The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has rejected the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2018, calling for an overhaul.
It also called for a firm commitment not to retrench workers as well as tougher, hard-hitting plans to halt looting and recover money stolen from Eskom.
“There are some major omissions from the IRP, including a lack of bold proposals to put Eskom on a sound economic model to ensure its survival,” Matthew Parks from Cosatu told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Energy during public hearings into the draft IRP.
“The IRP must be revised to include a serious business model that will stabilise and save Eskom.”
With plummeting debt levels and rising tariffs, Parks said Cosatu was worried that Eskom would not survive another five years.
“Workers are very concerned about their jobs. Increases in electricity prices have been above inflation for the past few years, which has had a detrimental effect on the economy, industry, consumers and jobs at large. We are equally worried about the debt threat to our State, and the temptation on the State’s part to look at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) as a way to bail it out.”
He said the PIC held the pension savings of workers and should not be seen as ‘petty cash’ for government.
Parks said Cosatu was extremely concerned about calls by the Eskom chairperson and the Finance Minister to retrench 17 000 workers, with recent talk of retrenching up to 30 000 workers.
He said this was against the Presidential Jobs Summit's commitment to no State retrenchments.
“Eskom must be instructed by government that there will be no retrenchments. If there is a need to reduce the head count, then management vacancies must be frozen.”
Marks said Eskom’s ballooning debt was a massive concern.
“We are shocked [Eskom CEO] Phakamani Hadebe is talking about increasing debt levels to R600-billion. We don’t know how that is sustainable. There is nothing in the IRP that says how we will turn the situation around. Eskom must be instructed by government that it cannot increase its debt levels from R400-billion to R600-billion.”
Cosatu has said the IRP is silent on Eskom’s governance crisis.
“We thought the IRP would take us into their confidence on State capture and looting and explain to us how billions was lost due to looting. There seems very little action by government to uncover the stolen billions.”
The labour federation has called for a comprehensive forensic audit of all Eskom’s expenditure.
“Those implicated must be charged, arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced and their assets frozen and confiscated.”
Parks also questioned how Eskom could afford to pay for electricity generated by independent power producers at their current set prices "that are far from affordable for Eskom and are in fact bleeding it dry". He said costs for renewable energy had fallen yet this was not reflected. “We need a frank discussion on how to pay IPPs set prices.”
Eskom was also operating on outdated rand/dollar exchange rates in its plans and this needed to be adapted to reflect the weaker exchange rate.
Parks told the committee he was very pleased that nuclear had not been included in the draft IRP.
“We hope the silence on nuclear means it is buried and off the table.”
Cosatu called for a just transition plan for coal workers and their families and to protect towns in coal mining areas. He said while Cosatu was encouraged by 27 000 jobs to be created by renewable energy in the Northern Cape, similar programmes should be implemented in towns like Witbank and Middleburg where much of Eskom's coal supply comes from.
“We need to reskill workers and build new factories for solar panels in those towns.” He said specific funding had been set aside to reskill workers.
“We want to see a very clear commitment that all renewable technology must be locally manufactured.”
Investment in battery storage for renewable energy baseload storage was essential, with suggestions of a potential partnership with Tesla.
Another opportunity was to make the most of the pending shift to electric vehicles worldwide. Parks said factories in the Eastern Cape should prepare to produce electric vehicles for domestic, continental and international markets.
Other proposals included removing obstacles to the production of biofuels, which would be a boost to sugar and other agricultural sectors, as well as massive investments in water conservation and recycling, consumer and industrial recycling and green environment-friendly buildings and homes.
Cosatu also called for a revival of historical exports to neighbouring States.
Municipalities should be made to pay for their arrears. Parks said that while it was understandable that tariff hikes had made electricity unaffordable for some communities, it was unacceptable for some municipalities to pay while others "get away with murder".