The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) has slammed Eskom for delaying an investigation into its refusal to sign power purchase agreements (PPAs) with renewable independent power producers (IPPs).
It also objected strongly to energy regulator Nersa’s refusal to open the hearing on the matter scheduled for Thursday to the public.
SAWEA declared a dispute with Eskom in October last year, and requested that Nersa investigate Eskom’s failure to sign PPAs with the preferred bidders in the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme.
Nersa in March this year launched a formal investigation into the matter and a hearing was scheduled for Thursday for both parties to make submissions.
SAWEA said in a statement that the hearing began “on two disappointing notes: Firstly, Eskom arrived with a plea for postponement, citing ‘communications challenges’ that had prevented the national utility from adequately preparing its submissions, both written and verbal, despite several correspondences between Nersa and the parties, clearly indicating the timeframes to be adhered to. Secondly, Nersa had declared the hearing closed to the public, and would not allow members of media who had arrived, to join the hearing.”
Journalists from Moneyweb and Carte Blanche were not allowed into the meeting and were not afforded an opportunity to motivate why the meeting should be open.
SAWEA said it objected strongly to both these points, arguing that “Eskom had had a total of eleven months to take the necessary steps to engage with this matter”, and that refusing to open the hearing to the public would be inconsistent with constitutional principles of openness, transparency and fairness, as well as Nersa’s own legislation.
Eventually the hearing was postponed by two weeks. “It is worth noting that Nersa cautioned Eskom to adhere to this timeframe, given the prejudice already suffered by those whose interests SAWEA represents,” the organisation said.
SAWEA said it was “disappointed that the national utility had not taken seriously the major negative effects of the ongoing delay on South Africa’s young renewable energy industry. It is an indication of the depth of poor governance at Eskom, that such a serious matter has suffered the fate of being a casualty of ‘communications challenges’ at this state-owned enterprise”.
SAWEA said the reasons provided by Eskom for its refusal to honour duly procured power purchases must surely be deemed to be in the national interest. “SAWEA hopes that Nersa will recognise that accountability, through transparency, is the cornerstone of our Constitution. Matters of such grave national interest such as the dispute declared by SAWEA should not be considered behind closed doors,” the organisation said.