Environmental organisation Earthlife Africa has slammed the Department of Energy’s (DoE’s) National Energy Regulator Amendment Bill and the Electricity Regulation Second Amendment Bill as “highly undemocratic”.
Programme officer Makoma Lekalakala urged the DoE to withdraw these bills, saying it would place significant decision-making power in the hands of Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, by eviscerating the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).
“This goes against the Constitution and implementation of democratic institutions. An independent and impartial regulator is a critical part of the checks and balances that define modern representative democracies such as South Africa,” she stated.
Lekalakala also said the degree to which the public will be removed from the decision-making process was concerning.
“These bills will further prevent access to information and the public's input into the decision-making process; especially regarding the withholding of commercially sensitive information, which refers to tariffs and especially tariff agreements between large multinationals and State-owned enterprises such as Eskom.”
Further, Lekalakala stressed that the proposed bills would revoke the condition of public attendance at energy-related meetings and of placing the outcome of those meetings in the public domain.
“In the coming decades, we will spend well over a trillion rand of public money in new generation capacity. The potential for corruption, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, maladministration and unnecessary and costly litigation against the State will be increased dramatically if the bills are passed into law,” she said.
The proposed bills were approved by Cabinet towards the end of last year and published for comment in December.
The DoE stated that the National Energy Regulator Amendment Bill aimed to approve Nersa’s decision-making process by establishing an appeal board, while improving the governance, accountability, structure and working relations of Nersa.
The appeal board would also assist in attracting private sector investment to the sector.
Further, the DoE said the objective behind the Electricity Regulation Second Amendment Bill was to ensure alignment between the different laws relating to the electricity industry, provide for efficient regulation of the different licensees and ensure quick implementation of electricity infrastructure projects.
It would also provide for the efficient procurement of power from independent power producers and enhance regulation within the electricity industry, while empowering the Minister to expropriate land for electricity infrastructure on behalf of a licence holder.