The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) hosted a closed hearing on Friday as part of its investigation of a complaint by the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) against Eskom.
SAWEA, which lodged the grievance in October 2016, alleges that the State-owned utility’s refusal to sign power purchase agreements (PPAs) for renewable energy independent power producer (IPP) projects procured in 2015 amounts to a breach of its licence conditions.
The hearing was initially scheduled for September 14, but was postponed after Eskom requested more time to prepare its case.
SAWEA expressed frustration at both the postponement and the fact that the hearing was being held behind closed doors, despite it being a matter of “grave national interest”. Nevertheless, Nersa granted a two-week postponement and gave both parties five working days to file submissions.
Nersa justified not opening the hearing to the public on the basis that the investigation was a precursor to a meeting of the Energy Regulator, where the report from the investigation would eventually be tabled.
“In this regard, the hearing is confined to the two affected parties and is intended to allow them to make new or updated submissions to the panel as part of the formal investigation.”
Nersa stressed that the meeting of the Energy Regulator, at which the report would be considered, would be open to the public, as was the case with any other meeting of the Energy Regulator.
In terms of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA), the Energy Regulator could refer the report to a tribunal, the proceedings of which would be open to the public.
In the meantime, Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi confirmed in a response to a Parliamentary question posed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) regarding the signing of the PPAs that government remained committed to ensuring that the contracts for bid window 3.5 and 4 were signed by the end of October 2017.
On September 1, Kubayi announced Eskom would be expected to sign PPAs for 26 outstanding renewable energy IPP projects on the proviso that the projects met a 77c/kWh tariff cap, regardless of the generation technology involved.
She also announced a moratorium on all future procurement rounds until the finalisation of the long-awaited update to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
In a separate Parliamentary reply to the EFF, the Minister said public consultation on the IRP had been concluded and that a process was under way to finalise the policy document. The target date of February 2018 was reaffirmed for promulgation.