, describing the decision as “inconsistent with our country’s Constitutional principles of openness, transparency and fairness, as well as Nersa’s own legislation”.
SAWEA took its complaint against Eskom to the regulator in October 2016 and, in March 2017, Nersa launched a formal investigation and set September 14 as the date for the participants to make formal submissions.
However, Eskom requested a postponement on Thursday, indicating that it had not been able to adequately prepare for the hearing.
Nersa postponed the hearing for two weeks, notwithstanding an objection from SAWEA’s legal counsel, who noted that the hearing was being held nearly a year after the complaint had been lodged.
SAWEA also continued to argue for the matter to be heard in public, describing Eskom’s refusal not to honour duly-procured power purchases as being in the national interest.
“SAWEA hopes that Nersa will recognise that accountability, through transparency, is the cornerstone of our Constitution. Matters of such grave national interest such as the dispute declared by SAWEA should not be considered behind closed doors.”
The complaint is proceeding in parallel to the initiation of a process by Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi that may open the way for the signing of contracts for 26 renewable-energy IPP projects, including several wind projects, that have been on hold since 2015.
Kubayi’s intervention has caused much anxiety within the IPP community, as it proposes not only a reopening of tariff negotiations, but stipulates a tariff cap of 77c/kWh for all projects.
All future procurement programmes have also been placed on hold, creating much uncertainty about the future of South Africa’s highly regarded Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.