Union seeks to overturn state of disaster to deal with energy crisis

15 February 2023 - 08:37
By Monique Vanek and Prinesha Naidoo
Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann says 'government is the cause of the electricity disaster and it cannot declare itself a disaster, thereby obtaining extraordinary powers to address the disaster'. File photo.
Image: Bloomberg Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann says 'government is the cause of the electricity disaster and it cannot declare itself a disaster, thereby obtaining extraordinary powers to address the disaster'. File photo.

Labour union Solidarity appealed to a court to overturn the state of disaster declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa to deal with the energy crisis.

The union is arguing the electricity crisis does not meet the definition of a disaster in terms of the relevant legislation, existing laws can adequately manage the crisis, the declaration of a state of disaster does not serve a clear purpose and there was improper political interference in declaring the decree, it said in a statement.

“The government itself is the cause of the electricity disaster and it cannot declare itself a disaster, thereby obtaining extraordinary powers to address the disaster,” said the union’s CEO Dirk Hermann 

Government will probably take on R140bn of Eskom’s guaranteed debt in the fiscal year through March 2024, followed by an additional R50bn and R30bn respectively in the next two years as the power utility goes on to meet predetermined financial and operational targets, RMB Morgan Stanley analysts led by Andrea Masia said in note published on Tuesday.

The department of mineral resources & energy and energy will issue a request for proposals for 513MW of battery storage by the end of the month, energy minister Gwede Mantashe said in a speech.

It also plans to issue request for proposals for 3,000MW of gas-fuelled generation by the end of the current financial year and up to 5,000MW subject to grid capacity availability for the seventh bid window. 

The ongoing energy crisis has caused rolling blackouts, weakened the rand and forced the declaration of a state of disaster.

An alternative asset manager is touting a new fund that it said will help alleviate that crisis and make investors a healthy return.

Grovest’s Twelve B Green Energy Fund will ultimately seek to deploy as much as R1bn  annually, CEO Jeff Miller said in an interview, while noting its current pipeline is about a tenth of that. It will use the funds to invest in solar panels, inverters and batteries in residential complexes, commercial buildings and industrial buildings.

Eskom, named as the world’s biggest sulphur dioxide emitter, is seeking approval to release more of the pollutant linked to ailments ranging from asthma to heart attacks. 

The move is part of an attempt by the company to reduce the level of temporary blackouts as a result of its inability to meet demand.

Eskom will cut 3,000MW  of power from the national grid from 5am to 4pm and 4,000MW from 4pm to 5am until further notice, the utility said on Twitter on Sunday. 

Ramaphosa blindsided the ruling ANC by reneging on a party resolution to place the state power utility under the control of the energy ministry and faces criticism for appointing an electricity minister within his office.

He declared a state of disaster last Thursday over the energy crisis hobbling the economy. The measure will enable the government to bypass regulatory hurdles as it seeks to repair broken power plants and procure emergency electricity to end outages that have extended to as long as 12 hours a day since the start of the year.

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