Energy regulator Nersa will in 2017 face several challenges on the electricity front without the expertise of its highly-respected member for electricity Thembani Bukula.
Bukula confirmed to Moneyweb on Tuesday that he left Nersa at the end of December and will soon disclose his plans for the future.
This followed after his employment contract expired during the course of last year. It was not renewed and Bukula was retained on a month-to-month basis.
Energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has not appointed a permanent successor to Bukula. She did however appoint electrical engineer Mbulelo Ncetezo to act in the position from January 1.
Energy Intensive User Group (EIUG) spokesperson Shaun Nel expressed his gratitude and admiration for Bukula’s leadership at Nersa. He said Bukula always put South Africa first and his departure is a big loss for Nersa.
Bukula was known as a straight talker who was always fair and not afraid to unmask flawed arguments during public hearings. This resulted in a widely publicised face-off with then Eskom CEO Brian Molefe during a public hearing about an Eskom tariff application in June 2015.
According to information on the Nersa website Ncetezo holds a Masters degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota in the US. His career includes experience in the electricity sector working at the then Transkei Electricity Supply Corporation (Tescor) in the mid 90s and at Eskom. He joined Nersa in 2008 as executive manager in the electricity regulation division.
Nersa will this year have to deal with complaints that municipal electricity distributors who are in arrears with Eskom fail to comply with their license conditions. Civil rights groups Afriforum confirmed that it will write to Nersa this week to ask for sanctions against municipalities in the Free State where paying end-users are at risk of facing supply interruptions as their municipal suppliers fail to pay for their bulk supply from Eskom.
Nersa is further faced with a tariff dilemma as the High Court set aside the interim tariff increase it granted Eskom last year. Two subsequent Eskom tariff applications in terms of the Regulatory Clearing Account mechanism have been put on hold pending Nersa’s appeal against the judgement.
That leaves Eskom with a mere 2.2% tariff increase in terms of the increase granted for the current tariff period (MYPD3), which is widely considered to be too low to ensure the utility’s sustainability.
To add to that, Eskom is expected to submit its next multi-year tariff application for consideration by Nersa by April 1.
Joemat-Pettersson also appointed Christopher Forlee as CEO and full-time regulator member of Nersa.
The position has been vacant since the unexpected resignation of Phindile Baleni in February 2015.
Forlee, an electrical and electronic engineer, started his career at Eskom and also served at Nersa and the department of public enterprises, where he was deputy director general for energy & broadband from 2008 to 2012.
Forlee joined Nersa again as the executive manager for petroleum pipelines regulation from February 2015 to June 2016. He was then appointed acting full-time regulator member for petroleum pipelines regulation from July 2016 to December 2016.
Full-time regulator member for piped gas Nomfundo Maseti has been appointed as acting member for petroleum products in addition to her current duties.
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