In the film Casablanca, the resistance suspects are at an airport, trying to escape by aircraft. German soldiers are there. Rick, the anti-hero (Humphrey Bogart), shoots dead the German officer, Major Strasser, to stop him from interfering with the escapees. The French Chief of Police arrives, sees this, looks around and says: “Major Strasser has been shot! Round up the usual suspects!”
I have my own ‘usual suspects’ – mostly engineers, physicists, scientists and the like. We have an informal ‘round robin’ email circle in which we regularly comment (normally with some cynicism) on the rubbish and the cosy illusions and comforting half-truths surrounding, inter alia, climate change, the South African power system, renewable energy, etc. Recently, a member of this group sent a note which said that, unusually, The Green Connection believes the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) has failed in its objective to get power onto the grid. The Green Connection was established in 2000 and registered as a not-for-profit organisation in 2010 and works in sustainable development, climate change and renewable energy, educational resources and translation, community development, empowerment in environmental sustainability, and empowering effective environmental-impact assessments. The Green Connection and the Usual Suspects don’t normally see eye to eye.
The Green Connection strategic lead Liziwe McDaid says the programme ought to be scrapped. McDaid explains that South Africa has now spent more than a year trying to procure emergency power with no result and with no end in sight.
The initial bid date in the programme was extended to December 20 and, although the winning bids were announced in March, the results were immediately questioned by experts.
Should my Usual Suspects and I be surprised by all this? One thing for sure: I think the RMIPPPP should be scrapped. It has all the attributes of the typical South African politically and financially motivated dodgy contract. Let’s see why: If the installation is to mitigate risk, wind power is out. Adding power generation which is intermittent doesn’t help anybody. It’s like going to sea in a boat with a leak.
Solar power is a good idea. It doesn’t work at night but this is not as much of a disadvantage as it sounds. In areas where the sun beats down (North West province) the panel support frames need not be galvanised or aluminium (no rust in that province). But government is trying to prevent solar power. Why?
Diesel-fired gas-turbine plants are okay, provided they are near where the diesel can be delivered and where power can be supplied. A coastal location would suit. But we get the bizarre Karpowership idea (three 400 MW floating diesel power stations) and a ton of government interference, all seemingly designed to enrich some politically connected businesspeople. Trust me, my Usual Suspects could have negotiated this thing in less than a week and still had time for lunch and coffee. But let’s cut to the chase: Why the RMIPPPP? It’s a thing dreamed up by the ruling party (not Eskom) to create a financial mechanism to move money around on behalf of the ruling party under the guise of ending load-shedding.
Have you noticed that load-shedding is coming to an end? Do you know why? Eskom is fixing it. Medupi and Kusile were in their own way things dreamed up by the ruling party to create financial mechanisms to move money around on its behalf. Gone now, something else needed. Hence, Bingo, RMIPPPP! It’s all a farce. The RMIPPPP should, as The Green Connection suggests, be scrapped. The whole matter should be handled by Eskom. In fact, let’s be candid: as long as government has absolutely nothing to do with the power supply, the better for the country. The Usual Suspects and The Green Connection are ad idem on that.