All the President’s Words

Too Little too Late

When someone says Too Little Too Late it’s the same as saying I told you so. And anyone who has been in any long-time relationship knows, that is just the tip of the mountain of resentment. Yes, South Africans are resentful about the energy crisis in this country.

South Africa’s energy situation is like one of those failed marriages where the Husband (i.e., the Government) and the Wife ( Eskom) decide to stay together for the sake of the Kids (us poor citizens).

But now to blow some life into the marriage – as befits a 21st-century relationship – the couple has decided to “see other people”. As they say on Facebook: it’s complicated.

In short, that is what the President (our Daddy) said in a speech recently. He also said a lot of other things: mainly stating, then repeating the obvious, making vague promises, apportioning broad blame, and asking the public to pull together and help solve the problem. In other words, like an already divorced father explaining why he went to the rugby when it was his weekend to take the kids.

It’s easy to be snippy when you’re fed up, and the president reminding us that we are fed up doesn’t help, so let’s look at the positive things he said and also be positive about it. Or at least try.

CR’s words are in italics. EVV’s words are in bold English:

CR: The set of additional actions I am announcing this evening:
Firstly, [these actions] are aimed at improving the performance of Eskom’s existing fleet of power stations.

EVV: Too little too late. New generation capacity should have been planned and developed before the first round of load shedding in 2008. In 2018 alternatives to coal fired CO2E spewing stations should have been planned. Goodness, Mr. President, you’re a signatory of COP, you knew this. Also, Eskom is not suffering only of a shortage of skilled technical staff, it is buckling under the load of a surfeit of an overpaid admin staff which is farming out essential work to contractors and sub-contractors without a clue if they are being overcharged or not.

CR: Secondly, [these actions] will accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity.

EVV: Will it? I don’t think that will happen automatically. Special laws need to be passed to give special preference to any project that will increase generation capacity. Minimum timelines need to be set at state, provincial and municipal levels to expedite land use application processes. And any officials who are found to delay the process must be dealt with as traitors and enemies of the state.

CR: Thirdly, [these actions] are intended to massively increase private investment in generation capacity.

EVV: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Private investment will not increase dramatically if expensive and time-consuming applications mean that entrepreneurs might have to wait years to see any return on their investment. But I don’t expect the president to know that; as a trade unionist, BEE beneficiary, and politician he has never put his own money into any venture.

The president further said “I have instructed departments and entities to review all existing time frames and to ensure we process all applications on an urgent basis. These measures are preferable to declaring a state of disaster or even emergency, as some have suggested.

He has instructed many people to do many things over the last 4 years, and they have ignored him, (eg. The Minister of Health stole despite CR’s plea to his fellow South Africans to fight Covid). Perhaps our energy crisis does require state of disaster measures. Or at least see how detailed his instructions are.

Fourthly, [these actions] are designed to enable businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar.

EVV: Fair enough. But is this anything new? Businesses and households have been investing in rooftop solar for 2 decades

Finally, [these actions] are directed at fundamentally transforming the electricity sector and positioning it for future sustainability.

EVV: They will not fundamentally transform the electricity sector. Simply because they are not actions. They are presidential directives, not action plans.

Now let us return to our faltering relations (Govt-Eskom) analogy. Daddy has promised that he is going to work on the marriage. He wants to be a better husband, and he has presented mommy with a list of intentions, but not an action plan. He has promised that she can see other people, but he has not said how he and the other in-laws are going to make it easy for her.

Where does that leave us kids? Increasingly worse off as the rest of the world races off to embrace a carbon-free solar-powered future.

Everything EV will pursue this matter. In future blogs we will be reporting on whether officialdom is making it easier for entrepreneurs to create energy projects.

If you have had an experience in this regard let us know.

Tim is a greying redhead who thinks green. He is the author of books on welding, soccer and Herman Charles Bosman

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